/ Home & Energy

Are you happy with how your boiler is serviced?

boilers

Like most of us, you probably call out an engineer every 12 months or so to tinker with that white box on the wall. But how much do you know about what a boiler service covers and are you happy with the result?

Over the past few years I’ve had boiler services that lasted nearly an hour, sometimes just a few minutes. Sometimes I’ve been given a checklist of what the engineer has done, other times, nothing.

And those were just the obvious differences I could see. Who knows what happened once the engineers actually started looking in the boiler?

Unless you’re a heating expert yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll have much of a clue about what a good service includes.

Is your boiler being serviced properly?

Our research shows big differences in how happy you were with how your boiler was serviced the last time. One independent firm got a customer score of 84%, while British Gas scored just 36%, in our most recent survey of ad hoc services last July.

It’s a similar picture for boiler breakdown cover (which usually includes an annual service) – with 85% for independent firms to 42% for Scottish Power.

When we last investigated this area in 2011, we asked 10 engineers to service a boiler with a minor fault. Four of them failed to do their job properly.

Tell us your boiler servicing stories

We’ve heard from people who are worried their boiler isn’t being serviced properly. And from others who don’t know how to check or what a decent service involves.

Some people have told us their servicing appointments are repeatedly cancelled – or that the engineer simply does not show up at all.

We’ve also heard that engineers tried to sell other products or services – such as filters, flushes, alarms or heating controls – during an annual boiler check.

Have you had a problem with a boiler service? Has an engineer ever tried to sell you other products and services while repairing your boiler?

Comments
Profile photo of RichardMorse
Member

I use a local plumbing service to maintain my boiler. It is cheaper than British Gas and unlike BG they do a really thorough job. I do not have a call out service because in 50 years of house ownership I have only had to call a plumber on a handful of occasions, paying regular sums for this service (or other equipment) is just uneconomic.

Member
Dalefarm says:
4 April 2015

I had to call out a plumber for a leak from the toilet. The ceiling was bulging and there was water running down the wall into a light switch. I paid £100 for the fallout plus more for parts…… a washer!
I am a single woman so I feel I have no choice but to pay for cover

Member
Dalefarm says:
4 April 2015

I meant callout but perhaps fallout is more appropriate

Member
Conrad says:
4 April 2015

I use a local service firm recommended by Bosch. Their price was reasonable and the boiler works fine. I do not have a call out service as our Lloyds Bank account has a “free” service for house emergencies including heating breakdown. I have not had to use this on this boiler, but with a previous oil-fired boiler the response and repair was within 24 hours.

Profile photo of AlisonChaplin
Member

I use an independent local firm to service my boiler. They are reliable and do not over charge for the work – a service costs £45. I have only had to call them out to the heating twice and on both occasions they came quickly and fixed the problem with minimum fuss and at a fraction of the price quoted by British Gas for parts and labour.

Member
Joe Waller says:
4 April 2015

How long does your £45 boiler service take, if you don’t mind me asking ?

Member
Keith Couch says:
4 April 2015

Had a Worcester Bosch boiler installed 3 years ago by Bosch recommended local installers. No problem with installation and boiler has been trouble free. A MagnaClean magnetic filter was fitted at the same time.
Usual problem that the guarantee required that the boiler be serviced annually and used same installer to carry out service. Cost around £70.00 but frankly this appears to be money for old rope. They remove boiler case and look inside and check gas levels in the flue whilst boiler is running. They never check the magnetic filter and when I enquired why, I was given some story about the seals being a bit dodgy and leaks could result if they disturbed it. Cleaned it myself the other day with no problem. It had trapped a small amount of metallic sludge and no leaks occurred after cleaning.Since the installer recommended installation of the filter it seems a bit much that they then say they don’t want to touch it.
Do not know what a service is meant to include. Maybe this information should be more readily available.

Profile photo of JohnCreasey
Member

Hi Keith – personally I think it is appalling that they do not check and clean the magna-clean unit (or any other similar brand) – yes, we have found the ‘o’ rings and seals need replacing, but I’m sure you would be happier if they included new seals as part of the service cost.

Re the actual service – this is dictated by the manufacturer. The flue analysis is now a requirement and this will show up what is going on inside. The manufacturer may well say that if the readings are correct, that the burner etc should be left alone. New seals on the boiler may be required at certain intervals.

I hear exactly what you are saying about ‘money for old rope’ – but do take into account the guy’s training fees (which have to be re-taken every 5 years), qualifications, overheads (insurance etc), travelling and the cost of the analyser itself, which has to be certificated and sent off for service and a calibration certificate each year. Not forgetting his/her expertise in knowing what to do when the readings start to deteriorate.

Profile photo of mike
Member

I agree with some of the earlier comments.

In particular, would it not be possible for boiler manufacturers to publish service specifications in the same way as car manufacturers.

Customers could then ask the service engineer to carry out the work as specified by the manufacturer.

Profile photo of Maurice M
Member

If as you should have the manufactures installation instructions you will find a section under SERVICE which will give you the procedure that any gas service engineer should carry out

Member
Harry says:
4 April 2015

Moved into my house with 2 years left on an existing service contract with BG. I did not renew it as I had previously maintained a Vaillant for 8 years and thought it expensive for what is done. Bank holiday sunday the boiler ceased working, so had a look at it myself. What I found horrified me. (The spark gap, being way over spec,had caused it not to ignite). The main insulating gasket on the burner chamber had been broken in half and replaced and was badly discoloured. One third of the outer sealing gasket was missing having been burnt through. This had caused combustion products to burn away the case insulation. Fortunately the boiler is in the garage. Had it been installed in the kitchen, it is very likely that we would have suffered from CO poisoning. Eventually managed to source replacement parts on e-bay; it wasn’t easy!. Boiler now working much better and gas consumption down. Serviced? It was left in a very dangerous condition indeed.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The average person would be unaware of poor workmanship, Harry. Perhaps the best they can do is to have a carbon monoxide detector fitted nearby.

To work as a contractor on gas appliances it is necessary to be Gas Safe registered. I would like to know what is done to make sure that the standard of workmanship is adequate and advice on who to report concerns to.

Profile photo of tbwtg
Member

Living in semi-rural Scotland, I hesitate to move from BG Homecare because I expect them to have the resources to get parts over holiday periods etc, unlike local heating/plumbing firms who may turn out to be at the end of a long and slow supply chain. However, BG Homecare’s service, at 2 sites where I use them, is limited and perhaps unpredictable (eg there’s no check-list for customers, or published list of service levels for obtaining spares from their own stock or that of manufacturers – it shouldn’t be too hard to do that, at least for recent models).

At one site they’ve said the 10-year old boiler needs flushed and that they can hear grit etc moving around the pipes. They want to do a power flush or similar at around £600. At the other site, as part of other work, I got a local plumber to fit a Magnaclean filter on a 5-year old boiler which had been over-pumping for a couple of years, creating sludge in the header tank. On the next Homecare visit, the (different) BG engineer praised this filter, said it was the best thing since sliced bread, and he spent time opening and cleaning it, which I’d thought he might be reluctant to do. He did use the tools which came which the kit, which I’d managed to store safely and find again before he came. I’m not clear whether BG will be prepared to come equipped with the various custom-style spanners and instructions for the various models of filters, though they all seem to be simple enough. There haven’t been any problems since, though I read from Internet sources that there may be risks of leaks over time, with the plastic fittings used on this filter and many similar ones. It’s hard to be sure how serious a risk this is, because some of the advocates seemed to be promoting another brand of filter which has metal fittings.

The BG engineer did say that it was likely that the original empty and refill of the system to fit the filter, combined with the initial cleaning of the filter done by the original installer, had probably removed most of the dirt from the system and that I shouldn’t see as much in future. Needless to say, the Magnaclean filter and original installation, though it took some labour time during the empty and refill of the system, was quite a lot cheaper than BG’s recommended powerflush which is also labour-intensive and uses special-purpose machinery, presumably at some extra cost. I’m hoping to get a similar filter installed at the other location, which is rented out to tenants, at some time when I can arrange access, and after the cold weather has passed to avoid inconveniencing them.

Member
Hugh says:
4 April 2015

What does a £45 boiler service include.

To answer the above questions, an annual boiler service properly done will check e everything from the inlet of the oil tank to the flu termination point no matter what the cost.
For oil there is a set tick sheet to say it has been check/passed/frailed any work completed or subsequent work recommended. I’m sure it’s the same for gas.

What it consists of is
1. Check the fill point, vents and any sight gauge
2. Check the outlet for leaks and clean the filter
3. Check the oil in the tank for water contamination and advise
4. Visually check the oil line for bad joints and leaks
5. Check the fire valve works and advise
6. Remove and clean the burner, always replace the nozzle/jet
7. Remove the boiler door and inspect all seals, seals should be renewed as a must
8. Remove inspect and clean all baffles, advise where necessary
9. Clean down the insides of the boiler and vacuum all debris
10. Check base insulation and replace if necessary
11. inspect the flu and advise where additional cleaning is recommended
12. Rebuild and check for correct operation
13. Check oil pressure is correct and adjust
14. Carry out a manual smoke test
15. Carry out an electronic combustion analyses and print of results
16. Provide a detail breakdown of work done and any future work recommended
17. Reset the programmer to the customers previous settings

Hope this has been helpful
Hugh

Member
W A Smith says:
4 April 2015

Moved into this house in February, boiler (gas condensing) was three years old an had never been serviced as far as we could tell. The through the wall flue sloped downward to the outside and dripped continuously. We had the boiler serviced by the original installer, he used a flue gas analyser and left us the results. He used to employ assistants but does not any longer. He had signed the original certificate saying the boiler was correctly installed. Later persuaded him that the flue was wrong and he came and corrected the slope (charge £50 as he said he could not warrant work that was three years old. Said he would have sacked his original employee if he was still with him. The outside condensate pipe never drips at all and I wonder where the condensate is going.! Will try someone else soon. for a second service but I dont believe much needs doing. I was told that BG engineers simply look at the boiler and if there are no problems they leave it alone. I have seen some dreadfull work by BG staff, and in my life I have found two systems left with pumping over into the header tank. So much for professional plumbers.

Member
John Creasey says:
22 April 2015

Hi WA,

I do find this a little strange. If the original installer fitted the flue incorrectly, I cannot understand how he had the gall to charge you for putting it right – even three years later. Surely he was in breach of contract (and gas regs) for not doing it right in the first place.

Do you have the ‘Building Regs Compliance Certificate’ for the boiler installation. This is not something that he gives you or that he signs – it comes direct from ‘Gas Safe’ and is verification that the installer has complied with all the relevant regulations.

It is a legal requirement that you get this (activated by the installer) and will be required if you come to sell the property in the future.

John

Profile photo of alfa
Member

We joined British Gas Homecare when the boiler stopped working over a holiday time and it was promptly fixed so we have stayed with them.

BG get a lot of flack but we have mostly had very good service from them when we have had problems. Our oldish boiler packs up at least once a year, we have had leaks in concrete floors, the pump gives up every couple of years, the immersion heater element seems to go every couple of years, overflows stick, radiator valves stick, etc. and all have been fixed usually by the following day especially if I can tell them what part they might need.

The last time the boiler stopped working the youngish engineer didn’t know what the problem was so called someone for advice and the part was fitted the next day. I would rather the engineer asked for advice than tried to botch the job.

But I do agree on servicing. They are very erratic. I think BG should give customers a check list on what to expect from a service as I am sure some engineers think a service is just an excuse for a tea break.

The most thorough service we ever had was when the engineer had a trainee with him!!! The worst is where the engineer only checked the flue reading. It is a wrong that most services fall short of what should be done.

A couple of years ago, I commented to the engineer on his lack of work and he told me they weren’t allowed to touch boilers like they used to as an engineer had got badly hurt, elf’n’safety and all that.

Member
CliffinForres says:
5 April 2015

One tip – an obvious one to most probably – if you switch boiler/CH cover then DO NOT cancel the old one until the new supplier has done an inspection visit and confirmed full cover. If you do and the new supplier finds faults, you could get an enormous bill with no cover.

Member
Robin Brett says:
5 April 2015

Had a Worcester Bosch boiler fitted about 12 years ago. Signed up for the annual service. Have had excellent service every year and each time there has been a problem we’ve had a quick visit, and an excellent repair. Never had cause for complaint. I think we probably have a virtually brand new boiler with most parts having been replaced over the years.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I don’t understand how you are happy with the situation if you have had to had ‘most parts’ replaced over 12 years. I would expect a boiler to last this length of time with no more than routine servicing.

Profile photo of DaveDickinson
Member

We had our Bosch Combi-boiler installed new about 14 years ago and since then it has been serviced by the same private independent boiler specialists regularly every year. We very, very, seldom have any problems until this week , much to my embarrassment , ran out of oil fuel. This has never happened before– and it was my fault ! However our friendly service man came out within the hour or so and found the problem, and our regular oil supply company diverted their tanker and refilled our tank with 1,000 litres within the hour (,which was not scheduled to be refilled until next week) and we were back in the hot water again.The point I should like to make is that we have found reliable and excellent suppliers of service and oil and we have them, and them only ,regularly. We are loyal to them and they to us. Just like it says on the tin !

Member
Dave Thompson says:
16 June 2015

Very good idea to have your boiler inspected annual like you suggest. That way you will know if there is anything wrong with it before something actually goes wrong. My boiler is getting pretty old, so I think it might be a good idea to start keeping an eye on it a little closer. Thanks for the great article on boilers.

Member
Jenn says:
17 June 2015

I definitely don’t have my boiler maintained every 12 months. Are you supposed to have someone come and look at it once a year? I hope I haven’t caused irreparable damage by leaving it alone for so long. I assumed as long as it was working, there wasn’t a problem.

Member
Neil says:
19 August 2015

Recently hired british gas to do a one-off service of 12 year old gas c/h boiler. £79. They sent a non b/g contractor. He didn’t want to be watched while he worked, took about 40 minutes. A very basic checklist was filled out and left with me. He didn’t climb a ladder to inspect the flue. Otherwise okay – maybe. Time will tell.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

A point to note if you live in a house that is covered by an NHBC Buildmark 10-year warranty: you are required to have the heating system inspected annually in order to maintain the validity of the warranty.

A further point is that it is harder to sell a house without a good service history.