/ Home & Energy

Share your tales of bothersome boiler repairs

A rise in the number of boiler-related emails in my inbox tells me it’s that time of year when people decide whether their boiler will survive another winter. But when your boiler breaks do you get a good repair service?

Our recent boiler brand reliability survey found that 48% of people with a boiler up to seven years old have experienced a fault. And two thirds of these faults stopping their heating or hot water from working.

Luckily not all faults lead to a visit from the repairer, but a third of the people we asked have had to get their boiler repaired since it was first installed.

What those figures don’t capture is the frustration of a boiler that breaks down repeatedly, with a fault that no one seems to be able to pin down. Which brings me to my own boiler…

The trials and tribulations of my boiler

One freezing cold morning, after a spell of unseasonably warm weather, I was woken up by a very bad tempered husband swearing about a lack of heating and hot water. The LCD display on the boiler told us there was a problem with the gas supply. We quickly discovered that this was nonsense, but couldn’t reset our boiler to get it working again.

The first repairman came out, took the casing off, pressed the reset button and it started working immediately. He couldn’t identify the problem, suggested we leave it to see if it happened again and asked for £109 in call-out fees.

The same thing happened a few weeks later when there was another sharp change in the weather. A few hours later I watched the repairman come in, take the casing off, press reset and the boiler sprung back into life. He then spent over an hour unplugging leads, cleaning sensors, running diagnostic tests and phoning the manufacturer to see if they could work out what was wrong.

To cut a long story short the fault eventually turned out to be a build up of debris in the ignition, which meant it couldn’t create a spark to ignite the gas. This made the boiler ‘diagnose’ a gas supply problem and switch itself off, where changes in the weather expanded and contracted the ignition’s metal pins, creating this intermittent fault.

All it took to solve the problem was one repairer who knew enough to come in, clean the pins and bend them apart slightly. Job done, no problems since. The one thing we didn’t need, and every single repairman mentioned, was a new printed circuit board, costing more than £100.

Do you need boiler breakdown cover?

My problem is that it took five separate repairmen, one service and tens of trips into the loft to reset the boiler to get this problem fixed. Without our boiler repair contract we’d have spent more than £500 on call out fees to get a couple of bits of metal unbent and cleaned.

Still, that’s not to say you need to invest in a boiler servicing contract or breakdown cover as not everyone’s as unlucky as me. We’ve found that the average cost of an annual boiler service is £70, while the cheapest annual service contract costs around £140 without call-out fees. It’s likely that your boiler won’t require any repairs when it comes up for its annual service, so you’d be £70 better off if you paid for a one-off service.

I’m curious to hear what boiler experiences you’ve had – have repairers got straight to the root of the problem and fixed your boiler without hassle? Or have you had to pay for expensive return trips to a boiler that keeps on giving up the ghost?

Comments
Fiona Mackenzie says:
9 January 2013

We had a brand new top of the range Ferroli boiler installed 5 weeks ago after a long fight with the company since we installed a whole new heating system with a Ferroli boiler in August 2010 and which broke down consistently every 3 months since….. The new boiler was installed at the end of November and I have just discovered that its broken- no heating or hot water, flashing a code which doesnt appear in the manual. and Ferroli customer centre say theyre not an emergency service ‘just a warranty service’…despite what the warranty leaflet says. We live in the North of Scotland IN JANUARY and are left with no heating or hot water until a service engineer can call sometime in the next 48 hours…. Ferroli, get your act together… this is unacceptable.

Margaret says:
22 January 2013

Had new Pro A32 Combi fitted in June, fan went yesterday and was charged £250, should this not be covered by guarantee?

Absolutely. Regardless of any terms and conditions or small print they may foist on you, you have the law on your side. To breakdown so soon will come under ‘fit for purpose’: a boiler should last years without needing replacement parts, certainly not after 7 or 8 months.

Ask for an immediate refund. Don’t accept any waffle about service contract or any other argument, it is simply a case of ‘fit for purpose’. Unless you stuck a screwdriver through the fan blades or some other negligent act, you are not liable to pay anything towards the repair.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

boilers should last years. I have two fishes and a loaf, any ideas?

Lee Morgan says:
24 January 2013

I am a council tenant with an old boiler, probably over ten years. When I run the hot water, I waste too much before it starts to get remotely hot. I’ve had the plumber out, more than once, and I heat the same stories each time…I won’t bore you with them here, you know what they are. Surely there comes a time when maintenance becomes more expensive than a new boiler? Can anyone please provide a way out? I simply cannot afford to throw money away like this. I need a new boiler! It’s a simple as that.

A no-cost workaround would be to collect the water in a bucket instead of wasting it down the plug hole and re-use it for another purpose (eg: fill the cistern after flushing the loo).

Hi Lee

Sedbuk keep a database of boiler efficiency ratings at http://www.boilers.org.uk/. I suggest that you start by looking up your boiler to see its rating. Many boilers barely scraped 60% efficiency whereas some modern boilers can exceed 90% efficiency. That can save a serious amount of energy if you do need a new boiler.

I suggest that you get quotes from at least three local Gas installer companies. I was stunned by the range of quotes I received. They varied from £2800 to £1475. The lower quote was from a local father and son family business, they did a perfect job including flushing throughout the system and fitting thermostatic valves throughout.

In the meantime, unless you really want a huge quantity of hot water from your kitchen tap, I suggest one of the Which? best buy electric kettles. If you have such a long run from the boiler to your kitchen, it is not just all the water that is wasted flushing out the cold whilst waiting for it to get hot, but when you turn off the tap there will be an equal amount of hot water left in the run that will quickly get cold.

Remember to ask the boiler installers to lag all the pipe run from the boiler to the kitchen or if possible, to install a new shorter run. When we moved into out house, the hot water run went up into the loft, across it and down the (inside) wall into the kitchen. It was unsightly as well as a long run. When we had the new boiler, we had the run moved so that it crossed the house between the floor and ceiling and then down the wall to the kitchen tap.

Hi

Question:
Is there any way of checking whether a boiler pump works after it has been removed?

Background
Our boiler stopped working yesterday. We had a little blue flashing light on our Worcester Greenstar R24i boiler. I read and tried the suggested “reset” fix on the Worcester website and it didn’t work. Ummm what next. We phoned the in-laws and they gave us a name of a boiler repairer that had been recommended to them by a friend. A trade website had good reviews from various people.

He turned up an hour early….good start. He then took the front off the boiler. Checked the electricity voltage into and out of the PCB, checked the electric connections in the connection box repeatedly and scratched his head several times. He phoned Worcester a couple of times, changed the batteries in the remote thermostat (the LED display of which had, since the morning, gone out).

He checked the electricity connections in the connection box in the loft next to the water tank. Then changed the boiler pump, as he said it was not working as it was too hot and not going round. I noticed that during the fix a couple of wires in the connection box were disconnected. He said that they were loose and needed fixing. After fitting the pump the boiler still didn’t work, nor was the new pump going round, and in my mind felt just as hot as the first one!

In the end he charged us a total of c£200 for a new pump and 2 x hours labour. He was actually at our house for 4hrs.

Miraculously when it got to c6.30 he put it all back together it started to work again. He said he didn’t know what the problem was, but thought it was electrical, and said that there was a definite issue with the pump (as I challenged him on needing this several times).

The issue is I can’t help feeling like we’ve been had. I couldn’t spend the entire 4hrs watching him, but did make regular visits and questioned him during the work. I kept the pump and he was surpized. Am I being paranoid? I really couldn’t say if what he did was text book, best will in the world just not particularly sharp, or shady.

1) is there any way I can check to see if the pump is still capable of working? Not that I can do much now in terms of our bill, but I can make a point on a trade website to warn others.

2). What should I do differently on the future!

Steve the boilerman says:
14 February 2013

Simply put wire a lead onto the old pump with a plug the other end, plug it in,you should hear /feel the pump running.

Dave

If the pump does work, I suggest you push for a refund.

It does not help the reputation of competent and honest tradesmen if someone takes advantage of customers.

I suggest you get recommendations from friends in future.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

no one and I mean no one,apart from the manufacturers should be working on todays boilers,it a simple case of the male refusing to be beaten,and engineers go ahead regardless,get themselves in more problems and you get drawn in,with your wallet,so my advice get the makers out or cut the private engineers goolies off before he starts work.

a matthews says:
15 February 2013

hi everyone
just had my 12 year old glow worm condenser boiler serviced by British gas, I pay a service contract
they don`t do very much for the hundreds of pounds that i pay per year, the engineer serviced it today and after giving it it`s annual clean he said the co reading is off the scale ie over 1200 he said that he had checked everything and cant find anything wrong put a sticker on saying “at risk” do not use
“appliance replacement advised” NO REPAIR it`s the middle of winter i am 74 and pay over £500 a year”homecare agreement” this includes £377 central heating plumbing and drains,my wife started it about 12 years ago what a total wast of money no fool like an old fool a thank you British gas FOR CARING

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

makes you wish you was back at sword beach,eh.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

oh,message from british gas,we don’t.

S. Ahmed says:
19 February 2013

I have a homecare plan from Corgi, since the last 1-2 years.
In Nov-2012, my boiler started to loose pressure, and I had to fill it again and again to keep it going.
I called the helpline to arrange an engineer, and the lady on the phone immediately concluded that the problem was due to a “leak”..so she asked me to get the leak checked before calling again!
so I arranged for a plumber and got all the pipework checked – all was okay! so I rang them again (during the cold spell of january-13), an engineer did come..loosened a worn put “nut” and showed me the rust – as sludge, and recommened a powerflush immediately.
To top it up I got an email from Corgi, telling me to get the powerflush done from them for £475, or else the cannot cover the boiler or arrange an engineer’s visit – untill this was done!!!
I was sceptical about this, so I arranged a private engineer and he identified the problem to be related to a “part”..later on next day I called up corgi again and was insisted to get the contract cancelled..the guy on the phone did me a favour and offered another “exhaustive” check before cancelling, and was sure that the problem was due o Sludge..
Anyways the new (more experienced) engineer arrived and we didn’t even had to tell him about the problem – he took a part out and explained the symptoms it could cause – and these were the exact ones we were facing since the last so many months, in the bitter cold !!!
He replaced the brand new “part” and the problem is now fixed for good…
It sometimes amazes me – why do we bother taking on a maintenance contract ?

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

because lifes a gamble and your the fruit machine.think about it,engineers are contacted by corgi,ie me,asked if I want to do a few jobs? then nothing,thats corporate britian today,

Greg Jones says:
27 March 2013

Shield cover:
Boiler (WB CDI 35) reported leaking water and not working as normal on Saturday. No repair after 5 days. No time given for call so sitting in cold house, no gas waiting for engineer to call. First engineer thinks its the fan, order part- next day engineer calls – boiler leaking and dangerous, not the fan. Order parts, wait 2 days, still no fix. For this service I pay £200 a year.

What timescale is reasonable to be without heating or gas in this current cold weather with 4 children?
Any advice if this is normal service ?

i have been waiting 10 days to get boiler fixed i am with npower they say the parts shop is closed over holidays i think that is rubbish!!!

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

yes.

my boiler stopped working i have cover with npower hometeam and we have been waiting for parts for 10 days now they say its because its over the easter holidays and the parts shop is closed we have had electric heating on in every room and they are going to make money from that as they use a lot of electricity i think they should have parts handy in storage or somewhere they said the parts may not get used and they just sit there for years on so they are thinking more of the parts and the money they are losing rather than the people who are freezing to death.and we all have the cold now my wife, kids and me

Hello Robert,

I’m so sorry to hear about the problems you have been having with your boiler.

If you could please email your details to me at forumresponse@npower.com I’ll see if I can speed things up for you?

Best wishes,
npower representative Beverley

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

and do what?pray,

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

relax,have another easter egg,soon be summer.

hi i am still waiting aaaahhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

i have sent you mydetails hope you can help

Robert,

I’m just on it now! 🙂

Best,
npower rep Beverley

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

its like getting remarried,hope over experience.

Inga says:
4 April 2013

I pay a hefty fee to Baxi for a service and maintenance contract for my Baxi Potterton boiler. It has stopped firing, leaving me without hot water and without any heat source for my house. The earliest that Heat Team will send an engineer out to me is Tuesday, leaving me without heat and hot water (but with weekend guests) for five days. A total waste of the 235 pounds I pay for my supposed 24 hour, 365 day contract. (Yes, I got my free service in September: the contracted out engineer managed to put the boiler out of action for 24 hours till he discovered what he had done wrong.) It seems I can waste my time trying futilely to make my case for requiring immediate help on the phone at any time of day or year, but Heat Team won’t employ enough engineers to respond.

its the parts part i don’t like as over the holidays the parts shop is closed i think they should be open over holidays thre must be sombody willing to open them and help the people who are freezing in there own home it may cost a little to pay them but at least the older people will get there part fitted quicker

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

technology is great.dont you think,pay your money,boil your kettle.

Those who have been unfortunate enough to be let down by servicing companies should give some thought to how to cope in future. Obviously it is vital to have one room that can be kept warm if the boiler fails and some way of heating water. I can see the benefits of disposing of the hot water cylinder but there is a lot to be said for an immersion heater if the boiler fails.

can you keep a family now adays in the one room at the same time until boiler gets fixed?

The alternative might be to descend on family and friends until the boiler is fixed. Don’t forget that many families did heat only one room until central heating arrived.

Hopefully service companies do provide cover for the elderly and other vulnerable people, but I would be surprised if the problem of families being left without heating and hot water for days is resolved soon. It is made harder by the fact that modern boilers are more complex than their predecessors thanks to changes made to improve efficiency. Gone are the days when the problem was likely to be a failed thermocouple. The engineer is faced with a more complex beast and will need access to a much larger range of spares.

There are families that don’t even have a fan heater for emergencies, and that’s just lack of planning.

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

its the future I am afraid,top hoping.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

a genius at last.oh,and a gas fire.

i have been offered £50 for my trouble that would not cover the amount of electricity i have used as i have been using electric fires i had to buy and the kettle to wash dishes and hands, i have asked for £150 as this might help a little.

i have had no responce from npower about the amount of money i have asked for why?

Hi they have responded and have contacted the person who will make the decision and will contact me as soon as they know

they have contacted me and say that £50 is a resonable offer and are sending it anyway which (parden the pun) i do not agree what do you think?

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

and then it will go all the way back,youre learning.

I feel really sorry for those millions who are ripped off by BG and other companies for boiler repair. I have a 36 year old Ideal Standard CF which is wonderful I replaced the thermocouple some years ago at a cost of £14 but other than that just vacuum it our periodically.
It probably uses more gas than some on here but has cost less overall than proably all those recorded on here. I hope it last forever, but it proably will break at some point as the cast iron may give way.
I cannot trust any boiler currently made as they area scam induced by governmnet to reach a set carbon emission at whatever cost to the population. Never mind that China opens new coal-fired power sations every year – and we do live on the same planet, apparently.
Do not have a contract with BG – just get a local person to service your equipment if you cannot do it yourself.

There’s a few of us with old boilers but not many of us prepared to look after them. I’m holding on to mine because I don’t want the expense of repairs and the inconvenience of failures. I clean mine regularly and have installed two new thermocouples in the past 31 years. It’s inefficient but simple and reliable.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame the Government trying to save energy. The problem is that the manufacturers are not giving us reliable products, and a common problem is faulty circuit boards. Properly designed electronics made with suitable components should last for decades, yet cost little more than those they fit. Boilers should come with at least a ten year warranty, so that the repairs are carried out free of charge. If that happened, the reliability of boilers would improve because manufacturers would not want to pay for repairs.

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

at last,a man with some common sense,i will vote for you anytime.

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

you don’t know how right you are,well done holmes,

I have a four year old Ferroli Optimax boiler, and it has broken down for the third time. It is still covered under warranty, but Ferroli can’t/won’t send an engineer out for a whole week. I have two young children at home, with no heating or hot water, and when I explained this to the woman on the phone she was very curt with me, saying everyone had to wait and she couldn’t do anything about it. Do Ferroli have any obligation to have my boiler fixed, or at least attended,within a certain length of time? I attempted to make a complaint while on the phone to the customer service department, but they don’t appear to have a phone number. I got an email address and was promised a call back the following day, which never came. They seem not to care very much!

Barrie says:
17 April 2013

My Halstead boiler was working perfectly. I have an NPower Homecare policy. I arranged for an engineer to carry out annual service on 10th April. An hour after he left we had no hot water. He returned at 6pm but was unable to fix the fault. He telephoned the next day to say it needed a new part. Seven days later we are still without hot water, despite several calls to NPower. My local plumber says the part is readily available at the local Plumbase. There is never any communication from NPower, unless you get in touch with them; there seems to be no communication between their different departments. How does an individual call these big companies to account?

gas brains says:
30 October 2014

you don’t,its all bluff,couldnt lend us a fiver.

jonnie ferguson says:
23 April 2013

i have an old glowworm back boiler,i moved into my house over 20 years ago,i think it was put in in the late 70,s and it is still running fine,hard to believe but its true,it has never broken down,never cost me a penny in repairs,just servicing costs,the gas engineer always tells me to keep it till it expires,i never had breakdown cover because i dont need it,,as they were built too last,and that very little can go wrong with these old warriors.it heats up the radiators and hot water in a very short time,all the nightmares folks seem too be having with the new combi boilers breakdowns etc.its a big money racket from the big suppliers,people are paying way over the odds,then you find out where all your money is going,eg british gas big fancy tv adverts,then you find out eon hasnt paid any tax,baxi have a new back boiler on the market,but i dont need a new boiler just yet