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How dangerous can a faulty boiler be?

A boiler is a key element to our homes. It keeps us warm in the winter and provides hot water. We can take it for granted, but when it breaks down, we realise just how much we normally rely on it.

Boilers can develop faults over time. Most of the time these faults result in poor performance and are not dangerous. Occasionally however, a fault can develop that poses a risk to human health. In some instances, they can even be fatal.

A badly fitted or faulty boiler can become a serious threat to your health. If left unchecked, they can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and even explosions.

Faulty boilers are usually safe

Faulty boilers can be fatal, but in most cases they will simply refuse to work. This in itself can be a major inconvenience, particularly if they break down during the winter months.

Most modern boilers contain a number of safety measures, such as thermostats, overheat stats, pressure relief valves and oxygen depletion sensors. If your boiler has something seriously wrong with it, then the strongest likelihood is that it will cut-off and refuse to work.  

If your boiler is making a strange noise, yet still working, the chances are that it won’t be dangerous.

Older boilers

There are more risks associated with older boilers. There’s not only the wear and tear associated with age and regular use to consider, there’s also higher potential risks as a result of how they work.

Old fire and back boilers, or floor standing boilers often have an open flue. This means that they take air from the room they’re located in. Older boilers also don’t contain the same safety devices as modern boilers. If you have an older boiler where the pilot light keeps going out, then it may be worthwhile contacting an engineer to investigate.

It’s incredibly important that older boilers are regularly serviced. It’s also worthwhile considering replacing an older boiler with a new one. As well as containing a range of safety features, new boilers tend to be more efficient and ultimately save you money.

Boiler problems and what they might mean

  • Heating and hot water isn’t working – there are several reasons why your boiler might not be heating your home or providing hot water. It may be a broken part, or perhaps an airlock in the system. If you’ve addressed any thermostat or pressure issues and are not getting heat or hot water, then a Gas Safe Registered engineer should be called.  
  • The boiler has lost pressure –if you’re having problems getting heat from your system, then the problem might be low pressure. Boilers on a sealed system should sit at 1.5 bar. If the gauge drops below this, then performance will be impacted.
  • The boiler is leaking water – any water coming from the boiler is a sign of a fault. It might be a sign that an internal part has failed. It’s not necessarily dangerous in itself but you should immediately switch off your boiler to prevent the electrics short-circuiting, and possible damage to your home. You should never attempt to fix a boiler leak yourself.
  • A noisy boiler – banging, gurgling, or whistling noises from your boiler are rarely dangerous in themselves. They are generally caused by air, or a build-up of material inside your central heating. These can lead to further problems, and an eventual breakdown. Getting your boiler looked at sooner rather than later will help prevent problems.
  • Pilot light changes colour – if a pilot light turns yellow or orange, it could indicate poor combustion, a potentially very serious problem.  You should immediately turn off your boiler and contact a Gas Safe Registered engineer to take a look at it. You might also notice a gas smell when the boiler is running, scorching or brown marks on the boiler, a musty smell or signs of soot, increased condensation on your windows. All these indicators suggest the boiler may have a potentially dangerous fault and an engineer should be contacted immediately.
  • Pilot light keeps going out – if your pilot lights goes out frequently, and particularly if the issue is combined with any of the above, an engineer should be contacted immediately as it may be indicative of a serious fault.
  • A frozen condensate pipe – a common cause of boilers shutting down during the winter months is frozen pipes. While this is irritating at a time when the boiler is most needed, it’s rarely dangerous. The issue should resolve itself as soon as the pipe unfreezes, something which can be aided with a hot water bottle or other form of heat wrap. After the pipe has defrosted, turn the boiler on and off again
  • Faulty thermostat – a faulty thermostat isn’t dangerous, but it can be annoying. Repeated problems might mean it’s time to replace it.
  • Boiler keeps turning off – Low pressure, a thermostat issue or lack of water in the system might cause the boiler to turn itself off. If you can’t find the source of the problem, contact an engineer for advice.

What to do if you suspect a leak

If you suspect a gas or carbon monoxide leak you should immediately switch off your gas supply at the meter. You should also open all the doors and windows to allow air into your home and the gas to escape. Do not, under any circumstances, use any kind of naked flame, electrical switches, or other ignition source.

You should call the National Gas Emergency Line on 0800 111 999, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Boiler repair and servicing from a Gas Safe Registered engineer

Range Heating offer a full boiler repair service that can keep your boiler running safely and give you peace of mind. All our experienced, professional engineers are Gas Safe Registered and are properly insured.Call us to arrange a service or repair today

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