How keeping your central heating system healthy can save you money

One of the contradictions of homeownership and winter is that all of us are very concerned about the rising cost of heating bills, yet we often ignore something incredibly important that can save us money and ensure that we stay warm...namely, maintenance of our heating systems. As it stands, homeowners are not legally required to have their boilers serviced every year, however it’s safe to assume that it is actually as important as an MOT on a car. It’s also common sense. If we don’t have our boilers serviced on an annual basis then we are almost certainly limiting the longevity of this vital piece of equipment. Without regular maintenance, components can corrode, wear out and eventually cause the boiler to breakdown, usually resulting in a large bill if the whole boiler ends up having to be replaced. The long-term heating and financial benefits far outweigh the expense incurred for boiler maintenance. An important point to mention is many warranties that come with new boilers are invalidated if an annual service is not performed. This is an issue that has given many homeowners a nasty shock when something has gone wrong and they find they have to foot the bill themselves. A recent survey of 2000 UK homeowners showed that 38% had not had their boilers serviced in the run up to this winter and 42% didn’t know whether or not the warranty on their boiler would become invalidated without an annual service. The same survey showed that many people did not think it was necessary to have their boiler serviced because it is under 5 years old. However, even new boilers still need to be serviced to maintain maximum efficiency and this is particularly the case if a new boiler has been installed onto a system that has not been thoroughly cleaned prior to installation. An increasingly popular method of cleaning central systems is through the use of magnetic filtration devices. The theory behind these filters is that they are able to catch ferrous metals (like iron or steel) that often corrode and break off inside your system, causing a sludge. The device magnetically ‘filters’ out this sludge, keeping your system running smoothly and efficiently. However, an important note about magnetic filters is that they will not be able to filter out non-ferrous metals that corrode, such as aluminium, copper or zinc, so proceed with caution. An additional point to make is that a magnetic filter should not be used as a substitute for adding a good quality inhibitor to your system. Maintaining a good concentration of inhibitor levels is absolutely vital to helping to prevent corrosion and stopping a build-up of sludge in your system. A good programme of central heating maintenance would look similar to the following: 1. CLEAN - Add a good quality chemical cleaner to your system 2. FLUSH - Remove any sludge and debris trapped in your system with a thorough flush 3. MAINTAIN - Annually have your boiler serviced, even if it is under 5 years old. 4. PROTECT - Top up your system with a good chemical inhibitor and do this on an annual basis. It is this inhibitor that will help stop pieces of metal flaking off inside the system and causing sludge. Employing the methods described above will keep you on top of your system maintenance, helping to prolong the life of the boiler and radiators, maximising efficiency and saving your money on heating bills and repair work caused by neglect. Article by Benjamin Clarke
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