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6 Steps To Follow To Ensure Your Boiler Is Set Up For Winter
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6 Steps To Follow To Ensure Your Boiler Is Set Up For Winter

Follow these steps to avoid unnecessary call outs and to help you save money by being more efficient.

Every year, on one particular day, our phone lines go crazy with lots of people who are all having similar issues with their heating systems. Rather than getting caught up in the mad rush, we thought it’d be worth putting this article together so you can do a few checks before you really need to us your system.

So in this article, I’m going to share with you 5 simple steps to follow so you can set up your boiler and heating system and ensure it’s running correctly and efficiently. I’m going to explain what issues people tend to come across and how to overcome them. We hope you find it useful.

Step 1 – Pressurise your heating system to the correct pressure

First of all, we need to make sure that we the right amount of pressure in the heating system, if your pressure is too low then you can damage vital components like your pump (for example).

Some systems automatically pressurise themselves, so if you have some tanks in the loft then there’s a good chance you can skip this step. If you’re not sure though keep reading.

Most systems today need to be manually pressurised. In the image to the right, you’ll see what a typical pressure gauge looks like, this is what shows you what pressure your system is currently at.

These are typically situated on or near the boiler itself or (if you have a hot water tank) in your airing cupboard.

Pressure Guage
This is what a typical pressure gauge looks like.

The correct pressure for a heating system is typically between 1 and 1.5 bar. If the pressure is less than 0.6 – 0.8 bar then there’s a good chance your boiler will stop running to protect itself.

In order to top up the pressure on your boiler, you’ll need to locate your filling valves, commonly known as a filling loop. These are usually situated underneath the boiler or relatively close to the pressure gauge.

There are lots of different variations of filling valves and some look different from the one in the picture. If you’re struggling to locate yours it’s a good idea to read your manufacturers instructions or give us a call, we’d be happy to help you with this.

Most filling valves have 2 levers which need to be rotated 90 degrees to open them, please make sure that they’re joined together, otherwise, you might get a bit wet in this process.

Filling Loop1
This is what a typical filling loop looks like.

Once you have found the levers and rotated them you’ll start hearing the system fill up with water, keep an eye out on your pressure gauge and be prepared to turn the valves off again when the pressure reaches the target pressure of around 1 to 1.5 bar.

If you over pressurise your boiler DON’T PANIC – It’s o.k, your boiler isn’t going to blow up. Boilers have built-in devices to help keep the pressure below a particular threshold so there’s no need to worry if you accidentally over pressurise your boiler. Just be prepared to turn the filling valves off when you get to the correct pressure and we shouldn’t have a problem.

Step 2 – Vent your radiators

First of all, you need to make sure any air that’s in your heating system is released and it’s completely full of water.

When air finds its way to a radiator it gets trapped which prevents the radiator from working effectively. Air in the system will also cause the system to corrode faster.

Corrosion is our number 1 enemy, it causes boiler failure and leads to radiators popping which can cause a lot of damage.

To release the air from the radiators we’re going to need either a radiator vent key or a flat head screwdriver (depending on which type of vent you have).

Radiator vents are located at the top of your radiator, usually on the left hand or right-hand side, sometimes they’re on the back of the radiator, so if you’re struggling to locate it, try looking there.

Vent Key
This is what a radiator vent key looks like.

Once you’ve located the vents you can use your vent key (or screwdriver) to open it and release any air. Before you open the vent it’s a good idea to have some kitchen paper to hand to catch the water that gets released.

Simply rotate the vent anti-clockwise to open, just a 1/4 turn is enough to start. If water is present then it’s already full of water, if you hear a hissing sound then you’re releasing the trapped air.

DO NOT REMOVE THE VENT PIN! If it’s taking a while to release the air please do not get impatient and remove the vent pin, you WILL definitely struggle to get it back in and will most likely make a mess.

If the hissing sound all of a sudden comes to a stop then there’s a good job you’ve run out of pressure in your system. You’ll need to return back to step 1 to before you can continue.

If the hissing sound was replaced with water then you’re good to move on to the next radiator or if all your radiators are full you can move to step 3.

Step 3 – Resetting your thermostat radiator valves

If you have radiator valves that look a bit like the one on the right, then you have thermostatic radiator valves. We’ll refer to thermostat radiator as TRV’s.

TRV’s enable you to control the temperature of each individual room.

So for example, you don’t necessarily want a bedroom to be warmer than your living room or your kitchen.

Over the years though the valves become less sensitive and accurate so in this step, we’re going to check to make sure they’re working and we’re going to set them so you’re less wasteful and more comfortable.

Soon we’re going to be turning the heating on and testing to make sure these are working correctly, but ensuring they’re working correctly is a 2 step process.

Trvs And Lockshields
This is what a thermostat radiator valves looks like.

TRV’s have a range of temperatures that they aim to regulate to, but different manufacturers have different targets and what can actually be achieved depends on lot’s of different variables, so the best indicator really is by how the room feels.

Here’s an idea of what temperature to expect to work towards.

0 – Off
❄ – 5°c
1 – 15°c
2 – 17°c
3 – 20°c
4 – 22°c
5 – Fully open.

In order to make sure the TRV’s are working correctly we need to turn them down to number 1, unless your room is currently below 15°c that radiator shouldn’t get hot when we turn the heating on later. If it/they do get hot then we know that the TRV’s are no controlling the room temperature correctly.

Return to this step after we’ve turned the heating on later.

To check to see if the valves open when they need to.  Once we’ve established which ones are turned off we simply need to go round and turn the valves back up to their full setting. This should allow heat through to your radiator/s regardless of room temperature.

Obviously, if your radiator/s don’t get hot then we have a bit of a problem, but don’t worry we’ll cover how to remedy this a bit later.

Now’s it’s time to set your TRV’s to the correct temperatures, there is no exact rules to this, only recommendations but here’s what we recommend.

Bedrooms – 2.5
Living spaces – 3-4
Unused spaces – 1.5 – 2.

Common questions

A lot of people ask us if they should turn radiators off in rooms they don’t use, to be honest, the best answer is no. The reason for this is because if that particular room gets really cold then it’s going to try and steal heat from rooms around it, causing quicker temperature drops in the room where you’re trying to heat.

If you, maintain a reasonable temperature in your whole house then it will help regulate a much more even temperature and help you feel more comfortable.

Step 4 – adjust your boiler and room thermostat to run more efficiently.

This, by far, is the most important part to get right when it comes to saving money on your gas bills and being more comfortable.

First of all, we’re going to consider the temperature we set the boiler to run to, there’s a couple of things which will affect our decision to which temperature we want to work with.

For example, if you have an older boiler which is non-condensing then we shouldn’t set the temperature of the boiler to less than 65°c – 70c. Otherwise, we might turn our non-condensing boiler into a condensing boiler and that would not be good.

Secondly, if you have a hot water tank then you’re going to need your boiler to be set to a high enough temperature to heat your hot water effectively, so no less than 70°c.

If you have a condensing combi boiler (Learn if you have a combi boiler installation here) then I recommend setting your boiler’s thermostat to between 55°c and 65°c. The reason for this is because at this temperature your boiler is going to be working as a condensing boiler, this is when you’ll be getting the most out of your money

This might not be a hot enough temperature to keep your house warm all year there though if it’s freezing outside you might need to forget about being in condensing mode and throw as much heat into the building just to keep warm.

Step 5 – Managing your the room temperatures to be more efficient.

This step will help you live more comfortably and save you the most amount on your gas bills if managed correctly.

If you have a thermostat that is a dial on the wall that you rotate to turn the heating on, then it’s time for an upgrade. The old dial thermostat is so inaccurate and unintelligent that you might as well throw money down the drain. You need one that can do different temperatures at different times. Check out our Recommended smart thermostat installations.

Every person and household is different so your time and temperatures which work for you could be completely different from the next persons. It’s important to have a baseline temperature of no lower than 16°c to help maintain a steadier temperature later. Here’s a general rule of thumb to work with.

At night when you’re asleep – 16°c
During the day when you’re not at home – 18°c
During the day when you’re at home and active – 20°c
Later in the evening when you’re sitting down – 21°c/22°c

Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable at these temperatures, the most important part to using your gas is that you’re comfortable, the elderly often want to their homes to be 24°c all day.

Follow the temperatures above and we promise you’ll notice a huge difference in the way your home feels.

Step 6 – Test run and what common issues to look out for.

Now we’ve turned your system on and let it run for a while there’s a few things we want to look out for.

The first thing would be a drastic increase in the system pressure, so earlier on when we set the boiler pressure to be at 1.5 bar, if now that the heating system is hot and the pressure has increased to 3 bar (for example) then that indicates an issue with the boiler/heating system and would need to be looked at by a qualified engineer to rectify.

You’ll also notice that some water is being dispersed to the outside which is saying that the safety device has kicked in and releasing the extra pressure safely to outside. Once the system cools down you’ll find that the system pressure will most likely go down to zero and the boiler will stop working.

Another common issue we come across is that radiators are not getting hot, this could be down to air being trapped in the radiator or a TRV being stuck in closed the position. You can attempt to fix this by removing the TRV and wiggle the pin on top of the valve. If this doesn’t solve your problem then you’re going to need to call in a qualified engineer to investigate further.

One thing to also look out for is a fast increase in boiler temperature and excessive firing up and shutting down of the boiler. If your boiler is indicating that it is at 80°c but your radiators are not at a similar temperature then you could have a blockage on the system. This will cause damage to your boiler over time so it’s worth getting a qualified engineer in to investigate that further too.

To conclude

So there we have it, hopefully, you’ve been able to follow this 6 step process and now you’re boiler and central heating system is running efficiently and effectively. Hopefully, you’ve not encountered any problems and you’re good to go for the winter.

If you have come across any issues then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, we’ll be happy to help you.

Thanks again for coming to check out this guide.

Jamie Cureton
Jamie Cureton
Jamie is an extremely passionate heating engineer. He particularly enjoys the technology aspect of the industry especially how new heating controls work to help people save money and keep warm.
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