Taking Care of Your Central Heating

Updated - October 9th 2023

Taking care of your central heating is important for a number of reasons.

Poorly maintained central heating systems can be dangerous as they could lead to gas leaks and breakdowns. They can also be inconvenient & break down in the colder months leaving you without heat for days. Good central heating maintenance also saves you money in the long term.

There are various ways you can take care of your central heating system from regularly services to cleaning. Whether you're doing some maintenance yourself or call a professional, there are various ways you can take care of your central heating system. Remember, when calling someone out to work on your central heating, they must be on the gas safe register.

Here we’re going to look at all the different ways you should be taking care of your central heating, including diagnosing those nasty boiler smells you may have from time to time.

Boiler diagnosing

How to Diagnose Boiler Smells

Every gas appliance in your home should be checked annually by a gas safe engineer. A boiler's job is to provide you with years of clean, efficient and safe heating power so it's important you get your boiler serviced regularly.

As with anything, issues can arise that can compromise a boiler’s safety. One sign that there's an issue with your boiler is unusual smells. Not only do these smells identify a problem with your boiler, but they can also be causing harm to your wellbeing too so it's important we are able to quickly recognise them.

Here are a few signs to look out for and what to do if you encounter them.

1.Rotten Egg Smell

You would have probably come into contact with this smell at some point, especially when lighting the hob on a gas cooker. While you wait for the pilot light to catch you, sometimes you catch the smell of a little bit of gas that doesn’t burn. These eggy, sulphur like smells can also come from your boiler. Utility companies purposefully add these scents to natural gas so it is easier to detect. If your boiler has a sulphur like smell, it could indicate that it has a leak.

2.Burning and Heavy Dust

If a boiler hasn’t been used for a while, it can produce a smell of burning fabric or dust when it's turned on. This is often the result of the pilot light burning off accumulated dust from the boiler housing. However, if the smell persists, it can indicate a serious issue with your boiler. If your boiler produces a smell like this, give it a chance to burn off the collected dust first. If that doesn’t help, you can try either cleaning or replacing the furnaces air filter. If the problem persists, contact a qualified boiler or HVAC repairman to take a look at your boiler.

3.Metallic or Electrical Circuits

A boiler is comprised of many electrical elements. Sometimes wires fray or become disconnected. As the electrical circuit is exposed to heat, if they become too hot they can emit smells similar to burning metal, melted plastic or burning oil. If you smell something burning inside your boiler, you should immediately switch it off & call a qualified boiler or HVAC repairman to figure out the issue. It would also be a good idea to keep an eye on your boiler to ensure nothing combusts, even after it has been switched off.

How to Clean Your Central Heating System

Once temperatures start to see double figures or before the winter month come back around, it's a good idea to do a check of your central heating system.

1.Bleeding your Radiator

Radiators often get pockets of air get trapped in them. This causes hot water to not circulate as effectively as it should meaning it can take much longer to heat your home or possibly not heat it at all. You'll be able to spot this as large parts of your radiator will feel cold when turned on. Regularly bleeding your radiators can help avoid this from occurring. As heating is used more throughout the winter months, it's an ideal time to give your central heating a little care and attention beforehand so you can keep your homes warm.

2.Flushing your Central Heating

For something more powerful, you can flush your entire central heating system. Over time, rust will begin to build up inside your central heating system & can cause a number of problems to occur such as radiators requiring frequent bleeding, little to no heat distribution, a noisy or problematic boiler, little to no hot water and high fuel bills. If left untreated this build-up of rust can lead to boiler failure. Instead of waiting for your boiler to fail, the change from warm to cold seasons is a great time to give your heating system a reboot and flush it out. Central heating flushers are designed to flush out and remove the harmful iron oxide deposits aka rust. The flushing machine is connected to the heating circuit and a high flow of water is pushed through the circuit to effectively purge the system of sludge, scale and corrosion.

The Dangers of Not Taking Care of your Central Heating

Not taking care of your central heating can cause many problems down the line.

1.Gas Explosion

As we’re sure you're aware, a gas leak can be catastrophic if it is exposed to a naked flame. Unfortunately gas explosions are far more common than they should be. If your boiler starts to emit a smell of rotten egg (added to gas to make it easier to spot) you should extinguish all naked flames. You should then open doors and windows and leave your house immediately. Finally call the national gas emergency number on 0800 111 999.

2.Carbon Monoxide Leak

Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as smelling something that could let you know that something with your boiler has gone awry. Your boiler can also emit carbon monoxide - a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas - that can seriously harm those that inhale it. Breathing in to much of this gas can also cause you to pass out and even cause death. Unfortunately, knowing if you have a carbon monoxide leak is notoriously difficult but having a carbon monoxide detector in your home or place of work is one of the best ways to protect you from a dangerous leak.

‘Every year there are about 60 deaths in England and Wales from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning’ – NHS

Having no smell or taste, it's important to be able to be aware & spot the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning -

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Feeling and being sick
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Make sure you're staying vigilant & if you start to experience flu like symptoms, especially when you're in the same space and at certain times of the day, get yourself checked out at the doctors. If they tell you you’re well, check with others in your home or work if they are feeling the same as you as this is a very clear indicator of carbon monoxide poisoning. No matter if you have symptoms or not, installing a carbon monoxide detector near your boiler is paramount for keeping you and others around you safe. The detector will remove the guess work and will beep and alert you if you have a leak.

If you are concerned your boiler has a carbon monoxide leak, it’s important that you air out your house by opening all doors and windows and then immediately leave the premise.

Once you are away from the danger you should contact the emergency gas number on 0800 111 999.

How to Know If You Need a New Boiler

So, you’ve taken great care of your boiler and had it serviced regularly but it’s finally given up. As with anything, eventually a breakdown will likely happen and it can be incredibly frustrating especially if it’s the middle of winter. Aside from the bad smells we have discussed, there are some other tell-tale signs to look out for which mean you may need a new boiler.

1.Radiators Take a Long Time to Heat Up

If you take good care of your central heating system and bleed your radiators regularly, they should be heating up pretty quickly. So, if it is taking a few hours to heat up or they only stay tepid, it’s probably a sign that you may need a new boiler.

2.Your Bills are Increasing

If you find yourself confused by the price of your energy bills, it could be a sign that your boiler is not running as efficiently as it should. An older boiler takes more energy to run, hence higher bills. You can check your boiler’s efficiency simply by looking on its Erp energy label – Green is the most efficient, whilst red is the least. An efficient boiler can save you money on your energy bills.

3.The Boiler is Leaking

A leaking boiler is a big deal and should be dealt with immediately. If you spot puddles around your boiler, the internal parts are likely wasting away. This can lead to further rotting and corrosion if left untreated and wastes a lot of water in the process. Getting an engineer out to take a look will prevent further damage.

4.Loud Noises

Boilers do make noises, especially when starting up, but it shouldn’t be any more than a slight humming sound. If it starts banging or whirring loudly, it could be a sign something is wrong. If you do experience loud bangs or noises, turn off your boiler as this helps keep damage to a minimum whilst an engineer comes out to you.

By maintaining your boiler and central heating system, you can keep them ticking over for longer & keep your home warm in those cold, winter months.

About the Author

Lauren King

Lauren works in our Ecommerce Team, with over 6 years of experience at HSS. She brings product knowledge and is able to give her advice on the right tool for the job no matter how big or small.

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