Winter is fast approaching and with it comes the low temperatures and desire to start turning on the heating. However, turning on radiators, boilers and fireplaces after a 6-month shut down is a task that should not be taken lightly. Before relighting any heating installations, certain maintenance needs to be carried out to prevent any risks to the safety of those living in the dwelling or building. Poorly maintained equipment is responsible for the carbon monoxide poisoning of 3,000 people each year, and for 1,500 injuries in domestic fires. This guide details the steps to follow to get your radiators, boiler and chimney safely back working.
Servicing your gas boiler
Regardless of its age, the maintenance of gas boilers is mandatory and should be carried out at least once a year, preferably before the boiler is switched on again at the beginning of winter. It is recommended to take out one of the various types of boiler maintenance contracts offered by existing specialist and certified companies, with some contracts offering two overhauls per year. Maintenance includes cleaning the boiler, measuring the carbon monoxide content (which if too high can be dangerous to the health of the occupants) and replacing defective parts. A maintenance certificate is issued at the end of the intervention. Although an annual boiler maintenance may appear to be a financial burden at first, it actually extends the life of the equipment and saves you money in the long term (not to mention limiting the risks to the safety and health of residents).
Choosing a good supplier with a competitive offer can also help save money. Many French households that have still not changed supplier since the opening of the competitive energy market could make significant savings on their gas bill by turning to alternative suppliers, such as TotalEnergies who offers reductions on the price of gas compared to the regulated tariff of Engie (formerly GDF). Another possible solution is connecting your heating to a thermostat.
Checking the water pressure in the heating circuit
Checking the water pressure in the heating circuit before switching it on again prevents any malfunctions and breakdowns that can occur if the pressure is too low or too high. The pressure gauge, located on the boiler or on a pipe near the filling valves, is used to check the pressure. Simply check that the dial pointer is in the green zone between the 1 and 1.5 bar. Malfunctions in a heating system are more or less easy to spot and require the relatively urgent intervention of a technician. Pressure variations during the year should normally be kept to a minimum. Pressure variations of more than 0.3 bars indicate a malfunction in the system that needs to be addressed within a few weeks. However, the heater can continue to be used until the technician arrives. On the other hand, if the pressure goes into the red zone, or even continues to progressively increase, this is a serious malfunction that requires urgent repair work. In this case, the heating circuit must be switched off until the problem is solved. Otherwise there is a risk that the boiler's safety valve will be activated and cause an automatic water discharge.
Turning on the radiators
Switching on hot water radiators
Hot water radiators should be vented once a year, before the heating system is turned back on in late autumn. Bleeding eliminates the air that sometimes slips into radiator circuits (which are supposed to contain only water) and affects their proper functioning. A water radiator that contains air won’t heat up as well, especially at the top, and will often make small noises, which it does not make in normal operation.
Bleeding can be done either automatically, if the radiator is new enough to be equipped with an automatic bleeder, or manually. To bleed the radiator yourself, start by using a spanner to unscrew the bleed screw by a quarter turn (the bleed screw is usually at one end of the radiator, opposite the end where the temperature control valve is located). You should then hear the air flowing out, producing a small whistling sound. After a few seconds, drops of water should start to flow out of the trap. When a steady stream of water begins to flow, it is time to manually close the bleed screw.
Switching on electric radiators
Electric radiators and convectors require less maintenance. No purging is required, only dusting of the air inlets and outlets from time to time. A simple wipe with a dry or slightly damp cloth is all that is needed to diffuse the heat and avoid unpleasant burnt odours. If the heating is not efficient and the appliance seems to be malfunctioning, the best solution is to call in a professional quickly. It is also recommended to have the interior of electric radiators checked every 5 years by a professional.
The majority of new homes are now equipped with electric radiators. They are cheap to buy, easy and quick to install, and offer consumers the advantage of not being dependent on variations in the price of fossil fuels. Those wanting to change their radiator for a newer version can benefit from EDF’s energy renovation grant which is offered to help individuals improve the energy performance of their homes. To find out more about the offered services contact EDF.
A badly maintained chimney can be a real danger for the occupants of the dwelling: fire, intoxication by smoke or carbon monoxide... The risks of accidents are high and must be taken seriously. At the beginning of winter when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, it is important to sweep your chimney before using it again. Annual chimney sweeping is compulsory, whether the chimney is used or not. The operation must be carried out by a professional able to issue a chimney sweeping certificate that can then be presented to the insurer in the event of a fire in order to benefit from the best possible cover.