Our Bristol heating engineers come across all sorts of boilers in their working day, everything from brand new boilers being fitted to repairing 30 year old models living on borrowed time.
Early today Eddie, one of our Clifton Plumber team, came across this beauty:
The boiler in question was a 100,000btu open flue Potterton Kingfisher date stamped 1991 fitted in an entrance porch, with a history of operational problems and a suspect stain around the ceiling that the vertical flue passed through. The ceiling had no inspection hatch and so any engineer who visited the boiler in recent years would not have been able to inspect the flue in its entirety.
Although the flue was relatively short, only around 3m in total length, Building Regulations & Gas Safe guidelines stipulate that any flue joints should be visible for inspection if required. Our boiler repair engineer deduced that this flue had at least two joints concealed in the ceiling void which were not accessible. There was also no visible support for the flue pipe anywhere so it was just kept in place by its own weight.
Finally, the one flue joint that was visible in the flue pipe had a downward facing socket filled with fire cement – not a good idea due to the vapour-rich combustion products emitted which can cause downward facing cement to become damp and weak.
The patch of staining around the ceiling, coupled with insufficient ventilation, caused our engineer to undertake an in-room Carbon Monoxide test around the boiler – this showed immediate readings of up to 27ppm and rising of CO near the ceiling. Something was definitely not right!
The boiler was declared immediately dangerous as a result of the above, and given its chequered operational history our customer agreed to replace the boiler on the spot rather than spend money investigating and repairing the numerous faults – after all they would still have a 25-year-old boiler even if it could have been repaired.
Our office agreed that the engineer could commence the new boiler installation right away, and so he started draining the boiler & stripping out the old flue.
The flue pipe simply lifted off the boiler with no need for tools and clearly no brackets to un-couple. Upon inspection the engineer found a single wall flue pipe made of very thin & brittle steel and with no protection against mechanical damage. There were holes which appeared to be designed for screws or bolts although none were present.
Inside the top section the flue aperture had been reduced down by a thinner diameter flue pipe being inserted into the larger pipe, and the annular space between the two being filled with fire cement.
If this makeshift reducer-joint had failed then there would have been an open ended and potentially lethal flue inside the customers home.
Most alarmingly it was found that there was no connection between the flue pipe and the roof terminal – the reduced pipe above had been poked into a lead roof slate with a terminal sitting on top. Essentially there was no proper seal between the flue, the lead slate and the roof terminal at all. All the engineers at the company agreed that it was a miracle this setup had not lead to a fatality in the time the boiler had been operational. This bodge job was almost certainly the cause of the CO fumes detected in the room below and an indication that the inaccessible void between the porch ceiling and the pitched roof above was filling with Carbon Monoxide each time the boiler was used.
A 100,000btu boiler produces a lot of combustion products when operated and the customers can count themselves very lucky not to have been hurt by this poorly fitted boiler.
Once the boiler had been drained it was stripped down to allow for ease of transportation. When the heat exchanger was broken up we found some of the main ports on the bottom were almost completely blocked up with large particle sludge.
This sludge sitting in the heart of the boiler would undoubtedly have been the cause of the frequent overheating incidents the customer had been experiencing over the last 8-10 years, indeed some of the ports on the heat exchanger were almost 75% blocked!
Naturally the circulator pump and motorised valve were also full of sediment and will both be replaced after we carry out a thorough heating system powerflush.
We showed these photos and our engineers notes to the apprentices at the company after this discovery today, to highlight the importance of checking boiler flues in their entirety at every inspection. It is also reinforces our company policy to carry out an in-room carbon monoxide check on every open flued appliance we encounter, just in case of any flue defects that cannot be seen by the naked eye. We consider it even more important now as in this case we may have saved someones life!
Some homeowners panic when their heating or hot water stops working, especially when the hot water is not working. That’s understandable as a total hot water failure can mean showers at the gym and boiling kettles to bath the baby – lets face it, any combi boiler repair or maintenance needed is not a welcome situation! Before calling an emergency plumber about your combi boiler, it is worth checking the heating system pressure. This will usually be visible on a gauge on the front fascia of the boiler (or sometimes underneath), and it can be either an analogue gauge like the one pictured below as commonly used on Worcester Bosch boilers or a digital readout such as those on Vaillant Ecotec combi boilers depending on your combi boiler model. Whether you have a new combi boiler or an old one, if your boiler is showing little or no pressure eg below 0.5 bar then this may well be the reason for the boiler breakdown. Follow these steps to repressurise and you will be on your way to a working boiler once more.
This is a very common combination boiler issue, and one that our Bristol Plumbers find on a daily basis when they are out on boiler repair duty. The typical way this manifests itself is for a high output tap such as the bath and / or shower to cycle from very hot to very cold, over and over again. This makes showering virtually impossible and as such can really set you up for a bad day if you are taking a shower before work! The usual causes of this are overheating due to a hydraulic issue or a blockage somewhere in a combination boiler pipe or heat exchanger. If this is happening to you then contact us now to book an engineer visit as there is probably little you can do yourself to fix it.
All combination boilers make noise, we take that as a given, however, some older combi boilers can make an awful racket when starting up or when working at high rate. Age is one of the biggest factors in how much noise a boiler makes as hydraulic parts can become loose, fan bearings can wear out, rivets can start to work their way free and boiler overheating can occur due to blockages which have built up over time. When this happens regularly it can cause the overheat limit thermostat safety device function to activate, causing nuisance boiler failures. It may be worth booking a boiler service with one of our heating engineers to assess the situation. If the boiler is just too far gone then perhaps a new boiler quote is in order which we will be happy to provide.
The Bristol plumbers team at Plumbing Care Services are here to help all year round if you are experiencing any of the combi boiler repair issues above. We are always happy to discuss any Bristol boiler engineer enquiry over the phone if you have any questions – please do not hesitate to call.
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