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Budgeting for a boiler breakdown

It's never good news when any household appliance breaks down.  But some breakdowns are easier to cope with than others.

A microwave going down is inconvenient and a freezer melting out can be a drama.  But a boiler breaking down can turn into a full on crisis.  Household emergencies don't come much more serious than this.

No hot water, no heating and the very real possibility of a huge bill.  And, you can almost guarantee that when something does go wrong with the boiler it will happen on the coldest day of the year. 

What can possibly go wrong?

Despite the fact that your boiler could break down at any time, it’s more likely to go wrong in winter rather than summer for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, boilers work overtime in the colder months and secondly, because pipes can freeze in the depths of winter.

Away from the time of year the age of the boiler is also a contributing factor. Corrosion and rust can degrade internal components, causing leaks and mechanical failure.

How to prevent a breakdown

Even if you have an old boiler and it is the middle of winter it doesn't mean it’s going to breakdown and there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of anything untoward happening.

Boiler maintenance and servicing

As we've already mentioned boiler repairs can be very expensive so it is always wise to ensure the boiler is working as efficiently as possible.  Getting a regular service will reduce the possibility of something going wrong and landing you with a big repair bill.

It’s important your boiler is serviced every year.  It may be wise to book the service for the autumn to ensure your boiler can take the strain of the winter months.

During the service an engineer will:

  • Test all the components in the boiler
  • Inspect and clean parts and pipes
  • Replace any faulty components

At this point we should be point out that servicing and any repair work should only be carried out by a registered Gas Safe professional.  There’s no way you should be even thinking about doing any repair work yourself.

Benefits of servicing your boiler

The first is pretty obvious; there is less chance of the boiler breaking down and costing you a large chunk of cash.  But, regular servicing will also save you money on your energy bills because the boiler will operate more efficiently and be less expensive to run.

The other, far more important reason for regularly servicing your boiler, is safety.  An old boiler, or one which is in disrepair, is potentially very dangerous. 

Gas leaks are thankfully rare but they can happen and the consequences can be catastrophic.  Don't take any chances and make sure your boiler is serviced annually.

More efficiency tips

Although you can't service the boiler yourself there are things you can do to help prevent a breakdown.

  • Every couple of weeks, even during the summer months, turn on the heating for ten minutes or so to keep the boiler ticking over.  It could seize up if not used regularly
  • Make sure the flame in your boiler is always blue. Call a plumber if it appears yellow or smoky and always keep your boiler clear from clutter as it needs ventilation
  • Insulate your pipes to prevent the boiler from freezing. When the temperature drops below zero, the boiler can cut out as a safety precaution
  • A faulty boiler can produce carbon monoxide. Known as 'The silent killer’, it is a gas you can’t see, smell or taste. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector with an alarm. Put it near to the boiler and check every month that it is fully functioning

Don't forget the radiators

It always pays to make sure your radiators are working efficiently. 

If they’re cold at the bottom and warm at the top, air is trapped in the system. You can release the air by ‘bleeding’ the radiators.

Switch off the heating and turn your key in to the bleed valve.  Turn the key anticlockwise until you hear the ‘hiss’ of the air escaping. Have a jug and a cloth to hand in case the water drips.  Don’t forget to lock the valve again once you’re done.

When a boiler breaks down

If, despite your best efforts, the boiler breaks down and can't be repaired it goes without saying you will need to replace it as quickly as possible.  But which boiler do you need?

When replacing your boiler you basically have to decide between two types.  Either a conventional or a combination boiler.

Conventional boilers

A conventional boiler is one which works with a storage tank.  The boiler heats the water in the tank, which is usually sited in the loft, to supply hot water to the household. In older boilers this can mean a delay in the supply of hot water when the tank is emptied and more water is heated.  However, newer models of conventional boilers are much more efficient and they are more compact than the very bulky systems which used to be the norm. If you have an older conventional boiler you should consider replacing it.  This would probably save you money in the long run in the form of lower energy bills and repair costs.

Combination boilers

Also known as combi-boilers these are more efficient, more compact and don't require a storage tank. The boiler supplies water directly from the mains rather than from a tank.  This means there is an unlimited supply of hot water and, because the water is delivered at mains pressure, you won't need an extra pump fitted to your shower. Combination boilers are usually less expensive to install than conventional boilers as they don't need the additional pipe work and the time to plumb in the appliance is much shorter.  They also tend to be more reliable and longer-lasting resulting in lower running costs and less frequent repairs.

Paying for it all

As we mentioned earlier repairing or replacing a boiler can be very expensive.  However, it is a cost which must be met.  Fortunately, you do have some options:

Government schemes

Keep an eye out for government schemes and grants which are offered to private householders who are in receipt of state benefits as part of The Affordable Warmth Obligation initiative. 

Although they change often and typically won't help pay for repairs, they do offer grants to pay for a replacement boiler if yours is old and inefficient. 

As these schemes are constantly ending and starting under a new guise it is worthwhile seeing what is currently on offer.  You can do so by visiting this page.

Boiler cover

For a small sum each month you can insure your boiler against breakdown.  The policy could pay for repairs or a replacement and there are plenty of policies to choose from.

Before taking out boiler cover check the small print.  All policies will have an upper payout limit, may have an excess amount and could also exclude older boilers and some types of repairs.

Boiler insurance can give you peace of mind but it won't be much use to you if the breakdown has already happened.  So, assuming you don't have any insurance in place, what are your other options?

Paying cash

In an ideal world, rainy-day savings will be available to help you over the hump. Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world and often savings aren't available and, because boilers are expensive to repair and even more costly to replace, you may need some emergency funds to meet the cost.

Short term loans

A short term loan from Satsuma could be one way to manage an unexpected expense such as a boiler breakdown.

You could borrow up to £1000 and can choose to repay the loan over a period of up to a year in affordable weekly or monthly instalments.  You can apply online today and the cash for a new boiler could be in your bank account within an hour.

Click here to begin your application.








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Representative example: £480 loan repayable over 9 months. 9 monthly repayments of £106.56. Rate of interest 133.1% p.a. fixed. Representative 535% APR. Total amount payable is £959.04