Ask the majority of homeowners if they know how their central heating system works and you’ll probably get a number of blank stares. It’s one of the most important parts of our home, and many of us instinctively call for the professionals if it goes wrong.
However, there are many things that can go wrong with central heating. And if you’re selling a home, you may need to deal with things before you sell, especially if you’ve suffered any of the following problems in the past.
The 'top to bottom' thing
This is where one or more of the radiators in a property are cold at the bottom but warm at the top. It is a very common issue, and most homeowners have experienced it if they have central heating. It’s also the one problem that seems to have the popular response which involves ‘bleeding the radiator’.
Quickly bleed a radiator:
However, the problem may be more complex. It could be an issue because there has been a build up of sludge in the radiator. While this sounds bad, it often only requires you to remove the radiator from the wall and flush it with water.
It could also be a much more worrying problem, if any one of these occur:
- An initial poor quality fitting
- A blocked pipe (which could affect the whole property)
- A pump problem (it may be broken)
It's well worth contacting the professionals if bleeding doesn’t work, because those three problems alone could be catastrophic for the central heating system.
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A weird noise
Boilers do, now and them emit a funny noise. It is to be expected. From windy conditions outside to the sound of pipes bearing up against cold weather, a central heating system can be a little noisy at times. But if you hear a loud and persistent rattling sound, you may well have what is termed ‘kettling’.
You could have the system flushed to make sure that it isn’t being clogged by anything. Another possibility is pressure. Checking the system is running at the right pressure could mean the problem is dealt with. It could also mean there is some trapped air, and you can manage this with bleeding.
Loss of pressure
This is an extremely common problem that everyone who has ever owned a boiler will be aware of. The pressure on a system should be perfect. This is because if there is any variance, even to the smallest degree, the boiler will start to fail. If left for too long, that failing boiler will eventually stop working.
There should be a pressure gauge somewhere in the boiler. If you're able to work with the pressure to get things back to normal, then go for it. However, it's often a good idea to call out an engineer just to be on the safe side.
This is where the radiator itself is just cold. It may seem a little basic, but one of the very first things you should do in this event is check the thermostat is actually on. Sometimes people are caught out by this, so it’s well worth taking a quick look to see if that is the problem.
Once you know that the thermostat is in full working order, you then have to look at other avenues that will solve the problem. There could be a blown fuse, for example. There are also other potential causes of the problem, including issues around the pump.
However, if the thermostat is switched on, the impact you can have on the problem becomes limited. There may be a lot of work needed, and this will be technical work that should only be carried out by an engineer.
Whatever you do, don't try and fix it yourself unless you are trained in that type of work. You could end up doing more damage yourself, which will make it costly and disruptive to repair.
The 'bottom to top' thing
Earlier we looked at the problem that presents as a radiator being cold from top to bottom. The reverse is also possible, and it’s no less annoying.
However, it’s also the easiest problem to fix. This is where ‘bleeding’ the radiator comes into play. You can buy a radiator key at any DIY store, and this allows you to tighten the nut at the base of the radiator. If all goes well, you should see some dirty water leave the radiator.
While this may seem relatively easy to solve however, if the problem persists (and in most cases it won’t) then you'll need to ask the professionals for their help. Bleeding can be a necessity every now and then, but if you seem to be doing it all the time, there’s a problem.
So, what if I'm selling?
This is where things become a little tricky.
You've lived in a warm property with hot water right up to the point when you sell up. Therefore, it’s pretty safe to assume you had a fully working central heating system. Otherwise, you would have had it fixed.
If someone buys a property, it's good common sense to carry out a survey. Then the legal contracts come into play. Solicitors and agents usually take care of the survey results, and then the buyer can make their own decision.
In the cold light of day, and if the buyer has a survey done, there is nothing they can do about faulty central heating when they move in.
However, it is important that you ensure your home is fit for living in before you sell it. While the buyer may be responsible for arranging surveys (and they’d be foolish not to), you should still make sure the property is fit for purpose. Don’t forget that selling a home forms part of a legal agreement, and buyers have every right to run rigorous checks on a property before they take the keys.
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If it isn’t actually your property though (due to a family bereavement, for example), and you don't have the funds to fix a heating system and boiler (it is costly), then you may need to consider selling to a cash buyer. Either do that, or be prepared to reduce the asking fee.
This kind of problem will come up in a survey, so fix or reduce the cost of the property