If your boiler breaks down, should you call a plumber or a heating engineer?
There can be some confusion when it comes to the difference between a plumber and a heating engineer as, on the surface, the two roles seem quite similar.
Your boiler uses a lot of water pipes, so should you call a plumber to repair your boiler? The short answer is no.
Gas Safe Register
A boiler repair or service involves working with gas, so only a Gas Safe registered engineer can legally work on a gas boiler. The gas industry is highly regulated to ensure that relevant services are provided to the highest safety standards, so if your repair is pertaining to a boiler or other gas appliance, you must make sure that you contact a Gas Safe engineer.
At Boiler Bee we are plumbers and heating engineers which I call a Mechanical Engineer just to add another term into the mix! In essence we are qualified¤ and experienced in dealing will all mechanical, water and gas issues that you may find in a residential and commercial property.
¤ Qualifications come in many different forms – if someone has years of experience in completing a trade they are deemed to be qualified, likewise if someone has a formal industry qualification they are also qualified. I qualified as a time served fitter at Swan Humters ship builders in 1985. From then I have increased my qualifications and experience via University degrees, formal training such as Gas Safety and specific training in manufacturers’ products such as Worcester boilers. The proof of the pudding of course is whether you do a good job – I guarantee my workmanship for life.
We were called out to look at a problem with a school heating system last week. One of three boilers was continually cutting out and needed investigating before the schools came back of half term.
UTS Durham Plant room
The fault was reported by the boiler as an E36 fault which relates to a combustion issue and could be to do with gas pressure, the gas valve, the combustion process or the flue. After testing the gas pressure the main heat exchanger was inspected for blockage, this is done by cleaning out the small gaps between the elements as the video shows:
Having given the heat exchanger a good clean out the next step was to set up the gas valve to give out the right level of CO2 which is an indicator of the gas burning efficiency. Once this was set up we then had a level playing field so any faults with the boiler could now be attributed to other parts of the boiler such as the circuit board.
This was the next port of call; to test the voltages out from the circuit board to determine of the correct signals were going to various parts and sensors. It was found that the voltage to the flame detection system was only 36 volts instead of 240v and so this was determined to be the problem.
I swapped the circuit board from one boiler to the other and the E36 fault followed the circuit board confirming that the circuit board was at fault.
A new circuit board was ordered and this will be fitted next week.
This was a tricky little number for Derek today. The customer had bought replacement radiators that almost fitted the pipework. To prevent the walls being hacked apart and then the need for filling and repainting we fabricated a neat little copper pipe and shortened the plastic pipe coming out of the wall.
The bent copper pipe means that the seals inside the fittings are not under stress, thereby ensuring it won’t leak in the future.
I am delighted to have taken part in a session of mock interviews for students at Sir Joseph Swan’s Academy in Gateshead.
There were about 50 students ages 14-15 who had been drafted in without any knowledge of what they were about to undertake.
We were briefed to see if we could help coach the students in explaining what were their interests and where they see themselves after their GCSEs.
I was delighted to have been able to talk to about 10 kids some of whom had a clear idea of what they wanted to do and others who just had a bunch of experiences and were looking for a needle in a haystack. Of course some were more shy than others and some were more confident than others but the feedback was that they gained some benefit from the session.
The sessions were held in the school gymnasium which apart from being chilly was an imposing venue which brought back memories of my own exam days at University. The interviews lasted in total about 4 hours with all of the students passing 2 or 3 times round the interviewers; the idea being that they could refine their presentations each time they visited an interviewer.
The day was organised for me by a company called Founders4Schools Team who’s objective is, “Inspiring students by connecting them with local business”. I understand there were other organisations such as STEM Ambassadors there too. It was great to give a little guidance to these young people and I hope to do more in future.
With the winter hopefully passed it’s now a good time to carry out some preventative maintenance for next years cold spell.
Over the winter months we have had a constant stream (excuse the pun) of clients with frozen or blocked condensate pipes. A common theme was the use of 22mm diameter pipe work hidden behind walls in a bid to make the waste pipework cheap and inconsequential. Unfortunately this just leads to blockages as it’s often linked to an Ideal Icos or Isar which is known for discharging aluminium oxide from the heat exchanger.
Poor maintenance of the condensate trap will produce a blockage which slows the whole waste passage down resulting in a reduction in the flushing effect of these types of system.
Once this is neatly built in behind a wall the whole problem is hidden from engineer and customer alike and doesn’t rear its ugly head until it backs up into the boiler and cause leaks and errors with the combustion process.
The best repair for this boiler is to take the condensate pipe outside using a 40mm plastic pipe which is insulated to prevent it freezing in winter.
As ever with our work, this will last the duration as the insulation is correctly attached with plastic ties and is UV resistant unlike the grey insulation which is sometimes used in error.
I carried out my first flushing on the ACL Atlantic Conveyor in 1984. The merchant ship, requisitioned by the British Government as a supply vessel, was lost (with 12 lives) during the Falklands conflict in May 1982. Swan Hunter (shipbuilders) Ltd built the replacement and I was given the job, as a young engineer, to calculate the quantity of hydraulic fluid needed to fill and flush the hydraulic deck moving systems.
Thousands of litres of hydraulic fluid was needed and once pumped into the system the flushing process started; the debris filters had to be cleaned every 2 hours and the hydraulic fluid reached a temperature of 120°c the process lasted for 4 weeks, day and night!!
Forward wind 35 years and I have today carried out my first solar flushing, repair and repressurising operation at a residential property in Newcastle. This time only 40 litres of flushing fluid was needed and the process only took 2 hours.
Problems in the home
The client noticed the appearance of a pink stain on one of the bedroom ceilings and then discovered, after venturing into the loft, that a leaky joint was the culprit.
He call Boiler Bee and we took a look 👀. The system had lost its pressure and an unknown quantity of glycol ( the pink liquid). We quoted to flush the system to remove the air and repressurise the system after fixing the leak and setting the expansion vessels.
This was all done and the system reset, the controls explained to the customer and some advice given on how to maintain the other elements of the system.
So just like the new Atlantic Conveyor in 1985, I’m sure the system will have many years of service from now on.
As a result of poor system flushing 7 years ago when new boilers were installed we have had to carry out major surgery on two Viessmann system boilers at a client’s in Morpeth.
Mr and Mrs N. had a new heating system in 2012. The house had a large heating demand partly due to its size and also its thermal efficiency. They decided to opt for the Viessmann weather compensation route using a 300L multi coil cylinder, solar thermal and two 200W system boilers.
Derek and I we’re called in to look at why one of the boilers was running hot and occasionally tripping out.
The first port of call was to look at the inside of the two magnetic filters. As you can see from the above picture there is an awful lot of debris in these filters; either the system was very dirty and / or the filters had not been cleaned out for 7 years.
The investigation didn’t stop there; the internal diverter valve was extracted and found to be in a similar condition. This was given the once over by Derek and replaced but didn’t produce the result expected. This indicated further blockages inside the main hydraulic pipe work within the boiler.
The next step was to replace this pipe work which required a full strip down of the boilers internal components including the fan, gas valve, condensate system and flow and return pipes.
Inspection and reassembly
With all the main components removed the pipes were inspected and found, once again, to be chocked with black debris. The heat exchanger was taken outside and flushed through with the garden hose.
The boiler was reassembled and gas tightness tested as well as checking the flue integrity.
The system was thoroughly tested to ensure both boilers were working in sequence to supply heat to the system demands.
The system is working well now but we have advised the owners that a full system flush with intensive cleaning chemical is needed.
This is what’s known as a “latent defect”, it’s poor workmanship* that’s not discovered for months or sometimes years after it’s been fitted and the company who fitted it has long since gone out of business.
In this case the rear of the shower head has not been correctly or effectively built into the structure of the wall to hold in place forever. It’s a common short cut which most customers won’t notice or question until the heavy rain effect shower head pulls itself off the wall.
Derek and I cut the back off the plasterboard in the adjoining room to allow us to put some proper structure in place to support it.
The opening around the cut out was make so the plasterboard could be screwed back in and then redecorated. The shower head is now fully secured where it should bee 🐝.
Once again we’ve been busy bees this week sorting out some poor quality plumbing. We’ve been to two existing clients to investigate water coming through the ceiling and on both occasions had to make incisions within the building structure to get access to the leaky pipework.
This fitting was found inside a wall. The previous fitter had blanked off a cold water mains pipe which may have supplied a toilet in the past. The pipe continued up into the loft where it supplied the boiler with cold water to turn into hot water via the combi. The clients had lifted some floor boards and could see it dripping every 10 seconds but were unable to find the source. However it was possible to remove a double electrical socket and gain access to the small fitting behind the wall. After all the water was drained from the cold water pipe by turning off the stop cock and opening a lower tap it was possible to remove the damaged push-fit stop end and after cleaning up the end so that a new stop end would seal properly, fit a new one.
The water was switched back on and the new fitting checked for water tightness. The socket was able to be screwed back on to the wall and the floor boards were left up to allow the area to dry over the following week.
The second call out for Boiler Bee was another existing client who had a similar problem. Water was found cascading down the ground floor walls and out of light switch sockets! Once again mechanical intrusions had to be made to view the leak which was caused by a badly fitted elbow joint installed when the house was first built in 2004.
It can be seen from the photograph that the locking ring has not been wound completely down onto the securing shoulder and as a result, over many years, the “O” ring has worked its way up and started leaking. The leaking was quite catastrophic as it is in these cases, where it just “goes”.
As this fitting was located below the floor a small access hatch had to be cut into the floor to allow Derek to get his 6 legs into fix it. You can see the small hole in the picture below and the new white push fit elbow fitted to replace the grey one taken off. Its good practice to remove the old fitting as this also you to get in there with some emery cloth and clean up both pipe ends to ensure maximum success in sealing the new fitting onto the old pipes.
The photo on the left shown the new push-fit elbow fitted to the old pipes. Its a shame that such sloppy workmanship existing but unfortunately it does. However, Derek and I are here to help so if you have a cascade of water coming down your living room wall please give us a ring, we don’t just fix boilers!
Derek and I have just fitted the most up to date and high tech boiler to a property in Gosforth. The Viessmann 200W came with weather compensation and connection to Viessmann’s own internet control app, ViCare.
Unlike Hive and Nest, the ViCare allows you to look at the boiler configuration as well as setting start and stop times and temperatures. It also allows you to see how the temperature has fluctuated throughout the day and week.
The boiler we took out was a solid Worcester 24 Cdi from around 1997 which had given good service but was leaking from the heat exchanger and could require money spent on it. The clients also wanted the boiler moved to the garage which was going to be converted into a utility room leaving space in the kitchen for units and worktops.
Fitting a new boiler in a new location allowed the new boiler to be fitted in parallel with the old boiler thereby not interrupting the heating system too much. The design of the installation included setting the new boiler pipework back from the normal vertical plane of the boiler to allow a washing machine to be fitted under the boiler and allow it to be pushed right to the back wall. In line with the current building regulations the walls in the garage had to be insulated to this done before hanging the boiler. Services were T’d off so that the systems could be extended in the future and the magnetic filter was placed in the under sink cabinet to allow easy access when servicing.
The pipes were then insulated and covered over with the plasterboard hatch to give a flat back to the space.
The flue was extended by almost 3m to take it to the front of the garage and through the brickwork above the garage door.
The final stage of the process was to disconnect and remove the old boiler making good the old connections and flue penetration. This was completed and the boiler handed over to the customer for them to get to terms with the extensive functions available on the 200W. The photos below show the process of making good the old flue penetrations:-
Viessmann boilers have won accolades from Which? testers for many years and now consider themselves as the most reliable boilers in the UK. When installed by an Approved Viessmann engineer (us) they carry a 10 year warranty*