If the thought of having no central heating on an ice-cold winter’s morning sends a chill down your spine, it’s time to check you have the right cover in place for your boiler.
This might seem like an unnecessary expense at a time when household budgets are stretched to their limits.
But with a boiler breakdown potentially costing hundreds of pounds or more, not having cover could prove a costly mistake.
Jon Ingram from Energychoices.co.uk said: “Boiler cover can offer homeowners the peace of mind that their central heating system will be repaid swiftly without having to fork out a huge amount.”
But there are several things to consider before parting with your cash.
Check if you are already covered
If your boiler is quite new it should be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty – so check the paperwork.
Also, check if your boiler is already covered by your home insurance policy, as some insurers include it as standard in their buildings cover.
If you don’t have any cover in place, it’s worth seeking insurance.
Look beyond your energy supplier
Don’t automatically opt for the cover offered by your energy supplier, without seeing what’s available elsewhere.
Compare prices and the level of cover available carefully; it can vary considerably. You may want to cover the boiler, or take out a policy that covers the central heating too.
Alternatively, you may want to purchase a broader ‘home emergency cover’ policy, which will also cover drainage problems, power supply failures and burst pipes.
How much will you pay for cover?
The AA, for example, offers Boiler Cover which includes the boiler and heating controls, an annual boiler service, up to four boiler breakdown claims a year and £250 towards a new boiler if yours can’t be repaired from £16.49 a month.
The AA also offers a more comprehensive Central Heating Cover which includes the boiler, central heating and radiators, an annual boiler service, unlimited heating breakdown claims, and money towards a new boiler if yours is less than seven years old and can’t be repaired; this costs from £19.49 a month.
HomeServe offer gas boiler breakdown cover from £7.43 a month, or comprehensive cover against boiler and central heating breakdowns, plus a range of common home emergencies from £19.68 per month.
Other providers include British Gas, Npower, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy and EON.
Beware of exclusions
Some types of boiler cannot be covered, so check this before handing over any money.
And many plans exclude those over 15 years old, while others will insist on a boiler inspection before offering cover.
Tempting as it may be to buy the cheapest policy you can find, don’t buy on price alone without checking the level of covered offered.
Some policies will only provide cover in emergencies, so you will have to pay out for routine checks and repairs.
Others only cover the cost of the boiler and controls, and not the radiators, pipes and rest of the system.
Keep an eye out for a no-claims period, as this can be up to 30 days with some companies.
Also check if there is an excess level to pay on claims, or a limit on the number of claims per year.
Prevention is better than cure
It's worth getting your boiler serviced at least once a year to keep it in top condition and improve energy efficiency; to find an authorised contractor go to Gassaferegister.co.uk.
There are also some simple steps you can take yourself to avoid boiler breakdowns.
“It’s not uncommon for boilers to experience problems when the heating is first switched back on,” says Npower engineer Charlie Brenland.
“However, engineers often get called to ‘boiler breakdowns’ where the boiler has simply been switched off, or the gas and electricity supply to the home has stopped working, so check your supply is still up and running. If your pilot light has gone out, relight or reset the boiler manually.”
Read through the user guide to familiarise yourself with how your boiler and central heating system works, check the temperature on your thermostat has not been turned down too low, and bleed radiators.
“To prevent a condensing boiler from freezing, try to insulate the pipe with lagging which you can buy from a DIY or home improvement store,” says Brenland.
“Combination boilers can sometimes stop working because of a drop in pressure, but you should be able to increase the pressure in your system manually.”
Replace your boiler
Finally, if your boiler is old, it’s worth investing in a high efficiency A-rated condensing boiler as this could save you money on your annual energy bill.