The boiler is at the heart of home heating, helping to keep houses warm and water hot.
It's often taken for granted, but when a boiler stops working and breaks down, you'll no doubt notice the loss.
By being prepared, an unexpected boiler breakdown won't throw you into a state of panic and you'll know how best to handle it.
What to do when a boiler breaks down
If your boiler suddenly stops working and you're left without heating or hot water, it's first worth checking to make sure there's not a simple solution.
For example, has the power supply or thermostat accidentally been turned off?
Try turning the boiler on and off again to see if it starts.
If it doesn't, and you can't see an obvious solution, it's time to call in an expert, in the form of a Gas Safe registered engineer.
While you're waiting for an engineer to visit, and especially if you have young children or elderly people in the house and it's cold, keep warm with extra layers of clothing and keep internal doors closed to retain heat in rooms.
Is your boiler covered by your home insurance policy?
Sometimes boiler repairs are included in your home or buildings insurance policy.
This is one reason why it's useful to keep your policy documents in an easy to access place, so you can check your documents in the event of an unexpected boiler breakdown.
If you are covered, call your insurance provider and see if they'll arrange for an engineer to come and look at your boiler.
Warning signs that a boiler might break down
On average, modern boilers tend to last for 10 to 15 years.
As wear and tear occurs with use, there are some signs you can look and listen out for that might indicate that a potential issue is brewing.
A boiler suddenly getting noisy or making unusual noises
Not getting hot water as reliably as usual
A boiler not turning on when it should
A boiler suddenly going on and off of its own accord
Not getting the usual level of heat from your boiler
Although it's fine to look out for potential warning signs, don't ever try and fix your boiler yourself.
It can be dangerous if you're not a trained Gas Safe engineer, plus it will result in invalidating any insurance policy you have.
If you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home - and it's highly recommended that every household does – and it starts going off, act immediately and get your boiler looked at.
Carbon monoxide leaks are extremely dangerous and potentially life threatening.
If you've not had your boiler that long, it may still be covered by its original warranty.
The length of a warranty can vary depending on the manufacturer and product concerned, as well as if you took out an extended warranty.
The standard warranty is one or two years, but extended warranties can last for five to 10 years.
If you think you could still be covered by your warranty, get in touch with the manufacturer to see if they can help with any boiler issues you encounter.
What's important to note with warranties is that they're governed by strict terms and conditions and, if these aren't met, your warranty may be invalid.
Most importantly, after the boiler is first installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer, you need to ensure that either your installer or you register it with the manufacturer within 30 days of installation.
It's also important that the installer fully completes the Benchmark checklist documentation when installing or servicing a boiler.
This helps guarantee that the boiler has been fitted and serviced to the manufacturer's instructions and helps maintain your warranty.
Finally, an annual service needs to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
If you're unsure what the terms and conditions of your warranty entail, get in touch with the manufacturer of your boiler.
How often should I have my boiler serviced?
Boiler repairs can be expensive, especially if you need new parts or an entire new boiler.
In order to keep your boiler in good condition and reduce the risk of it breaking down, it's recommended that you have your boiler serviced annually.
As well as ensuring it's working properly, regular boiler services can help maximise the efficiency of the boiler and might even save you money in the long run.
Whenever you have your boiler serviced, it's recommended that you use the services of a Gas Safe registered engineer.
How is boilercare different from a home emergency insurance policy?
Although boiler breakdowns are often covered in home emergency insurance policies, another option is to have a specific boilercare policy.
The idea is that you pay a monthly fee that will help cover you in case your boiler breaks down.
Policies differ in terms of the amount covered and you'll need to check that your boiler make is accepted.
It's a useful extra to have, especially for boilers not covered by warranties, and could help save you considerable costs.
Plus, you've got the peace of mind knowing that, if a problem does occur, an engineer should come out to you quickly.