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Coping with a heating emergency

A woman indoors near a thermostat. She is wearing a parka with a fur-lined hood and blows on her hands to warm them.
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Operations - Store and Insure

Survive a boiler crisis without melting down

You wake up and the house is oddly cold. Temperature must have really dropped over night. You sleepily make your way to the bathroom and turn on the shower and wait for it to warm up. And wait. And wait. Something’s not right… You check the boiler. It’s dead. You try re-pressurising it, resetting it, turning it off and then on again, but there’s nothing you can do to wake it up.

A boiler breakdown is the stuff of nightmares. It can be hugely expensive to fix and at the wrong time of year there may be a long wait for an engineer. And it is very inconvenient to live without heating and hot water. It can even be dangerous to your health, depending on the weather and your circumstances.

But there are a few things you can do to reduce the impact of this domestic crisis.

Safety first

The first thing you should do when your boiler is not working is to check that everything is safe. Two possible indicators that something is badly wrong are:

  • the smell of gas
  • carbon monoxide detector going off.
Can you smell gas?

If you can smell gas, turn off the supply if it is safe to do so. Do not turn on any electrical appliances as this could cause a spark that could ignite the escaping gas. Extinguish all flames, too. Open doors and windows to ventilate your home and leave the property. Then call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

Is your carbon monoxide detector going off?

When you suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, turn off the boiler and ventilate the area. You should then leave the property.

If you feel unwell, seek medical advice and say that you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide. Then call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

Who to call when your boiler breaks down

If you rent, put in a call to your landlord or property manager first. If you’re a homeowner, then call your insurance company. Check whether the boiler is included in your policy. Both landlords and insurance companies will have preferred engineers and, if you are lucky, they will do the calling around for you.

If it’s down to you to find an engineer, look for a Gas Safe registered engineer for a gas boiler.

Some people will find that their health suffers in a cold house: for example, it might make a respiratory condition worse. Let your engineer know if this is the case and they will do their best to help you quickly.

Staying warm without central heating

You might have to wait a few days for the engineer to order in parts and to find a slot in their schedule. Put on extra layers to keep your body heat in. Close curtains and doors to beat drafts. Eating hot food will help you to stay warm, too. And if you have an electric hob and oven the heat from your cooking will help warm the kitchen. But do not attempt to warm your home by leaving the oven door open.

Use electric heaters – they are expensive to run, but a quick blast of heat is very comforting.

Hot water

You can use your kettle to boil a little water for washing – but you’ll be surprised how many kettlefuls it takes to get even enough for a wash in the basin. Remember that boiling water is a lot hotter than water from the tap.

Get out of the house to stay warm

You might want to adjust your schedule, so you spend as little time as possible in your cold home until the boiler is fixed. Perhaps stay later at work or go to the gym. You can get a hot shower at the gym, too. Or visit friends or go to the cinema or theatre in the evening. If it really does all get too much, treat yourself to a hotel room for the night.

Ready for the repair?

A new boiler installation can be very disruptive. New style boilers have different ventilation and drainage requirements, so the work can be extensive. The engineer will need to access the space and carry bulky equipment and parts in and waste out. You can make space for the work by putting some of your possessions into a storage unit for a few days. And if you were wondering, you can insure your storage unit for just a few days. At Store and Insure we charge a daily rate, so you only pay for the actual period your goods are in store. Get a fixed term quote today from Store and Insure.