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What central heating checks can I make when buying a home?

Cold baths may be great for the immune system, but if you can't face one first thing, it's worth getting the boiler checked out in your potential new pad.

Guest Author
Words by: Nicky Burridge

Contributing Editor

Wearing thermals and a coat is wonderful in the great outdoors. Less so while watching Netflix in your lounge.

Here's how to make sure the boiler in your new place is firing on all cylinders before buying your new home.

A few simple checks, including a boiler check, could save you several thousand pounds, not to mention a small fortune on blankets.

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Does a Homebuyer's survey check the condition of the boiler?

No. Surveyors look into the structural aspects of a house, rather than the appliances and heating systems.

Check the Seller’s Property Information Form central heating issues

The Seller's Property Information Form, otherwise known as a TA6, should state if there are problems with the central heating.

The form is a legally binding document and covers most of the issues that could be a cause for concern when buying a home.

Check that the seller has documentation for the boiler, including a gas safety certificate from the past 12 months. And ask them to run the central heating system while you're there, so you can see that it's working.

Find out more about what's in a Seller's Property Information Form

Should I get the boiler checked before buying a house?

If you're in any doubt about the condition of the boiler, then yes.

Should I request a professional boiler service?

Yes. The best person to check the boiler and central heating system is a qualified gas engineer or plumber.

Find a Gas Safe registered engineer at GasSafeRegister

If the seller can't provide a gas safety certificate from the past 12 months or boiler maintenance records, it's definitely worth doing.

Boilers are expensive. You'll need to know if you're going to have to shell out for a new one up front.

Check the boiler

1. When was it last serviced?

This is an important question for the seller. Ask them when the boiler was last serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer. They should be able to show you a Gas Certificate with details of the inspection history. 

If they can't, have it inspected as soon as possible to ensure it's not a safety risk.

A boiler service is likely to cost you between £80 and £120.

It may sound like a lot but a well-maintained boiler costs less to run. So, you'll recoup at least some of the servicing costs through lower energy bills. Any problems are also likely to be cheaper to fix if you spot them early on.

2. What if the boiler hasn't been serviced?

Warning signs to look out for when looking at a boiler include:

  1. rust

  2. damp patches around it

  3. signs of previous leaks

  4. the boiler is very old

Any of these signs are red flags that the boiler may not have been well maintained.

A very old boiler should set the alarm bells ringing. It's likely to be inefficient and could even pose a risk if it's giving off carbon monoxide fumes.

If the boiler is old, it's likely to need replacing in the near future. A new mid-range boiler can cost £1,250, while a high-end one is nearly £3,000.

You'll also have to pay installation on top of this, so it could make a major dent in your finances.

Once you’re in your new home, be sure to get carbon monoxide alarms fitted if you have a gas boiler.

Ask the seller what make and model the boiler is. You may be able to see this information written on it. 

Knowing this will help you if you need to get it repaired or want to buy boiler insurance.

Find boiler insurance at USwitch

3. Check the radiators

  • Are they warming up quickly when the heating's turned on?

  • Are there any cold spots, which could indicate a blockage?

  • Is there any corrosion?

  • Are there any leaks?

  • Are they fitted with energy-saving radiator thermostats?

4. How energy-efficient is the boiler and central heating system?

This is important as an inefficient boiler is expensive to run.

All modern boilers will be rated for efficiency under the new European label introduced in 2015. Nearly all modern gas condensing boilers in the UK get an A-rating on this label.

If the boiler in your new home isn't energy-efficient, think about investing in a new A-rated model. While it might be a hefty initial outlay, you'll recoup the money in lower energy bills over time.

5. Is the boiler covered by a warranty?

Find out if the boiler is covered by any type of guarantee or warranty. These typically last for between two and five years but they can last as long as 10 years.

If it is, make sure you get the details from the seller. You don’t want to have to pay for repairs if the cost is already covered.

If it’s not, you may want to get your own boiler insurance. This helps to cover the cost of calling out an engineer, labour costs and parts. You can opt to have just your boiler covered, or your central heating covered as well.

Varying levels of cover are available and the newer the boiler, the cheaper the premium tends to be. Some insurers also include a free annual service. You can buy boiler insurance from energy companies and home emergency providers.

It’s worth checking your home insurance too. Your policy may include some form of home emergency cover as standard.

One further option is to ‘self-insure’, where you simply put aside some cash each month to cover the cost of a breakdown.

6. What type of boiler is it?

There are three main types of boiler and you'll need to know which one you're inheriting:

1. Combi boilers provide both heating and hot water from a single unit which is typically hung on a wall. They are the most common type found in UK homes. They are also the most efficient. 

2. Heat only boilers have three separate parts: the boiler itself, a hot water storage cylinder and a cold water storage tank.

They provide hot water for use in bathrooms and kitchens, and that hot water also heats the radiators throughout your home to keep it warm.

3. System boilers are similar to heat only boilers. They provide hot water for use in the home and for radiators. But they have two parts: the boiler itself and a separate hot water tank.

These days, the majority of boilers in UK homes are powered by gas. But be sure to check what fuel your future boiler uses.

7. Where are the water tank and stop cock?

In the event of an emergency, you'll need to turn off the water supply to your boiler pronto.

And the last thing you'll want to be doing is rooting around in cupboards to find the stop cock if that happens.

Are gas boilers being banned?

No, not exactly. Gas boilers will be allowed in new-build properties until 2025.

For existing homes, the government wants people to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives. But it has stopped short of setting a date by which gas boilers will be banned.

Instead, it's aiming for all new heating systems to be low-carbon by 2035.

To encourage this, it's introducing a grant system under which households in England and Wales can get £5,000 towards the cost of installing a low-carbon heat pump.

The grant means the cost of installing a heat pump should be similar to that of installing a new gas boiler.

The move is part of the government’s strategy for the UK to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Check if you're eligible for the heat pump grant

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.