Why Is My Central Heating Not Working? (Expert Guide)
If your central heating has stopped working, then you’re no doubt in a state of panic.
No heating, no hot water and a cold winter evening can lead to a rough night and an even rougher morning.
But before you panic, jump on the phone to a plumber and fork out hundreds of pounds on an emergency call out, there are lots of things you can do before calling for help.
So, if you want to:
- Find out the key reasons a central heating system stops working
- Figure out why your central heating is not working
- Find a simple fix for your central heating problems
Or, if you want to know if it is worth calling an emergency plumber, then you’ll love this guide.
Let’s get started.
If you’d like free advice, please call us on 0800 112 3134. We’re open Monday to Friday: 07:00-17:30 and Saturday: 08:30-12:30, and we’re happy to help find you the ideal solution for your needs.
My Central Heating is Not Working and I Can Smell Gas or Burning
First things first, if you can smell gas, you should call the gas emergency services on 0800 111 999.
If you can smell burning, or you see smoke, then you should call the emergency services on 999.
These are undebatable. Gas - call 0800 111 999. Smoke - call 999.
How Can I Get My Central Heating Working?
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Check the gas, electric and water supply
If you’ve recently had building work, then there’s a chance that your gas, electric or most likely your water supply has been switched off. Make sure each of these is turned on and, in the case of the water supply, is fully open.
Make sure to check all the switches on your fuse box. You will generally find the fuse box located under the stairs or in the garage.
The gas shut off valve will either be located outside in the garden or under the stairs.
In this case, make sure to perform a thorough inspection of the valve. Does it look broken or damaged? If so, leave it be and call a professional plumber.
If it’s switched off, and the valve looks in proper working order, then turn it back on.
If you’ve recently had building work conducted on your property, there is a chance that your water valves were not fully opened.
If the water valve is partially closed, then you may be restricting the amount of water entering your home. To fix this, simply ensure the valve is fully open.
If the valve appears fully open, but you are still encountering reduced water pressure, then the valve may be broken. If this is the case, do not under any circumstances try to fix it without proper training.
Often found under your kitchen sink, a water valve will usually look like a bright yellow handle.
Again, if you believe the water valve is broken, contact a plumber immediately.
Check the room thermostat
If you have one, then make sure the room thermostat is turned up and the clock timer is on. If this is turned off, it may be stopping your central heating from working correctly.
Most modern homes will have a thermostat located in either a downstairs hallway or in the living room. If you have an older home with an older central heating system, you may not have a room thermostat installed.
Check your boiler's pressure gauge
If you have a pressure gauge on your boiler, it should be set at around 1 bar. If it’s not set at 1 bar, then follow the boiler instructions to reset the pressure gauge. In this case, it’s worth having the central heating manual to hand as the steps to doing this will vary according to the specific system.
However, in general, you’ll be completing the following steps:
Step1: Turn off your boiler and wait for the system to cool.
Step 2: Use the filling link or loop. There are three types:
- External: Attach the filling loop to the corresponding valves and slowly move the lever. Keep doing so until the pressure needle moves into the green zone. Disconnect the external filling loop
- Keyed filling link: Insert the internal filling key into the loop and twist until it is closed. Turn the nearby knob so that water starts filling into the heating system. Do this until the pressure needle moves into the green zone. Turn the knob back to its original position and remove the key
- Keyless filling link: Simply move the filling lever until you hear water entering the heating system. Keep the lever lifted until the pressure needle moves into the green zone. Release the lever
Step 3: Turn on your boiler and check to see if the pressure holds.
For a specific guide, read this step by step process by Central Heating Quotes.
The boiler gauge is usually located on the front panel of the boiler.
Check the Pilot Light Hasn’t Gone Out
If your system has a permanent pilot light, check it hasn't gone out. The pilot light is a small flame in the central heating system that will alight the gas. The lit gas then heats the water. Occasionally, the pilot light will go out. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
If that’s the case, we recommend following this guide by SFGate.
Check the boiler’s timer is set to the right time
If you’ve recently had a power cut, then your boiler’s timer might have reset. To get it working again, simply reset the timer with your desired times. You may need to refer to the boiler’s manual for a reminder on how to do this. It might even worth doing the old “turn it off, turn it back on”.
Run the Heating on Full
A good trick that might just get your central heating working again is to try putting your heating on full for a while. This can occasionally work out a few kinks in the system and might trigger some heat. It’s far from guaranteed to work, but better than immediately spending hundreds on an emergency plumber for a minor issue.
Check Your Pipes Haven’t Frozen
If it's been very cold, the condensate pipe of your boiler can freeze. To unfreeze the pipes, start by:
Wrapping the pipes in hot towels
Heating up the pipes with a hairdryer
Heating the surrounding area with a space heater
Check the Radiators
If you wake up one morning to find that your central heating isn't working, the first thing you should do is inspect your radiators. If even one of the radiators is slightly warm, then there is nothing wrong with the boiler.
If this is the case, then it’s likely you need to bleed the radiators. This is a relatively simple process that only takes an hour or two to complete.
You can read our complete guide to fixing central heating radiator problems here..
When Do I Need a Plumber to Fix My Central Heating?
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Broken Diverter Valves
One of the most common central heating problems is a broken diverter valve. Unfortunately, these valves are quite technical as they switch heat between your water supply and your central heating. After prolonged use, a range of faults can develop in these valves. The faults then stop the valve from changing position and consequently prevent the system from heating the water.
As mentioned, these valves are quite technical and will require a trained plumber to fix.
Diverter Valve: £80-120
Labour to fix: £250
Broken Central Heating Pump
Another common problem is that the central heating pump breaks. These pumps are like the heart of your central heating system and are used to speed up the process of shifting water around your home. If they break, then warm water will never reach your radiators or shower.
There are a wide variety of reasons a central heating pump will break. You can read about central heating pump problems and the potential fixes here.
Central Heating Pump: £50 - £90
Labour to fix: £100 or DIY
Other Potential Central Heating Faults
If it's not the central heating pump or the diverter valve, it could be:
- A broken diaphragm
- Loose electrical wiring
- System programming error
- Broken internal thermostat
Each of these issues will need properly investigating by a plumber or central heating engineer. Costs and parts could range from new wiring, right through to purchasing a whole new system.
If you’re struggling for advice, ring our dedicated experts on 0800 112 3134 or 0333 577 3134. We’re open Monday to Friday 07:00 - 17:30 and Saturday 08:30 - 12:30.