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The boiler is an essential part of every household, and as such, it should be serviced and maintained properly. Boiler repair shouldn’t be taken lightly – a faulty boiler, be it electric or gas-fuelled, can result in the water being too hot or too cold, low water pressure or even have a foul odour.

With this article, we want to help you detect the issue and even if you can’t fix it, you could assess the situation before seeking a specialist to do it for you. Keep reading to find out how to fix common boiler problems the easy way.

Table of contents:

Common types of boilers in Australia

The two common boiler types used in Australian households are electric and gas-fuelled. Based on which type you have, a boiler can heat water using different methods. 

Electric water heaters

Electric boilers come with various ways to heat water – solar energy, common electric heating elements, or heat pumps. They make up for roughly 52% of all the boilers in Australia and 77% of the boilers in New Zealand.

Electric water heaters use a heating element inside their tank to warm the water. Some of them don’t even have tanks, as they are made of just a heating element installed along with your plumbing only to produce warm water when you need them to.

Gas-fuelled boilers

Gas-fuelled water heaters can work with either reticulated natural gas or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas). They make up for about 48% of all the boilers in Australia and use a gas burner to heat the bottom of their water tanks.

Frequent boiler problems and repairs

Whether it’s a boiler issue you can repair yourself, or a more complex problem that could require the help of a certified electrician, here are some of the most common boiler problems and what to do if you encounter them.

warning

Boiler problems involve both water and electricity – calling an expert to fix it for you is always the safest choice, especially if you aren’t familiar with repairing electric appliances on your own.

Leaking boiler

There are a lot of reasons why you might encounter water leakage around your boiler. While some problems can be diagnosed and fixed by a non-pro in a matter of minutes, others might require a professional touch. The most common causes for boiler leakage are:

  • Pressure issues
  • Loose joints underneath the tank
  • Damaged rubber seals or gaskets

Both electric and gas boilers suffer from insufficient pipeage insulation after a while. Due to the constant warming and cooling, boilers and their tubes repeatedly expand and contract, shortening rubber seals’ lives. If your boiler is leaking, the joints and seals could be causing the problem. Here’s what to do:

  • Check all the points where water enters or exits your boiler.
  • Use a dry cloth to dry them and observe to determine where the leak is coming from.
  • If you notice one of the pipes is leaking, use a wrench to tighten it a little, but no more than a quarter turn.

If your boiler is still leaking water, then the problem might be a bit more serious. Whether it’s just an old rubber seal that needs to be replaced or a more significant plumbing problem, you should probably have somebody more experienced take a look at it.

Boiler water is too hot

It’s frustrating to turn your shower on and find out your water is boiling hot. If your boiler is gas-fuelled, all you need to do is reduce the heating flame. But with electric boilers, things are slightly different. Some electric boilers are designed to turn on and start heating water up as soon as you consume hot water.

In that case, the most efficient way to manage your hot water temperature is to turn your boiler on when you go to bed and turn it off when you wake up in the morning.

By doing that, you have your boiler turned off during the day, so it doesn’t overwork, but you also save money on your electricity bill due to using your boiler in off-peak hours. Kewl, right?

The other type of electric boiler is the one with thermostats, which regulate the temperature inside the water tank and only turn the heating on when the water temperature drops below a specified level. If that’s your boiler, then you should check the thermostat settings and adjust accordingly. Grab a non-contact voltage and a flat-head screwdriver and: 

How to do a thermostat check
1

Turn off the boiler’s power from your service panel and let it cool down.

2

Most boilers have one or two thermostats, so locate and remove the cover panels and insulation.

3

Use the non-contact voltage tester to make sure there is no electrical current.

4

Check the heat settings on the thermostat. Notice that there might be more than one thermostat.

5

If your particular water heating system has two thermostats, they should have the same temperature setting – 650C.

6

Adjust the temperature with the screwdriver and put the insulation and cover panels back on.

7

Turn the power back on and wait for the water to heat up. You can use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water coming out of your shower or faucets.

Check this out!: Why is Your Fridge Not Cooling and How to Repair It

Boiler water isn’t hot enough

On the other hand, a cold shower can also be a pretty unpleasant surprise if you didn’t plan to have one. But when it comes to that problem, the issue might be lying somewhere else – if you don’t use hot water efficiently, no matter how much work the boiler does, it won’t be enough. Not to mention the electricity and power bills at the end of the month.

The general rule of thumb is that one person’s daily needs include about 30 litres of hot water. So, if your family consists of three people and you have a 100-litre boiler tank but still don’t get enough hot water, then your household can use some water efficiency changes! Here are three easy ways to increase your hot water use efficiency:

  • Invest in a low-flow showerhead
  • Use your laundry machine’s ECO program
  • Fix leaky faucets
Check this out!: Common Refrigerator Problems and Their Solutions

Noisy boiler tank

Coming home after a long day of work to find your boiler tank making noises can be annoying. Usually, the noise comes from water on the inside boiling. Contrary to what the name suggests, a boiler is not supposed to boil water – it is only supposed to warm it up.

But over time, sediment can build inside the boiler, due to the calcium and magnesium deposits, which are naturally present in tap water.

The sediment usually builds up on the bottom of your boiler, making it work harder to heat water. This, in turn, can lead to water boiling and pressure problems.

Apart from replacing your entire hot water unit, you can try flushing the sediment out. Here’s how to perform this boiler repair method with just a garden hose and a screwdriver:

How to remove sediment from your boiler
1

Turn the hot water unit off and let it cool down.

2

Locate the cold water valve and turn it off.

3

Take your garden hose, attach one of its ends to the tank drain valve, and put the other in some container. (like a bucket)

4

Turn on your hot water faucets to help with draining your boiler.

5

Use the screwdriver to release the tank drain valve slowly and wait for the water inside (and the sediment) to get out.

6

Once the process is finished and your hot water unit is empty, switch the tank drain valve back off.

7

Turn off the hot water faucets you turned on earlier and switch the cold water valve on, so your boiler can refill with fresh water.

8

You can now turn your boiler back on and check if the noises are gone.

Related article: Essential Guide to Air Conditioner Maintenance

Rusty or smelly water

Water can tell you a lot about your boiler’s condition and whether you need any boiler repairs. If your water is coming out with a colour – brown, yellow, green, red, and so on – that means that rust and dirt build up inside your water heating unit or your home’s plumbing system. In case the boiler tank is the source, flushing it could fix the corrosion issues.

On the other hand, if the water is clear in colour, but gives off a foul smell of rotten eggs, or sulphur, then the cause is simple: you have a high level of hydrogen sulphide along your pipework. That is usually the result of bacterial growth somewhere inside your pipes or your boiler. 

However, these problems require a more sophisticated approach and are beyond the DIY skills of regular homeowners. In this case, your best bet is a professional plumber, but before you decide on hiring help, here’s how to find what is causing the smelly water:

  • Take two glasses and fill one with cold water and the other with warm water.
  • If the glass with warm water is the one giving off a bad smell, then your problem lies within your hot water unit, and you should have an electrician take a look at it.
  • If the glass with cold water gives off a bad smell, the odour is caused by your water supply line, which means you need a plumber to help solve the problem.

How to avoid boiler problems?

The best way to avoid boiler problems is by servicing and maintaining your water heating unit properly. There are several things to look out for to extend the life of your boiler. Here are a few tips for practical boiler maintenance:

  • Internal hygiene – Make sure to drain and clean the inside of the water tank every 10-12 months.
  • Look for leakages – Check pipes and tubes monthly for possible leaks, and do not hesitate to seek professional help.
  • Observe the warm water’s quality – Nothing, but clear and odourless hot water should be coming out of your water heating unit.
  • Get annual service – There are 8760 hours in a year and it takes only two to have your boiler serviced. Why risk problems?

Takeaways

  • Don’t attempt to repair your boiler yourself if you don’t feel up to the task.
  • Safety first – always turn off the electricity before trying to fix your water heating unit on your own!
  • Be mindful of your water’s condition.
  • Boiler maintenance can save you a lot of money in the long run.
  • Never hesitate to hire a professional.

Boiler repair is too complicated and time-consuming? Get in touch with a local plumber to take a look!

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  • Last update: September 16, 2021

Posted in All Articles, Home Improvement