You may not be a whiz with plumbing – and indeed most of us should leave the serious installation work to the professionals. However a little acquaintance with the essentials of maintenance of your central heating and hot water systems will go a long way to keeping them more economical, quieter and giving them a longer life.
One of the easiest areas for you to get involved in is the dosing of your central heating system with various fluids and gels. These can have a dramatic positive effect, so long as you use premium brands that really work.
One of the best known in the trade is Fernox: other reliable brands include Sentinel and Rapid-Dose.
Taking the extensive Fernox range as an example, here are some of the products that you should consider using to maximize your system’s efficiency and life.
Leak Sealer can plug the minor leaks that can cause havoc underfloor or in wall cavities, without caking up your valves. It works on metal or plastic pipework.
Limescale Remover dissolves up to 50% of its own weight in scale and restores clogged-up systems in hard water areas.
Super Concentrate Cleaner cleans out flux, scale and sludge from both newly-installed circuits and old ones that are losing efficiency.
Protector fights the dreaded ‘kettling’ noise or knocking that when you hear them in your boiler, spell trouble. They are caused by scale or baked-on sludge on the boiler walls. The Protector helps remove the need for continually venting radiators, and reduces fuel bills by making the system deliver its maximum heat potential. Another version combines protection with an anti-freeze which is an added safeguard, particularly for pipe runs in cold attics or bathrooms.
Some form of anti-corrosive inhibitor is essential within your closed central heating system. This however by itself will not banish thick iron oxide sludge or shards of metal that can do a lot of damage to a system over time. One amazing device that you should consider installing in the system is a Magnaclean. Designed for 22mm pipework, its magnetic filter removes the offending items within minutes. The pack comes with an air vent that you can use to inject corrosion inhibiter without the need for isolating part of the system.
Even if you do not do this, Rapid-Dose has a vent pin adapter that you can install on a radiator to give you an access point to the system for dosing any of the above chemical aids.
As for the regular valves on your radiator, if you have an older system you may never have bothered to upgrade to thermostatic valves. These come in different sizes and orientations to fit most installations and are therefore a straight swap fitting: the benefit is simply that your main house thermostat can only measure the air temperature in one room location. The chances are that it will be snug while your bathroom freezes. Conversely it may be calling for heat when other rooms are already roasting. Thermostatic control in each room saves energy and keeps the whole household content.
Other fitments that are probably the province of your plumber but are worth asking him about include automatic air vents (at high points in the circuit) to allow unwanted air to escape from the system, thus reducing the need for radiator bleeding: a pressure relief valve on your incoming water supply to prevent excess pressure: and for your electrically-heated boiler, a spare immersion heater because the existing one is bound to burn out at the most inconvenient time.