Whether it’s the coldest day of winter or just as the family is queuing up for showers on a Monday morning, central heating boilers seem to have an uncanny knack of knowing the most inconvenient times to break down.

To get you even hotter under the collar, a simple repair to your heating system could come with a hefty bill if you don’t have insurance; and a full boiler replacement will run into thousands of pounds if that’s what’s required to get your heating and hot water working again. Plus, you may want to swap those tired old radiators for something a little more 21st century, or upgrade to smart heating that you control from anywhere in the world via your phone.

Whichever of the above reasons causes you to seek the services of a local central heating or boiler engineer, there are a few steps you should take to avoid ending up in hot water.

What they do

A heating or boiler engineer keeps the heart of your home (the central heating system) working perfectly so that you can summon heat and hot water at the push of a button. They also ensure these two modern essentials reach the extremities of your home so everyone can enjoy them. Their tasks include:

  • Installing boilers and appliances
  • Combination boiler installation
  • Back boiler replacement
  • Testing controls and safety devices
  • Finding and repairing gas leaks
  • Replacing or repairing faulty or old parts
  • Giving customers advice about gas safety and energy efficiency
  • Fitting central heating systems in homes
  • Carrying out regular maintenance and repairs

What they charge

If it’s an emergency, most plumbers generally charge a call out fee which can vary from around £40 to £100 depending on where you are in the UK.

Heating engineers then charge between £30 to £100 per hour to carry out any necessary work to your heating system or boiler. Hired by the day, they will charge between £150 and £500.

You will find that in emergencies, prices tend to creep up. But if you have pre-booked the heating engineer in advance to carry out repair, installation, or maintenance, the prices can be a lot easier to deal with and won’t spiral out of control.

What to ask

  • Are you Gas Safe registered?
  • Are you insured?
  • Can you produce an itemised breakdown of the work?
  • Are there any building works involved that will need to made good?
  • Are the parts and work guaranteed?

The first question is crucial here. Always ask for the heating engineer for their Gas Safe Register ID card. If in doubt, check www.gassaferegister.co.uk or call their free helpline 0800 408 5500 to make sure they are registered. This is the only way you can guarantee that your engineer is legally allowed to work on your gas boiler, gas fire and gas cooker. The back of the engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID will tell you what type of work they are qualified and registered to carry out.

Trades to trust

OFTEC is licensed by the UK government to provide a ‘competent persons scheme’ for heating technicians. Becoming registered with OFTEC allows them to self-certify their installation work, without the need to have it checked by local authority building control.

The law

By law, a new boiler and central heating must be installed by a qualified and registered engineer who must be Gas Safe registered.

Work to install a new boiler (or a cooker that also supplies central heating – Aga, Raeburn etc) needs building regulations approval because of the safety issues and the need for energy efficiency. This is generally achieved by employing an installer who is registered under an approved scheme.

  • Gas Boiler – An installer should be Gas Safe registered
  • Oil fired Boiler – An installer should be registered with OFTEC
  • Solid fuel fired boiler – An installer should be registered with OFTEC

Once complete, a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate should arrive via post within 10-15 working days. Keep it in a safe place as it’ll be useful should you decide to sell your home or re-mortgage. Similar requirements to the above exist in Isle of Man and Guernsey, but not in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Installers must follow the guidelines set out in the building regulations Approved Document J, which shows what is necessary for air supplies, hearths, flue linings and chimney labelling where the flue outlet can be positioned.

Ready to hire?

3 is the magic number

As always, try and get three quotes from three different heating and boiler engineers to ensure you pay a fair price for the job.

Certification and references

Don’t be shy about asking for any relevant certification, proof of public liability insurance and references or photos from previous jobs. If the heating and boiler engineer is trustworthy and competent, they’ll be pleased (and proud) to show you both.