Help Me, I'm Buying a House!

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Rory Dale | Part 1: What to check around the Central Heating System

In this article we hear from Rory Dale what to think about when looking at a prospective house's heating system. Rory is an independent heating engineer based in South Birmingham. He has many decades' worth of experience in installing and repairing central heating systems, plumbing and servicing of gas appliances.

Why think about the Heating System?

A practical perspective

As a Heating Engineer I am asked frequently to “do a boiler check” by new Homeowners. Invariably this is after the House has been bought. Rarely have I had to access a property with the Vendor’s Family sat there.

That seems to me to be a problem. The biggest outlay of your life to date? I think one may want to “examine the goods” more closely! There is nothing wrong with having your engineer check things out as part of the surveying process and to act on your behalf. I point that out below.

So here are a few considerations for you, the prospective buyer.

Things to look out for when buying a House

Boiler

How old is the boiler? If the boiler is 10 years or more it is due to be replaced within a couple of years. Combi Boilers are generally given a lifespan of 10 years and the more conventional Systems are given a maximum of 15 years. However, bear in mind these figures are produced by the Industry themselves and can be called into question. That said, Manufacturers are always improving warranties and deals. It may be a useful “bargaining tool”? A new boiler might set you back by around £1,500-3,000.

Radiators

You may want to ask the vendor to turn on the radiators just to check whether they are working. They should be warm at top and bottom – if they are only warm at the bottom, there is air in the system which might just need topping up but could also indicate a leak. Also check whether there is evidence of leaks at the radiator connectors. Technology has moved on in recent years and Radiators are much more efficient these days in an extremely competitive market. The old ‘flat panelled’ radiators are well past their lifespan. These days efficiency is the order of the day. In other words money saving!!

Controls

Check whether the heating system is controlled through a thermostat, whether it just has a timer or in the worst case just an on/off switch. Again technology has improved and Engineers with understanding of Systems are competent to configure the system to respond to money saving and indeed energy saving set ups. Note that the older boilers may not be able to be coupled to modern efficient controls.

Gas Fires

Most Fires expel most of the Energy produced up the Chimney. It may be advisable to upgrade your Heating System and decommission the Fire. Any gas fire should definitely be checked for its safety. This is not a ‘cover all’ piece of advice. Each House would have to be assessed on it’s own merits.

Insulation

This is probably the most overlooked aspect of home energy saving. One can never have enough insulation. You can find surprising information HERE.

Underfloor Heating

As ever the UK is lagging behind Europe and particularly the trend setters Germany when it comes to Home efficiency. Underfloor Heating (UFH) is no exception. However, that is improving as many of us are seeing more requests for UFH as the benefits become known. There is a lower temperature flow covering the WHOLE of a Room and the heat is evenly distributed. Running costs are low for ‘Wet’ Systems as opposed to ‘Dry’ (Electric) Systems. Installed correctly it is the answer to Flow and temperature. Homeowners can dispense with radiators opening options for Room design. More prospective Homebuyers are applying for quotes to convert to UFH before they move in. Always worth consideration to avoid disruption.

Gas Check

Before you make any decisions, you should commission a Gas Engineer to act on YOUR behalf to conduct Gas Checks, obviously with the vendors’ permission. Not all reports can be considered accurate when the vendors’ Engineer makes a report. I have seen this time and again. You want to see a service History, check the paperwork, and ensure they were not all written on the same day. I have been asked to do just that, clearly declining.

Summary

These few pointers will give you peace of mind and on occasion they may give you an advantage on negotiating price. All of these factors should be covered by the Home Owner/ Buyers Gas Check* which costs around £100. Any shortfalls can be priced and offset against the asking price.

Rory Dale is an Independent Heating engineer based in South Birmingham.

*In depth check of heating system & Gas supply conducted by Rodal Heating – www.rodalheating.co.uk

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