We may have enjoyed an unseasonably mild autumn, but the wind has now changed and the cold weather is about to set in.
The Met Office says households should be prepared for a spell of heavy rain and strong winds, with gales or severe gales expected in some areas. Even without this bad weather, it's around this time of year that most of us turn the heating back on to keep us warm throughout the cold months ahead.
But while many of us take our boilers for granted, they aren’t as reliable as we think, with around one in three breaking down within their first six years of use, according to Which?.
So what can you do to prevent this from happening?
1. Get the experts in
Firstly, you can make sure your boiler is ready to face another winter by having it serviced by a plumber. That way, any niggly problems can be fixed before they get bigger. Before using a plumber, ask around for recommendations and check they are registered with Gas Safe Register, the UK watchdog for gas safety.
Qualified tradesmen previously had to be Corgi-registered. This was replaced by a new scheme called Gas Safe Register at the end of March 2009. All qualified tradesmen have been vetted to make sure they are competent and qualified to work safely and legally with gas.
2. Are you already covered?
Having your boiler serviced doesn’t mean you’ve fool-proofed it against a breakdown. Your boiler breaking down during the winter months is not only extremely inconvenient, as you’ll be stuck with no hot water or heating, it can also be notoriously expensive to fix.
First of all, check whether your boiler is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. This often lasts for between one and three years, and should cover the cost of call-out and any breaks.
If your boiler is no longer under warranty, then it may well be covered under your home contents insurance.
3. Standalone cover
If basic cover for boiler breakdowns isn’t included in your home insurance policy, your could add it on. Alternatively, you could take out standalone boiler insurance.
Depending on what you’re after, you can either select a policy that only covers your boiler or you could opt for a plan that protects your full heating system, including radiators, pipes and water tank.
Some policies also include a 24-hour breakdown hotline – but the more ‘extras’ you have, the more expensive it will get. Costs range between £7 and £30 a month.
Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you’ll have enough cover. Some policies only cover costs up to a certain level, typically between £1,000 and £1,500. Others will limit the number of call-outs, include a 30-day no-claims period, or include specific definitions of what warrants an emergency call-out.
Check if there are any exclusions, and make sure you shop around before you buy – uSwitch.com and energyhelpline.com are two useful websites.
If your boiler is more than 15 years old, you may struggle to find an insurer that will offer you cover.