Factors involved in the call out costs

Call out charges are calculated and expressed in different ways which can be confusing. Some engineers will state a call out charge followed by their hourly rate. Others will have a call out charge which is double the hourly rate but will do the first hours’ work for free. Even if they are only at your property for five minutes either because they can’t repair the fault on the day and need to return or because they were able to resolve it quickly, the call out charge will still apply. Under the terms of UK consumer protection law, the engineer must state his call out charge clearly to you otherwise you may not be obliged to pay it when he arrives.

The hourly rate for a gas engineer ranges from £30 to £100 and will depend upon a number of factors:

  • The size of the company the engineer works for, small companies and sole traders tend to be cheaper than larger organisations
  • Whereabouts you are living in the UK – prices in London and the South East are invariably more expensive
  • The time of the call out – evenings and weekends will usually incur a surcharge

The hourly rate will apply to any work they have to do when they are on site plus any charges for replacement parts.

Is it better to opt for a fixed price quote?

You can sometimes get a fixed price quote if you know what is wrong with the boiler; this is when electronic error codes can be useful. More commonly, however, the gas engineer will need to see the boiler first before being certain of the problem although he could hazard a guess and suggest a price or rough estimate if the error code is accurate.

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Common checks any householder can make on a boiler breakdown

If you realise your boiler has stopped working then check for an error code on the digital display; most modern boilers have this feature. Make a note of the error code before switching the boiler off and calling for an engineer. There are a few simple checks you can make yourself which can narrow the problem down and these include:-

  • Check the electricity supply – if you have recently had a power cut then the fuse box may have tripped out and this can cause the timer on the boiler to re-set. Check the time on the boiler clock with the current time to see if they match. There can also sometimes be problems with the ignition lead. If you hear a clicking noise then a faulty ignition lead or electrode may be to blame. The boiler may even ignite and then go off again, this type of fault will usually generate a code on a newer boiler
  •  Check the gas supply – an interruption to the gas supply due to a blockage or damage is a very common fault. Pressure problems – too much or too little – will also raise a fault code. If you can smell gas then this is an emergency
  •  Check the water supply – check to see if the hot water supply is still turned on and that there are no problems with the mains water feed which could be external to the property
  • Check the boiler pressure – if the water pressure is too low then the boiler will struggle to ignite. There should be a pressure gauge on the boiler display which should alert you to any problems, the reading should indicate that the water pressure is between 1 and 2 bars. If the reading is below 1 bar then the water pressure is too low
  •  Check the thermostat and programmer – the central heating programmer should be in the ‘on’ position and your thermostat set above room temperature. If the system is on a timer then it may be that the clock has gone forward or back and needs readjustment
  • Check for frozen pipes – frozen condensate pipes on a condensing boiler will stop it from working. These can be gently thawed using a hot water bottle or by pouring over warm (not boiling) water. Turn the boiler off and then turn it back on again to see if this has resolved the problem
  • Check the pilot light – a pilot is a common feature on older boilers and can go out for a number of reasons. Your boiler manual can describe how to relight the pilot light or it may be printed on a set of instructions on the inside of the boiler door. If you can’t relight the pilot light then you will need to call out a gas engineer

How to care for your gas boiler

Regular servicing can help spot problems before they occur and replace worn out parts minimising the possibility of a costly breakdown. There are some other things you can do to help look after your system and these include:-

  • Run your central heating in the summer months for 10-15 minutes each month to prevent the pump or other components from seizing up
  • If you have a pressurised system then check the pressure regularly and, if necessary, adjust it so that it remains a match for the readings recommended in your boiler installation and servicing manual
  • Test your central heating timer and room thermostat to ensure they are working correctly
  • Inspect the boiler regularly for any signs of damage or wear and tear
  • If you have a condensing boiler, make sure you have lagged the condensate pipe to stop it freezing up during cold weather
  • Check your boiler for black, sooty marks which can indicate a combustion problem
  • Bleed your radiators regularly to remove excess air from the central heating system – you will know if a radiator needs bleeding because it will either feel tepid to the touch or hot in parts and cold in other areas
  • Check that there is adequate ventilation around your boiler, if the boiler is tucked away in a cupboard then keep the area around it clear
  • Check that all external vents, flues and air bricks are clear
  • If you have a boiler with a visible pilot light then this should be a clear blue in colour. If the flame is yellow or appears elongated then this is an indication that something could be wrong
  •  Install a carbon monoxide detector in the room which contains your boiler and test it monthly to make sure it is working properly

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Gas boiler breakdown policies

Some people feel more reassured buying gas boiler breakdown cover, it’s not just the fact that you can spread the cost on a monthly basis and avoid being hit with an unexpected and large bill, it also means that you have someone to call when things go wrong. If you buy a new boiler then you will be encouraged to take out boiler break down cover to go alongside it.

Gas boiler breakdown policies can offer a 24/7 customer helpline and unlimited call outs during the year although you should read the small print carefully as not all policies offer the same cover.

Breakdown policies from the big energy providers can be expensive and some people argue that if you have a nearly new or brand new boiler then it shouldn’t break down at all. It’s easy to play on people’s fears of being left without heating and hot water when it is cold outside. Some people only take out this cover when their boiler loses its warranty protection but it may be a condition of cover that you have had your boiler serviced regularly prior to this.

There are smaller providers in the market place who will provide better value for money. A price comparison site can help you narrow down a good company and there are lots of useful consumer guides online. Things to look out for include:-

  • Boiler only cover will literally just be cover for your boiler only, it won’t include any of the central heating system which is where the fault may lie. It is a common assumption to assume that a boiler breakdown policy covers all of the heating and hot water system in your home but it doesn’t
  • Some policies will offer a fixed sum commonly between £250 and £750 if your boiler cannot be repaired and needs replacement although this not normally a feature on a basic ‘boiler only’ cover
  • Check your home insurance policy as some do include boiler cover so effectively you would be doubling up and paying for something you don’t need
  • Most providers will only cover boilers under seven years old. Some will require an inspection before they go on risk. If your boiler is very old and doesn’t meet current modern regulations then you may find you are refused cover until the system is brought up to date
  • Most policies will require you to have an annual boiler service or the cover will be invalidated
  • You can’t usually make a claim within the first 14-30 days of cover

Gas boiler breakdown policies can provide huge peace of mind for householders but it is still important not to end up paying well over the odds for cover that you either never use or only use occasionally. An alternative is to put some money aside each month to cover any unexpected bills.

Always read the fine print as policies differ, don’t make assumptions about what the cover includes or you could be in for a nasty surprise right at the wrong moment.

How to stay warm if your gas boiler breaks down

The reassurance of boiler cover is that there is someone to call immediately. In the meantime, you can stay warm by layering up your clothes and using electric heaters. If you have no hot water then you might be able to heat water using an immersion heater if you have an old-style standard boiler system. New combi boilers do not have a separate hot water heating unit.

If you have anyone vulnerable in your household, the very old, the very young or someone who is ill then you should make this clear when you phone up to book an engineer.

How to find a Gas Safe engineer if you don’t have boiler breakdown cover

If you have your boiler serviced annually which is recommended and it may invalidate any warranty if you don’t then start by asking your regular gas engineer if he or his company offers a breakdown service which includes out of hour call outs. If he doesn’t or can’t recommend anyone then cast the net further afield. Start by asking friends, neighbours or family if they can recommend a suitably qualified Gas Safe engineer. You could put a post on a local social media community group and ask for a recommendation.

There are online platforms which you can find on a quick Google search but they are often no more than call centres, portals who pass on the business to an engineer that you could have called yourself and charge a hefty premium on top of the engineers call out charge and hourly rate. They are usually very expensive and play on people’s fear and panic that they may be left without heating and hot water.

Try some of the trader platforms on the internet who maintain that they can offer guaranteed, authenticated and trustworthy traders for your particular household problem. Again, some of these are little more than glorified advertising boards so do your research thoroughly.

Always ask to see your engineer’s Gas Safe credentials if you haven’t used him before. You can always phone the Gas Safe Register if you are looking for a heating engineer and not having much luck. They have lots of useful information including how to understand the Gas Safe ID card and current issues like Covid.

Gas boiler breakdown policies can offer a 24/7 customer helpline and unlimited call outs during the year although you should read the small print carefully as not all policies offer the same cover.

Gas Engineer Call Out Frequently Asked Questions

Do I always have to use a Gas Safe registered engineer?

Only a Gas Safe registered engineer is legally allowed to touch your boiler for inspection or repair. You can check the credentials of a gas engineer online or by phoning the central number for the Gas Safe Register.

Is Corgi the same as Gas Safe?

Corgi was the name for the previous registration system which was changed in 2009 to the Gas Safe Register. Some people still use the terms interchangeably but they do mean the same thing.

I have lost my boiler instruction manual, where can I find another one?

You should be able to find a copy online which you can refer to electronically or print off in hard copy format. The boiler manufacturer may also be able to supply a copy unless the boiler is very old.

Can I mend my gas boiler?

Apart from very simple issues like restoring electricity or re-setting the boiler timer, it is illegal for anyone who is not Gas Safe registered to attempt to repair a faulty gas boiler and is highly dangerous too.

Can I use a different engineer to do the job once the fault has been identified?

You may find if you can manage without hot water and heating and if your regular engineer is available that you can get the work done more cheaply once you know what the fault is. Shop around for a quote.

The first company that you call out should make you aware of the gas engineer call out charge and the labour rate per hour. You will still have to pay their call out charge even if you find someone else to undertake the repair more cheaply.

Once the fault has been diagnosed, ask the engineer to quote for any replacement parts and/or labour costs. You might be able to find a gas engineer with a cheaper hourly rate but a lot will depend on the nature of the fault, how cold it is and how long you are prepared to be without hot water and central heating. Phone round or use an online platform to see if you can find someone who can do it for a cheaper rate but always be sure to check their credentials and if they are not a recommendation or someone you have used before then be wary about rock bottom prices.

What happens about repairs if I have a warranty?

Some parts will be covered under the original manufacturer’s warranty but there may be conditions attached such as having the boiler serviced regularly or the warranty may be invalidated. You can extend the warranty when the original one expires and energy companies and providers are all keen to sell extended warranties to customers. Again, you may have conditions attached which require you to service the boiler and not everything will be covered so read the small print carefully.

Rich Crossley
Having spent 30 years working all over the world for top-tier investment banks, I’ve owned and developed houses all over the world – Europe, the US and Asia. I’m now based back in the UK and involved in the property industry – oh, and I’m a keen DIY enthusiast!
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