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Condemned Boiler

It’s that time of year again when I get a series of emails from Christopher’s gmail calendar, reminding me to do a load of admin chores. “Get septic tank emptied” (done), “renew house insurance” (done), and most recently “Get boiler serviced”.

I had to wait a few weeks for the boiler servicing company I use, HMS, to have a free slot – they’re always busy at this time of year doing annual servicing of gas and oil boilers. As the weather closes in, and the heating comes on for the first time since the summer, all of Malvern simultaneously decides to call them in. But yesterday was the appointed day and the boilerman turned up promptly at 08:30.

I wasn’t expecting any significant issues. I knew he’d moan that the oil tank was too overgrown with vegetation- much of which is actually deliberately there to screen it from the kitchen window, as it’s rather ugly. But although that’s a violation of the regulations, it’s not actually particularly dangerous so I ignore their moans every year.

So I was shocked to be told that my boiler installation was so unsafe that it really shouldn’t be used at all until a major fault was remedied. Apparently, the over-pressure-release pipe had become blocked and there was nowhere for it to vent to. It sounded very serious, but I was reassured to be told that it was unlikely to be catastrophic or fatal. There are apparently no recorded deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning from an oil boiler. Unlike gas, by the time an oil boiler is coked up badly enough to emit dangerous levels of CO, it smells so badly of oil that you would know there was a major problem. The most likely impact if I kept using the boiler was a burst pipe – annoying and messy, but not life-threatening.

Oil service personnel don’t have the same powers the equivalent gas engineers – the latter have the power to condemn in unsafe appliance and put it out of service. Oil is apparently going in that direction (Nanny state or what?) but all they can do for now is strongly recommend. Nevertheless, the boiler was formally deemed Dangerous, with a label stuck to the front saying that it really shouldn’t be used until the problem was fixed.

That was unfortunate to say the least. It’s suddenly turned cold, and I would be without heating until it got fixed. Fortunately I have an immersion heater for emergencies so I wasn’t left without hot water. And I have a couple of electric heaters which I pressed into service. But I really hoped I wouldn’t have to go without a boiler for very long – the weather forecast looks pretty chilly for next week, and this house can get very cold without the central heating.

However, HMS, really pulled out the stops and ordered the parts to arrive urgently. They then shuffled around their order book to make a free slot, and sent someone around this afternoon to fix the problem and un-condemn the boiler. The heating is back on, the house is gradually warming up, and I have a full tank of hot water again. I was really impressed with how quickly HMS turned the repair around and fitted me in. The back-office staff kept me informed by email and phone of what was going on, and they squeezed me in to an already-busy work schedule. It’s service like that which keeps me going back to them every year – even if they do always moan about the climbing rose scrambling over my oil tank to disguise it!

{ 3 } Comments

  1. pauld | 28 October 2018 at 8:16 am | Permalink


    we often get burning oil smell, no service engineer has ever bothered about it except one who said it might happen for a while after he’d changed an oil supply pipe which appears to be a 2 yearly job on their service chart. A lot of variability in service engineers just like garages. Boilers old (despite estate agent saying it was new ! and surveryor not picking up on it).

    Several engineers have said what a pleasure it is to service it as its simple, one even said DONT change it. As its warmest house i’ve lived in it stays until no spare parts left on planet earth !, then i’ll look into ground/air source heat pumps.

  2. pauld | 28 October 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    … forgot to say, at least its not gas boiler which could blow your house and neighbourhood apart 🙂

  3. Gillian | 30 October 2018 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s only about ten years old, so I’ve no intention of changing it, provided that HMS can keep getting the parts. Oil boilers, if properly serviced, ought to keep going for decades. And, as you say, if they do go wrong, the worst case is much less catastrophic than with gas…..