Fighting the Sludge Effect

ADEY's marketing director, Claire Miller, explains how tackling system sludge can protect domestic boilers, cut home energy bills and extend the life of central heating systems.

There are approximately 21 million domestic boilers fitted in the UK, with a surprisingly large number suffering from failures every year. Industry figures suggest that gas engineers attend 3.2 million breakdowns annually, with the biggest cause being poor water quality due to magnetite or sludge in the system.

Gas engineers are being urged to take the time to fix the root cause of these problems by preventing magnetite from developing in the first place, and removing the sludge that has collected in the system, rather than just replacing a part each time a boiler breaks down.

The industry has become far more aware of the damage that sludge can cause in recent years, which is why filters are now being fitted to most new boilers at the point of installation.

However, research has shown protecting new heating systems while sub-standard water quality understandably affects the efficient running of existing and legacy systems, new boilers are not immune to these kinds of problems either.

Sludge accounts for 60 percent of all new boiler breakdowns that occur within the first year, and 80 per cent of all boiler breakdowns within five years of their installation.

The tell-tale signs of sludge are common to many systems and include loss of pressure, leaks, banging in the system, radiator cold spots, lukewarm water from taps, or boilers simply turning themselves off.

While invisible to most, over time any sludge in the system will compromise the operational efficiency of the boiler and the system as a whole, until it invariably falters and requires that during annual services or repair visits, engineers do not always discuss the importance of water treatment with the homeowner. Even when they do explain the problem, the homeowner often struggles to understand the value in carrying out the treatment and fitting a filter to prevent any future issues, as opposed to just carrying out the most basic of repairs.

Despite the challenges, these conversations are really important. Fixing the root cause of boiler failures is the best solution for the homeowner – not only can it expand the life of their boiler and save them the cost of replacement parts in the future, but it can also improve the efficiency of their heating system, potentially saving them up to £80 a year in fuel bills. remedial attention. This is part of the reason why gas engineers spend, on average, more than 70 per cent of their working week on service, maintenance or repair callouts.

Consumer education about sludge, the risk factors it presents to the boiler system and how it can be prevented, removed or monitored, is required if the ongoing problem is to be successfully tackled. Consumers are currently paying £700 million a year in unexpected bills, and many will also be surprised to discover that boiler insurance policies often do not cover sludge as an accepted breakdown cause.

At a time when society is committed to creating a more sustainable future, research suggests that fitting an ADEY MagnaClean filter, alongside best practice maintenance to optimise the boiler operation, would contribute to a 7 per cent saving on national carbon emissions.

Sludge is recognised as the enemy of an efficient heating system, but the good news is that cost-effective and long-term retrofit solutions are available to protect the nation's heating, both to prevent sludge appearing in the first place, and to remove it once it is detected.

Filtration systems that flush and clean systems, as well as ongoing monitoring technologies to warn against future sludge build-up, are an easy and value-added solution to enable gas engineers to help their customers and, ultimately, support their own business growth as well.

Paying closer attention to this proven cause of boiler breakdown can not only ensure that consumer heating and hot water systems are protected, but can also help cut home energy bills by up to £80 a year, extending the life of the system and reducing carbon emissions. •

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