There's been a bit of a debate at Dutypoint HQ over the past week...when is it acceptable to turn your central heating on for the first time?

Personally, I think anything earlier than November is unacceptable, but some of my colleagues are already toasting away at home! Of course, this is a personal decision, but whatever you decide, I'm sure you'll want to avoid that sinking feeling when it's finally become cold enough that you're ready to dial up some warmth on your thermostat...only to find that not everything is working quite as you hoped. Oh dear.

But don't worry! We always recommend performing a really simple test of your central heating before you really need it. This means that if there are any issues, you've got time to get them sorted.

So here is the Dutypoint Direct Guide to Checking your Central Heating....

1. Find the pressure gauge and check that the pressure is between 1 and 2 bar

This measures the pressure of all the water in your pipes and radiators. If the pressure is below 1 bar your system won't work effectively. It's likely there isn't enough water in your system. If you find your pressure is below 1 bar, you will need to add some water to your system.

This is a simple process using your boiler filling loop. Follow the instructions in your boiler manual to fix this.

2. Bleed your radiators using a radiator bleed key

This ensures that there is no air in your radiators - air doesn't carry much heat so it's not much good in your radiators! Go to each radiator in turn, with a rag or cloth, and gently turn the bleed valve (this is normally on one of the sides of the radiator at the top). You might hear a slight hissing sound as the air comes out, and you might hear the odd splutter of water.

When there is no more air coming out, but just water, you can close up the bleed valve again. Once you've done this on all your radiators, go back to the boiler and check the pressure again - it may need topping up.

3. Check your central heating pump (this might be inside your boiler, in which case you should skip this step)

Ensure your heating is switched off. In the centre of your pump head, you will normally have a screw - if you remove this you should be able to see the rotating part of the pump, called the impeller. If this moves freely then you're good to go - make sure you replace the screw again. If your pump isn't moving freely, it may be seized.

Pumps like this can sometimes be repaired, but if it's an older unit a much better idea would be to purchase a brand new high-efficiency pump. Even without the cost of repairing the old pump, these new models typically pay for themselves in about 2-4 years as they consume a lot less energy than their older counterparts. We've got some great offers on circulator pumps at the moment- have a look at this page for more information, and if you need assistance, get in touch with our team.

4. Run your central heating system

Now that you've done a few basic checks, it's time to fire up the system. Switch on your heating, make sure any radiator valves you have are set to maximum and leave it to warm up for about 30 minutes. Check all your radiators and make sure they're all nice and hot. If they're only lukewarm, you may need to bleed them again, but switch off the heating before you do this. Check the pressure again to ensure that it's still between 1 and 2 bar.

If your heating still isn't working properly you'll likely need the support of a plumber or heating engineer. Check the Gas Safe Register to find a qualified plumber in your area.

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