Have you ever bled your radiators and thought ‘what the sludge?’ as black, dirty water trickled out?  You are not alone.  Industry figures suggest that gas engineers attend 3.2m breakdowns annually with the leading cause being sludge in the central heating system.

So, what is heating sludge?

The technical term for sludge found in your central heating system is magnetite.  It is essentially a mixture of the dirt and rust from inside your pipework (nice, right?).  As magnetite is heavier than water it accumulates over time, creating blockages and restricting water flow.  A build-up of sludge can result in your heating system underperforming or breaking down entirely – outcomes that can be very costly to rectify.  Sludge isn’t just a problem for old boilers either.  It accounts for 60% of all new boiler breakdowns in the first year and 80% of all boiler breakdowns within 5 years.  It is also worth noting that many boiler cover plans will not cover claims that result from sludge build-up.

How can I tell if there is sludge in my system?

There are a few common symptoms that could indicate that you have sludge in your central heating system.

  • Loss of pressure
  • Leaks
  • Banging in the system
  • Cold spots on the radiator
  • Lukewarm water from taps
  • Boiler switching itself off
Okay, I think I have a sludge problem – what can I do?

You might be tempted to tackle the problem yourself but this could prove to be expensive should something go wrong and you risk causing lasting damage to your heating system. 

Your first step should be to call a Gas Safe engineer. 

If required, the engineer will arrange a power flush of your system.  This involves pushing a powerful, low-pressure flow of liquid through your system to remove the sludge build-up from your radiators and boiler. 

How can I prevent sludge from forming in my system?

Well, as they say, prevention is better than cure and there are a number of steps your gas engineer can take to keep your central heating sludge-free for longer.  The action taken will be based on what kind of system you have but could include the addition of inhibitor chemicals or a filter.

It is also important that you keep up to date with your annual boiler checks.  This allows your gas engineer to identify problems early and take the necessary steps to keep your central heating system sludge-free.

If you think you have a sludge problem and would like us to check it out, please get in touch – we’d be happy to help.

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