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Discoloured water in your central heating system: what does it mean?

And how can you fix it?

Obviously, water is an essential part of any central heating system; it flows through your boiler and through your radiators. The quality of that water is therefore very important for keeping the system working efficiently.

If you notice the system leaking anywhere, either from the boiler itself or from a radiator, then this is an issue that needs dealing with. If that water is brown in colour then this is an indication that the water quality is not as it should be.

What does discoloured water mean?

If the water is brown in colour, that is an indication that you have sludge in the system. This is a build-up of rust and dirt from inside the pipes and over time it will not only compromise the performance of the system but can cause significant damage. It can block pipes and valves as well as damage the heat exchanger which is an expensive issue to fix.

Other signs of sludge are that your radiators don’t heat up properly or experience cold spots.

It’s also worth noting here that discoloured water in the system can invalidate some home cover policies so you may not be able to claim for breakdowns – even if they have not been directly caused by the sludge. See more about the limitations of policies here.

How can you deal with it?

The best way to remove sludge from the system is through a powerflush. A powerflush sends chemicals through the system at high pressure which both dissolves the build-up and flushes the contaminated water through. This is something a heating engineer can do for you.

How can you prevent it happening?

Prevention is always better than a cure (and usually cheaper!). Adding inhibitor to the system is a good way of preventing rust and debris from building up in the first place.

An annual service is also an important part of protecting your system. Water quality is tested as part of the service and this will provide an early warning that sludge is starting to build up (much better than waiting for a leak!).

If you have a leak, suspect you have sludge in the system or would just like to prevent it, give us a call on 0800 032 6478 or complete the form here.

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