What is a Central Heating Powerflush? And How Does It Work?

Last updated: June 8, 2021

If you have had your central heating system for a while and it’s not working as efficiently as it should, it could be time for a powerflush. But what is a central heating powerflush and how does it work? We give you the lowdown this essential flushing process.

What is Powerflushing?

Over time, your central heating can become clogged up with dirt, rust and sludge, which accumulate in the pipes, causing blockages and corrosion.   Left untreated and allowed to build up, and this mucky mess can have a negative impact on your heating, reducing its efficiency and eventually lead to a boiler breakdown and the need for a new boiler.

To remove this sludge before it can cause more permanent damage, your central heating system needs to be ‘powerflushed’.  Powerflushing is a process by which an engineer flushes out the system using clean water that is sent at high speed through your central heating to dislodge all the build-up and push it clean through.

Does my Central Heating System Need a Powerflush?

Sludge and dirt in the system is a contributing cause in a high percentage of boiler breakdowns, so it makes sense for a periodic powerflush to keep everything clear and moving. So, if you suspect your central heating system is clogged or contaminated, then book in a powerflush – we have more on the signs to look out for later on.

However, building regulations also recommend a powerflush if you are having a new boiler installed as it can prevent your new system from being contaminated by sludge and dirt that was present in your old boiler.

Signs You Need a Powerflush

While it may not always be obvious that your central heating has become contaminated, there are some tell-tale signs that there may be problems and a powerflush is due, including:

  • Cold spots on your radiators, especially at the bottom
  • Unusual or excessive noise from your boiler, pipes, heat exchanger or central heating pump
  • Radiators that are taking too long to heat up
  • You find you are needing to bleed your radiator valves more frequently
  • Water is discoloured when bleeding a radiator, or no water is actually escaping
  • You have cold radiators, but the pipes are hot
  • A boiler that needs constant restarting or frequently breaks down

If you notice some or all of the above signs, then it’s time to call out the heating engineers, as there is a good chance you have a sludge-blocked system that needs a professional helping hand via the power flushing process to get flowing again.

When assessing your system, the engineer will carry out initial visual as well as chemical checks to discover the current PH balance within the system and determine the level of corrosive elements. From this, your engineer may decide a full powerflush is not needed and conduct something called a ‘dynamic flush’ which uses pressurised water only to clean out any lower level sludge and debris. However, if the indicators reveal a more significant sludge build-up, a powerflush is the best way to go.

How Does a Powerflush Work?

While it may sound dramatic, a powerflush is actually the fastest and most effective way to blast out those unwanted blockages and get your central heating system back on track.

Heating engineers will perform a powerflush using a special powerflush pump to do all the hard work. Depending on your boiler type, this pump will be attached to the pump head if it is a combi boiler, or to the circulation pump if you have a system boiler.

Once the pump is attached, a concoction of clean water and powerful chemicals will be pumped directly into your central heating system. Chemicals used in the powerflush include a sludge and rust remover, a descaler to tackle limescale and a corrosion inhibitor to prevent further rust from taking hold.

This powerflush cocktail will then be flushed right through your central heating system, including the radiator, pipes and boiler, at a very high pressure, forcing through dirty water and dislodged debris and sludge rust. This ‘power cleanse’ takes part over three stages:

  • Your Gas Safe engineer will start with an initial full power flusher of the whole system, working in both directions to remove the surface sludge and any loose debris. Next, they will focus on specific troublespots and more heavily contaminated radiators, one by one. To do this, they may also use an agitator to help release stubborn build-ups of sludge and grime.
  • Once the full system has been cleared out, a chemical neutraliser will be used to power wash through the system to reduce any acidic PH levels which, if left untreated, can lead to further internal corrosion and significant damage to your boiler.
  • The final powerflush stage involves adding a special inhibitor fluid to protect against future corrosion and help reduce further sludge build-ups returning to your central heating system.
  • Your heating engineer may also install a magnetic filter into your heating system to help prevent further sludge and rust build up in-between boiler services. A magnetic filter contains a magnet that collects any iron oxide sludge in the pipes, radiators and boiler system, reducing the need for further powerflushes. Speak to your engineer about having a magnetic filter installed if build up in your central heating system is an ongoing concern.

Radiator in a room

How Long Does a Powerflush Take?

The time it takes for heating engineers to successfully perform a powerflush does depend on your type of central heating system as well as the size of your home. But as a general guide, a powerflush for a typical three-bed house which has a vented central heating system will typically take around five to six hours. However, the actual time taken also depends on how severely clogged your central heating system is and whether any additional repairs need to be carried out, so you to be sure, you need to allow for a full day.

For larger homes or more complicated heating systems, the powerflush process could take a couple of days. Speak to your Gas Safe engineer to get his expert opinion on how long a powerflush on your central heating system will take.

Who Should Perform a Powerflush?

A powerflush is something you shouldn’t be tempted to do yourself, as it should always be conducted by a qualified Gas Safe engineer. And this is due to the chemicals used in the powerflush, which a professional will have the experience to handle safely. A qualified heating engineer will also be able to identify any other issues withing your boiler or heating system and do the necessary repairs.

Another essential reason why you should only ever use a qualified engineer to perform a powerflush is that if done incorrectly, you could damage your heating system and invalidate any boiler manufacturers warranty you may have on your boiler and central heating, potentially leaving you with a large repair bill.

How Often Does My Central Heating System Need a Powerflush?

As well as booking a powerflush if you are experiencing the signs of a blockage issue within your central heating system such as cold spots or discoloured radiator water your annual boiler service may also indicate a powerflush is needed.

You should also always have a powerflush carried out when installing a new central heating system as well as every time you replace your boiler or a radiator. Then, as long as your central heating system is correctly used and maintained, a powerflush should only be required once every five years.

Can My System be Powerflushed?

Not all central heating systems are suitable for a powerflush, so if you are in any doubt, your heating engineer will be able to advise you as to whether your particular system can tolerate the process.

Systems that are simply not compatible with the process of powerflushing include radiators that have twin entry valves and electrical heating systems Some smaller pipework also cannot not always be powerflushed.

What Are the Benefits of a Powerflush?

While the priority of a powerflush is to remove potentially damaging sludge, rust and debris from your central heating system and keep it working in tip-top condition, there are wider benefits to a periodical powerflush, along with annual servicing, including:

  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Potential positive impact on your energy bills
  • Can increase the lifespan of your central heating system
  • More efficient radiators, with less noise
  • Warmer, faster heating radiators and hot water
  • Helps to protect against boiler breakdown
  • Saving on repair bills, so cost-effective in the long run

How Much Will a Powerflush Cost?

Once again, the cost for a powerflush will vary, depending on the size of your home and central heating system as well as how complex it is. But as a general guide, the price for a typical powerflush can be between £300 and £1,000.

But as this investment means your boiler and heating are sludge free and working efficiently, a powerflush is a good way to ensure your home is warm and to save money over time, both in heating bills and repairs.

Source:

  1. How to flush a central heating system – Viessmann