Energy troubleshooting guide

No hot water coming out of the taps? Gas not coming on? Electric meter reading abnormally high? Our energy troubleshooting guide can help you tackle your gas, electricity and water problems. 

Peter Earl From the Energy team
7
minute read
posted

How to turn off your water supply

Do you need to do some plumbing or check a frozen pipe? Then you’ll need to turn off your home’s water supply.

You can do this using your internal stop tap – also called a stop valve or stopcock. It’s a good idea to find out where this is before you need to use it, in case there’s a burst pipe or leak that you urgently need to stem. It will be somewhere on the ground floor of your home, often under the kitchen sink or in the downstairs toilet.

Turn the water off by twisting the stop tap clockwise, and back on again by turning it anti-clockwise.

If for some reason you can’t turn off your water from the internal stop tap, there’s also an external stopcock – located somewhere near the boundary of your property. Officially, this belongs to the water supplier and should only be used by them or a plumber.

I have no hot water. What do I do?

If you’ve no hot water coming from your taps, there are a few common causes. So before you call a plumber, make a few simple checks:

  • your gas, electricity and water supply – are they still on? If you’ve lost your gas supply, you need to call the 24-hour Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.
  • the boiler – check it’s switched on and that everything’s working, including the pilot light if it’s gas. If your boiler has a customer-operated reset button, you could try using it and see if the hot water comes back on.
  • the thermostat – has it been accidentally switched off or set to a low temperature? If so, try increasing the temperature and see if this helps.
  • the timer – is the clock set to the correct times?
  • the pipes – have they frozen during a cold snap? If so, you can try gently thawing them, using hot (but never boiling) water, or a warm compress. 
  • your internet connection – if you’re using a smart home app to control your heating, check your connection’s switched on and working.

Also, check for leaks. Telltale signs include mould and damp patches on walls, ceilings or floors.

If the radiators are hot but there’s no hot water, it may be because the diverter valve, which switches between heating and hot water in a combi-boiler, isn’t working. You’ll need to call in a Gas Safe engineer to fix this.

Repeated problems with your hot water supply may be the result of a boiler that’s simply not equipped to supply the amount of hot water you need. If that’s the case, it could be time for an upgrade.

I have a water leak. What do I do? 

If you’ve spotted a serious leak – one from a burst pipe, for example – the first thing to do is to switch off the water supply to prevent any damage. Again, do this using the internal stop tap. Also turn off the electricity supply, if there’s any chance of water coming into contact with your electrics.

To stem the water from a leaking pipe temporarily, you can wrap a towel around it. If the water’s gushing out, you might be able to reduce it by turning on all the taps – to divert the flow and drain the system.

If you know the leak’s coming from a single appliance, like a washing machine or toilet, you might be able to stop it using the appliance’s isolation valve. That way, you’ll still have water throughout the rest of the house.

Leaks can be dramatic, but not always. Some are slow and barely detectable. Signs might be cracks in the floor, patches of mould appearing – even an unexpectedly high water bill, if you’re on a water meter.

If you suspect a leak but don’t know where it’s coming from, you may need to get a plumber in to do some detective work. Some home insurance policies offer trace and access cover for this.

Whatever the cause of a leak, once you’ve dealt with the emergency, you’ll probably need to have a professional come and fix the problem permanently.

How to tell if your energy meter is working correctly

An unusually high bill might be cause to suspect a faulty electricity or gas meter. There are a few ways to check whether you could be right.

How to check your energy meter

  • turn off all your appliances and see if your meter’s still registering energy usage – if it is, it may be faulty. If it’s a gas meter, this could be a sign of a leak, so call the Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 straight away.
  • If there’s no usage registering, turn on your appliances, one at a time. If the meter starts moving very quickly when you turn on a particular appliance, it may be that the appliance has a fault.
  • check that the clock on your meter’s working, if you’re on a time of use tariff.

If there is indeed a problem, you should contact your energy supplier. They’re responsible for making sure your meters are in good working order and are obliged to investigate if there’s an issue.

How gas and electricity meters are tested for faults

Your supplier should visit to check for faults within five working days of your call. If they don’t, you’re entitled to £30 compensation.

Your energy provider should be able to test your electricity meter in situ, initially. They may temporarily fit a second meter. Then, depending on these initial checks, the meter in question might then be taken to a laboratory for further tests. Your supplier will fit another meter, while they’re investigating.

Gas meters always need to be sent to a lab for testing. Your supplier will provide another meter while this is being done.

The tests themselves are free, but you might have to repay these costs if it turns out that your meter’s working correctly. According to government statistics, this was the case in most of the 231 electricity meters tested in 2017.

The results 

If the meter is found to be accurate, you’ll need to pay any outstanding bills, and you might have to repay those test fees. Your supplier shouldn’t be able to back-bill for more than 12 months. 

If the meter is found to be inaccurate, the supplier will pay the testing costs and will credit any money you’ve overpaid on bills. 

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