Plumber vs. Heating Engineer – Which One Do You Need?

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Plumbing inspection.

How many times have you have a problem with the plumbing or the radiators and not been sure who to call, after all those guys are expensive and they will charge their minimum call-out fee just for turning up! The two roles can seem quite similar which explains the possible confusion. For example, your boiler feeds a lot of water pipes, so should you call a plumber to fix your boiler? The answer is, probably not.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll try and clarify this confusion for you and explain what each does and which you should call. Also we have produced a checklist below of problems you could be facing in your home or commercial property.

What does a plumber do?Plumber.

Here’s a bit of useless information! The word “plumber” dates back to Roman times and is derived from the Latin word for lead, plumbum. Back then, plumbers worked with lead piping as they do today, but they are now much more likely to work with plastic piping.

Plumbers work on anything to do with water in your home, from bathroom fittings, blockages, dishwasher problems to drain issues. Plumbers install and repair water supply lines, waste disposal systems and non-gas related kitchen and bathroom appliances. Plumbers work on building sites installing new piping, radiators and sinks.

While many plumbers do possess some qualifications, they are not essential in order to trade as a plumber; anyone can refer to themselves as a plumber without any formal certifications.

What does a heating engineer do?Heating engineer.

A commercial heating engineer works solely on heating and ventilation systems in domestic and commercial properties, they are specialists in heating.

So, let’s deal with the issue of a boiler repair first. A boiler repair or service involves working with gas, so only a Gas Safe registered engineer can legally work on a gas boiler. The gas industry is highly regulated to ensure that necessary services are provided to the highest safety standards, so if your boiler needs some attention, you must contact a Gas Safe engineer.

Gas Safe RegistrationHeating engineer service.

The Gas Safe Register is the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register (which replaced the CORGI registration) and the Register’s role is to act as a licensing body.

Can a plumber be Gas Safe registered? Yes, they can but this qualification should not be expected as the norm. If a plumber offers to attend to your boiler problem, check the Gas Safe Register to make sure that they are legally permitted to work with gas appliances. If you are unable to access the internet, bear in mind that all Gas Safe registered engineers carry a Gas Safe ID card. Don’t be afraid to ask to see it when an engineer arrives at your property to carry out work. Check the front and back of the card. The front of the ID card shows a photo, start and expiry dates, a licence number, a security hologram and proof that the engineer is from the business you have contacted. The back of the ID card shows that the engineer is qualified and that their qualifications are up-to-date.

If you suspect that the person who has come to fix your gas related problem is not Gas Safe registered, call Gas Safe Register Customer Services on 0800 408 5500 and provide as much information as possible.

Gas engineers will often be qualified and competent to do a defined range of gas related work. It’s important to check what work they are qualified to do before you employ them. Engineers can have different qualifications including Domestic and Commercial, LPG and Natural Gas, or different areas of gas related work, boilers, cookers, fires etc. Check the back of their ID card to find out.

To find a Gas Safe engineer you can do an online search based on your location on the Gas Safe Register website.

Here’s your definitive checklist…

Call a plumber if:Plumbing service.

  • Your pipes are blocked
  • Your drains are blocked
  • If a pipe is leaking
  • You want a radiator installed
  • You want a washing machine installed
  • You want a dishwasher installed
  • You want a shower installed
  • You want a waste disposal system installed
  • You want an air conditioning unit installed
  • A tap is leaking or dripping
  • Your waste disposal unit isn’t working properly
  • Unblock a sink
  • Unblock a toilet (hmmm…)

Call a heating engineer if:Heating engineer inspection.

  • You have no hot water
  • The central heating isn’t working
  • You think your boiler is not working
  • Your boiler needs its annual service
  • You want a new boiler
  • Your gas cooker isn’t working as it should
  • Your gas fire isn’t working properly
  • Your room thermostats aren’t working
  • Your hot water cylinder is not hot
  • You want a gas fire installed
  • You want a gas safety check


I hope that the checklist above clears up the confusion between what plumbers and heating engineers do.

If your problem involves water supply, call a plumber.

If your problem involves gas and heating, call a heating engineer.

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