What is a boiler?
If you have a hydronic system or a water heating system, a boiler is the appliance that, as what the name suggests, heats water for your system to function and produce heat. The hot water will pass through the pipes which will transmit heat to the rooms in your houses. The heat will be radiated by either a steel or a cast iron radiator, or fin-tube or baseboard convectors.
The water will be returned to the boiler to be reheated once the convectors or the radiators are heated. The cycle with the water then continues.
Boilers can be run by natural gas, propane gas, or fuel oil. The latter requires more maintenance than the ones that run on propane and natural gases because the oil filter and the blower for this type of boilers need to be checked regularly.
What makes a hot water boiler?
Compared to a forced-air furnace, the boiler is much more complex. Boilers are composed of more controls, parts and valves; although boilers that are gas-fueled are quite reliable. If problems do occur, one can assume that it’s the pump or the expansion tank as those are what the problems mostly relate to.
Here are some of the issues that you may encounter with your boilers.
Boiler is not producing any heat
There are a lot of factors that may cause this to happen. The first thing that you would need to check is if it is receiving power. If it has power, then check the water level. It might be too low that there’s not enough water to produce heat. If water level is ok, then inspect the electronic burner ignition. It might be malfunctioning. Finally, check the thermostat. It might be giving incorrect reading.
Here’s how to troubleshoot your boiler if it does experience some of the causes mentioned above.
- For no power, always check the circuit breaker. It might have been tripped so simply turn the circuit breaker back on. If you have blown fuse, replace them.
- If water level is too low, check your pressure relief valve as it should have enough pressure (12-15 psi) to fill your boiler with enough water. Water should be maintained at half full. Just in case you don’t have the pressure reducing valve, then you can open the water feed valve and manually feed your boiler until you reach the correct pressure.
- Always check if the gas control valve is open.
- If the pilot light is not on, simply relight it.
- If it does not have a traditional pilot light, check the electronic ignition.
- Make sure the thermostat is set to the correct temperature and that it is on heat mode.
- You can also try adjusting the temperature setting a few degrees.
- It is heating but it is not heating enough.
If your boiler doesn’t heat enough, identify if it happened right away or if it was a gradual change. If it happened suddenly, then the boiler may not have the appropriate water level. If it was a gradual change, then it may have deposits of minerals in the boiler itself as well as the heat exchanger.
To fix this problem, here are some tips that you can try.
- Look at the tridicator. If you have low water pressure (below 12 psi), the boiler needs more water. Again, you can open that water feed valve to feed the hot water boiler manually until pressure is at 12 psi if you don’t have the pressure reducing valve.
- If it was a gradual change, you would need to flush your boiler. You can also have a service technician do this for you.
- Check your expansion tank. It could either have very little or a lot of water. It must be rightly charged with air to keep it from boiling.
- Expansion tank has too much water and not properly charged with air.
You can have a steel tank or the new diaphragm tank. Either way, the expansion tank should be charged with air to avoid boiling and having a higher water pressure.
Leaking water around the boiler.
If you see water coming out from anywhere around the boiler, it’s either you have a faulty pump (circulator), pressure relief valve or your pipe connection is leaking water.
Here are some things you can check.
- If it’s the circulator, then you can try replacing the pump seal. However, most of the circulator problems usually require a technician.
- If the leak is coming from the pressure relief valve, check if the expansion tank has lots of water.
- If expansion tank is okay and pressure relief valve is still leaking, inspect the valve as it might have sediments that are keeping the valve from completely closing. Let the boiler cool by turning it off, and discharge water for approximately 3 seconds until it snaps back to its closed position. If it still leaks, try doing it again.
- If it still leaks water after discharging, you will have to replace the valve.
- If, while trying to discharge, no water comes out, check if there is water in the boiler. If there is, change the valve.
- If water is coming from the pipe, identify the origin then fix the connection.
- Radiators are not heating.
Another issue you might have with your boiler is having radiators that are not heating. There could be air trapped in the line, in the radiator or there could be a faulty circulator or zone valve that causes the problem.
Here are ways to fix it:
- Bleed the radiator by opening bleed valve and closing it as soon as water drips from the valve.
- Make sure the motor for the circulator is operating properly.
- Pipes are noisy.
If your boiler’s pipes are unusually noisy, it could be a faulty circulator or there may be trapped water in the return lines.
What you can do:
- If the pump jams causing the springs to break, the coupling can make noise so always check the circulator to determine the cause of the noise.
- The return lines’ pitch should always tilt back. Use pipe hangers if pitch needs to be adjusted.
- Radiators’ pitch should be sloping back toward the return lines.
Boiler problems can range from simple to a very complicated one. It is advisable that you get to know how your boiler works and be familiar with all the important parts that make it work so you can do basic troubleshooting steps when faced with problems. However, if you are not confident in doing any of above-mentioned steps, you can always trust that your boiler company will provide you with the help you need to get your boiler back in business.