Boiler based (also called hydronic) heating systems are used frequently in Cleveland-area homes to provide either hot water or steam heating. These systems circulate boiler-heated water or low pressure steam through pipes to the radiators that warm your living spaces. We will focus on the hot water version in this blog post. Look for future posts for steam boilers if you have that type of heating system.
Boiler maintenance is essential to ensure comfortable, energy-efficiency performance as well as reliable operation of your hydronic heating system.
What you can do: If you are new to boilers or hydronic heating, it is a good idea to have a contractor that specializes in this unique form of heat (not all do) out to review the system with you. That way you can get a better understanding of how your system works, what you need to do and what you can expect from it. Often he can suggest some modifications to save additional energy for your system.
In the fall, before using your boiler, clear the air from your hot water system by opening the bleed valve just a bit on each radiator while the system is turned on. (Each radiator has a valve in a top corner; it's a square bit inside a round plug- some steam systems have a different type of valve so don't be confused if you are new to your home. and aren't quite sure which type of system you have.) Close the valve when water begins to run out. Having a small cup handy to catch this water is often helpful. If you have a multi-story home, start on the top floor and move down a level at a time.
Then schedule a visit from an HVAC professional (again make sure that the company specializes in hydronic heating systems first) to inspect your equipment and perform other aspects of boiler maintenance. Your contractor will apply professional testing techniques, inspection and analysis to help prevent potential problems.
Not all of these items apply to every boiler heating system, but during a typical maintenance visit for your sealed water-circulating system, your technician might:
- Check for leaks under normal operation pressure and temperature.
- Investigate any boiler system problems noted.
- Examine door gaskets and replace them if needed.
- Clean fireside (heat transfer) surfaces as needed.
- Inspect the boiler refractory (heat resistant lining in the firebox) and patching it if necessary.
- Clean and inspect water cut-off and flow controls.
- Test the aquastat - it regulates the temperature of the water in the boiler.
- Check the thermostat - often these systems have more than one thermostat and the system is zoned to allow greater fine tuning of comfort throughout different areas of the home.
- Remove, check, clean and re-install control piping plugs.
- Clean the burner and burner pilot.
- Adjust the burner to the correct level for efficient combustion.
- Check the pilot electrode, adjusting or replacing as needed.
- Check vents for blockages.
- Conduct safety checks.
The boiler experts at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling are available to answer your heating system questions and provide complete preventive maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs as well as new installations. Visit our website to learn more, or give us a call.