Boilers have a rich history about them. They have been used in many different applications to varying degrees of popularity for centuries. In the 20th century, they saw abundant use as a method of central home heating. The reason for their popularity stems partially from their high level of energy efficiency and partially from the even-spreading heat they comfortably provide. They may not be as common now as the standard home furnace is as a choice for your centralized heating in Austin but they are still common enough that it is worth knowing a thing or two about how they operate.
In addition to how they operate, it is also worth knowing the ways in which they can malfunction. If you own a boiler in your home you’ll want to know what kind of problems can occasionally plague your common home boiler and what kind of troubleshooting can be done to try to fix it. Today’s boilers are much more sophisticated than those of the past but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to faults. Many issues that can afflict a boiler may need the assistance of a trained professional with the right tools and experienced knowledge in order to fix, but some things can be taken care of DIY style and we’re going to look at both kinds of issues today.
Before we dive into common problems boilers may develop and troubleshooting routines you can take to try to solve them it would be helpful to have a primer on the parts of a boiler and what they do. This way you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re looking at when you try to troubleshoot your boiler and you’ll understand better what could have gone wrong and where.
The boiler is more complex than a forced-air furnace, in that it has more parts, valves, and controls. However, gas-fired boilers are fairly reliable and most problems, when they do occur, usually relate to the expansion tank or water circulation pumps. Let's take a quick look at the major components of the boiler for a hot water (hydronic) system. First you have the supply side. This is the part of the boiler that generates the heat. It includes an aquastat, which measures the temperature of the water, a water feed valve, which controls the flow of water into the boiler, and a pressure reducing valve, which automatically prevents the water pressure from exceeding about 15 psi.
The gas valve and connected burner are what heats up the combustion chamber, which is the part of the boiler where the magic happens. The combustion chamber includes an expansion tank that allows for the expansion of the water as it heats. Then of course you have the supply pipes which carry the hot water vapor into the radiators, which sit in the various parts of the house and heat up the home through radiant heat.
The return starts with the return pipes which head back to the boiler. The circulation pump is going to help return the water into the system. And finally, the drain valve is what allows the water to drain out of the system.
Problem #1: No Power
If your boiler has shut off completely, there’s no hot water and no circulation, this is obviously a major problem. This can happen for a number of different reasons, including low water pressure, thermostat issues, or if you have a frozen condensate pipe, air in the system or a faulty pump. Sometimes this will take the form of the boiler switching on and off too frequently, also known as short cycling. Sometimes it will take the form of the boiler refusing to turn on at all regardless of where the thermostat is set.
The first things you’ll want to check in such a case are the fuses and circuit breaker. This is a common accident that luckily means an easy fix. Make sure the circuit breaker has been tripped somehow and see if there is a blown fuse. Reset the circuit breakers and replace any fuses that need replacing if this is the source of the issue. Do that and you should see your boiler return to normal.
If that wasn’t the issue you can move on in your troubleshooting. Sometimes this issue can be caused by a frozen condensate pipe. Condensing boilers have condensate a pipe which transports the acidic water, caused by waste gas, away from the boiler. This usually runs outside into a drain, and because of its location, it faces the risk of freezing. A condensate pipe can be identified simply by looking at your boiler. Underneath the boiler, you will see pipes entering and exiting. Your boiler will often have a fault code or warning notification if your condensate pipe has become frozen. Whilst there are tutorials online to thaw a frozen condensate pipe by pouring warm water over it, if you feel unqualified or unsafe doing so you should call out a trained technician.
Another possible cause is low water pressure. You can check this pressure by looking at the pressure gauge on the boiler. There a number of reasons why this may be happening: a water leak in the system, the pressure relief valve needs replacing or as a result of recently bleeding radiators. The first thing to do is check for a visible leak in the system. This will almost certainly be where you should call an Austin heating service.
Problem #2: No Heat
If your boiler is boiling and the pressure looks good but your radiators aren’t getting hot this is the symptom of a different problem altogether, although just like the no power problem this will leave you high and dry as far as heat goes. And unlike the “no power” problem this is going to waste energy so you’ll want to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.
If you are having problems getting the radiators to heat, then your problem may be air in the system, rust buildup in the pipe system, or a bad pump. When it comes to a water boiler make sure there is no air in the system. You can check this by releasing the fitting at the end of the radiator to "bleed air out". Make sure you have a rag to catch any water that will come out. It will be a combination of water and air. You can leave the fitting open until there is all water coming.
If you find certain radiators in your home are not getting hot, your radiators could need balancing. This can also be done without the help of an engineer if you feel confident in doing it. The process involves adjusting the valves on all of the radiators in your property, to ensure each is getting enough hot water to work effectively. You can search for a more detailed guide to this solution by searching for a “balancing radiators” guide. If this does not work you may have an issue with sludge build-up preventing a free flow of hot water to the radiators. Chemically cleaning or flushing the system should remove these deposits. This is going to require calling an Austin heating professional.
Problem #3: Kettling
This last problem we’ll take a look at today that can happen to your boiler is quite distinctive in terms of how you’ll notice it. The symptom of this problem is a noisy boiler that might sound a bit like a kettle boiling water, hence the common phrase used to describe the problem “kettling”. This is an extremely common problem that happens to boilers and is usually caused by limescale build-up in the heat exchanger of the boiler.
You’ll notice this problem right away if it starts because it makes a racket. Banging, gurgling, rumbling or whistling pipes can be caused by a buildup of limescale or air in the system. When these deposits build up in your boiler, they can restrict the flow of water within the heat exchanger. This can overheat the water, causing it to steam and boil (causing the kettle-like sounds).
Kettling is more common in areas with hard water, but can also affect boilers in soft water areas. Not only does it cause your boiler to work harder and thus cost more to run, but it can also shorten the system’s life. If your boiler is kettling, it’s advisable to call out a trained professional who will likely flush out your system to remove the build-up of these deposits and ensure the system is working properly once more. You can try the bleeding system yourself of power washing the pipes but if you don’t feel comfortable with this procedure of simple bleeding of the system doesn’t do a trick then it is time to call in a professional.
Limescale buildup is by and large the most common cause of a noisy boiler but there are others. For example, it could be that the boiler has been installed inappropriately or because it has incorrect settings. A faulty boiler thermostat causes the boiler to overheat, the only way to deal with this is to replace the boiler thermostat. A boiler that is too large in view of the total heating space also makes banging noises. Finally, a pump that has become stuck or needs replacing can also produce a very loud banging noise. It is important that your heating professional determines the cause of the kettling before attempting a fix.
Boiler Troubleshooting and Heating Repair in Austin
These are just a few of the wide array of potential issues you might find yourself dealing with in the future. Boilers are sophisticated machines and while they are made to last they have a lot of parts that require very specific conditions in order to work properly and sometimes things go out of whack. Hopefully, with the help of this article, you can identify the cause and solution to a few of the more common problems that boilers can get.
Don’t forget that regardless of what type of heater you have, you’ll eventually need to hire a professional to provide you with heater maintenance in order to prevent needing future repairs and to keep your heater as energy-efficient as possible. AC Express is an Austin heater repair company that operates throughout the area, from Buda and Kyle to Leander and Taylor. If you find yourself in need of heater repair in Austin don’t hesitate, call today!