Boiler Maintenance Tips

While there’s no doubt that in most regions of the nation, including our own here when heating in Austin, the furnace is the most common type of central home heating system, boilers can still be found often enough that learning how to deal with them is something many of you may have to do. Especially if you live in an older home, you may find that currently, the main source of heat in your home is a radiator and boiler system. Water is an excellent conductor of heat which makes a boiler a fairly efficient method for space heating.

But to get the most out of your boiler you need to know how to maintain one properly. That’s what this tip is all about. We’ll be looking at some of the most important tasks involved with the maintenance of a hot water boiler. We’ll look at both things you can do yourself and maintenance tasks that will most likely require professional assistance. Read on to learn all about boilers and some tips on how to maintain one so that it stays in top-notch working conditions, lowering the risk of repairs needed and increasing energy efficiency.

Give the Pipes a Check

Radiant heating systems known as boilers are comprised of three distinct parts: the boiler itself, the radiators in the rooms of the house that transfer the heat, and the pipes that connect the boiler to the radiators and allow the flow of hot water throughout the home. Because the system is so simple and compact, a serious problem in any of these three components means the whole system is going to be compromised. So it’s always a good idea to start your boiler maintenance routine with a thorough examination of the pipes.

You can examine your piping for any potential problems just with your eyes. Begin by checking your radiators and the pipes surrounding them for any cracks or leaks. Even a small drip could become a big problem if not taken care of. Next, examine the pipes around your boiler for similar issues. Be careful not to touch any hot water pipes. It would be very prudent and highly recommended that you replace any problematic pipes right away, or else your heating system will not be able to sustain the pressure required to warm your home. This could mean that you’ll be out of warmth for a while and you’ll be in need of more costly repairs if the pipes become busted. Better replace them now when the issue is small and contained. This will of course require the help of a professional Austin heater repair technician.

Bleed Your Radiators

This is an aspect of boiler maintenance many people aren’t aware of but it is in fact necessary if you want to keep your boiler system healthy and efficient. This process isn’t as daunting as it sounds. And it is necessary to ensure the proper flow of water through the system. This applies to systems that use standing radiators or baseboard radiators. The most important thing to remember before you begin is that if you try to bleed a radiator while the system is in use, the water that comes out will be hot and therefore dangerous. Also, if there is air in the system it may blow the water around a bit so just keep that in mind and proceed with some caution.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to locate all of the bleed valves in your system. If your system is a base-board system you will have to open the door on the front of the end piece to find the valve. If the valence on the front of the radiator is too long you may have to pull off that piece as well. The valves on the baseboard systems are generally located where the pipe comes through the floor. The valve on a standing radiator is usually on the top at the end. Take note of the type of tool that will be necessary to open the bleed valve. Some valves use valves that are opened with a straight-edge screwdriver. Some use a square fitting that requires a radiator key.

Now you’re going to want to start on the radiator that is farthest away from the boiler. If your house has a second floor, start there. Place something under the spout: the amount of space available around the spout will dictate how big a container you use. If there seems to be no room, a piece of air hose from a fish tank sometimes works. Remember, the objective is to get the air out, not run out huge amounts of water. Using either a radiator key or a small screwdriver, turn the screw until air and/or water starts to run out. Leave the valve open until you get only water.

Close the valve and then go to the next radiator in the sequence, working your way back towards the boiler. When you have done them all, go back to the one you bled first and bleed it again. If you get only water, you're done. If not, repeat the process. This is an excellent maintenance routine for making sure the radiators in your home are in working condition. If you find one of your radiators is not getting hot or not heating up as fast as the others, this is the first go-to troubleshooting task you should do.

Check the Boiler Pressure

This step is best done right after you bleed your radiators and before you turn the boiler back on. It is important that the water pressure in your boiler is neither too high nor too low. To reiterate, you should do this step before you turn the boiler on since the temperature of the system will affect its pressure.

Go over to your boiler and open the service panel on the unit. You should see a gauge for temperature and a gauge for pressure. The boiler should be at 12 psi when the water is cold and 18 psi when the water is hot. If the pressure is below 12 psi while cold, you need to add some water to the system. Next, you want to locate the cold water pipe entering your boiler. To increase the pressure, slowly turn the valve controlling that pipe. Watch the pressure gauge, and when it hits 12 psi, close the valve.

If you do accidentally leave the valve opens and the system becomes over-pressurized (usually around 25 psi), there is a pressure relief valve that will open so that the system will not break. However, this will result in gallons of water being dumped onto your floor, so it is highly recommended that you check twice to make sure the valve is closed before you turn the boiler on.

On the other hand, if your system has too high of pressure (over 15 psi while cold), you need to relieve it. Connect a hose to or place a bucket under the boiler’s drain and open the valve until enough water has been removed. Again, keep an eye on the pressure gauge and do not leave the system draining unsupervised.

Cleaning the Combustion Chamber

This next step will involve some cleaning but it is better left to a professional as there are risks involved. It is important that the combustion chamber of your boiler is clean if high efficiency and low chance of disarray is to be maintained. The combustion chamber is the part of the boiler that makes the whole thing possible. It is where the water is heated and then sent throughout the system. If too much grime builds up in the combustion chamber, it won’t perform as efficiently. Cleaning out this part of the system is dangerous because it deals with gas, oil, and fire, so it’s best to have an Austin heating specialist come out to perform the maintenance every few years. This will be a routine part of any boiler maintenance check.

Quick Maintenance Tips

To close out our list of boiler maintenance tips we’re going to go over some of the easier things you can do routinely to ensure proper maintenance of your boiler.

Make sure the flame in your boiler’s combustion chamber is the proper color. The flame in your boiler should be a strong, clear blue. If it appears yellow or smoky, there could be something wrong and you should call a professional immediately.

Remove clutter and especially flammable objects from the space that the boiler is in. Regardless of what part of the house the boiler is in, there should be some free space around it. Don’t store any clothes, blankets, newspapers, or other flammable materials in the vicinity of the boiler unless you want to pose a dangerous fire risk.

Run your boiler even during the warmer months just for a few minutes to keep it in shape. Boilers can seize up if they are not used regularly. Experts, therefore, recommend that you turn on the heating for ten or fifteen minutes every so often during the summer months, just to keep the boiler ticking over.

Boiler Maintenance Tips and Heating Repair in Austin

If you have an older house then there’s a solid chance you may be dealing with a boiler as your main source of heat in the winter. This means you’ll need to be aware of the things that will be required to keep your boiler working smoothly throughout the years. Hopefully thanks to this tip of the day you have an idea of the kinds of maintenance tasks that will be required to keep your boiler healthy and efficient.

Of course, the most important step when it comes to maintaining a boiler is making sure you schedule a preventative maintenance visit with a reputable Austin heating service every year. AC Express does heater repair in Austin and the areas around, from Buda and Kyle to Leander and Liberty Hill. If you ever need help with your heating in Austin, don’t hesitate, call today!