Your Residential Boiler: 4 Issues You Might Encounter

The idea behind a residential boiler is simple. Water flows into the system and is heated by natural gas, electricity, or oil. Next, the heated water produces steam. This steam is directed throughout your home to warm the air. The idea may be simple, but your boiler doesn’t always work that way, and potential problems can arise.

Watch for these common boiler problems and learn why each occurs and how to fix it.

  1. Boiler Is Not Producing Heat

What happens when your boiler isn’t producing heat in the dead of winter? Boilers are known for their dependability and because the system has a handful of components, pinpointing the issue is often simple. Here are a few common reasons why a boiler stops producing heat:

  • Air in heating pipes. Excessive air in the pipes prevents water and steam from circulating properly. If there is no steam, there is no heat.
  • Inadequate water in the system. Boilers require water to produce steam and if the intake valve or a pipe is leaking or burst, no steam or heat will be produced.
  • Damaged circulator pump. Circulator pumps move the hot water from the boiler tank to the radiators throughout your home. If it is faulty or damaged, the radiators will not produce heat.
  • Faulty thermostat. Check the thermostat to ensure it is on, set to heat, or the batteries aren’t dead. The thermostat might simply be old and broken.

Check the boiler’s pilot light to see if it is on. A faulty pilot light, bad thermocouple, issues with the natural gas supply, or a strong gust of wind can put out the fire. Contact a professional to relight the pilot and determine the reason why it went out this time or has gone out in the past.

  1. Peculiar Banging, Knocking, and Gurgling

Unlike traditional HVAC systems, boilers make very little noise. Any noise you do hear comes directly from the boiler itself, which is typically in the basement. Listen for two distinct noises, gurgling and banging or rumbling, as these are signs of potential problems.

Gurgling noises typically occur when air bubbles are in the pipes. Excessive air in the pipes is often accompanied by uneven heating or worse, the boiler won’t produce heat at all. Bleeding the pipes is the only solution to this problem and it is a chore best left to the professionals.

Banging, rumbling, or knocking noises are caused by an issue called kettling. Minerals found in hard water create deposits on the boiler pipe’s inner walls. Eventually, the buildup will prevent or slow down water that is flowing through the heat exchanger. The water evaporates inside the pipes and causes pressure. The rumbling or knocking sound occurs when the pressure hits the heat exchanger.

Contact an HVAC technician and turn off the boiler immediately, if you hear the banging and rumbling noises associated with kettling. This is a serious issue that must be addressed right away to avoid serious damage to the unit.

  1. Drips and Leaks

Your boiler cannot work without water, but you should never see drips or leaks coming from any part of the system. Here are a few of the most common reasons why your boiler is leaking:

  • Faulty temperature valve. A broken temperature valve or probe causes the heat to rise inside the boiler, which in turn can cause condensation and leaking.
  • Damage and rust. Leaking water from corroded or damaged spots must be repaired immediately. If the damage is localized to a valve or pipe, that component is easily replaced by a professional.
  • High boiler pressure. Hard water buildup or a faulty pressure valve causes the boiler pressure to rise. The pressure release valve is triggered and releases steam and water to prevent boiler damage.

Improperly maintained or installed pipes or pipe fittings can leak as well. Whatever the cause of your leak, it should be verified and repaired by a professional HVAC technician.

  1. Low Boiler Pressure

Maintaining optimum boiler pressure is critical. If the pressure is too high, serious damage to the boiler can occur. Low boiler pressure isn’t dangerous, but it does impact the boiler’s efficiency. Check the boiler’s pressure gauge, which is on the main basement unit. Most modern boilers feature a gauge with two numbers, one and two. When pressure falls below the number one, it is too low.

Leaking water, damage to the boiler tank, and recently-bled radiators are a few causes of low boiler pressure. Re-pressurizing your boiler is a chore best left to the professionals. This is a sensitive process that is too complicated for most homeowners to tackle on their own.

Your residential boiler is a straightforward appliance, but it can still have problems. If you have any further questions or if your boiler isn’t providing you with steady, efficient heat, contact the professionals at Ragan Mechanical


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