DIY Troubleshooting Tips on Boiler Issues

Published: 16th April 2010
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An HVAC professional with Virginia's Able Air-1, Inc., Aris Parviz says that a broken boiler doesn't necessarily mean an expensive service call. Here, he talks about what you can do to identify the source of your boiler problems before calling in the pros.

Today's boilers are more efficient and safer; however, they sometimes don't work properly. When your boiler's acting up, you can take a few simple steps to diagnose the problem youreself. Because most boilers involve three things that can pose safety risks to you and your family - gas, steam and very hot water.

The boiler makes noise.

Occasionally, boilers produce a "knocking" or "hammering" noise, which is usually caused by incorrect installation. This type of problem, unfortunately, will be difficult for the homeowner to diagnose and require a professional fix.

The boiler produces inadequate heat.

If the boiler is producing some -- but not enough -- heat, the problem is likely related to either low water pressure or mineral deposits in the system. In order to determine whether the boiler's water pressure is too low, you need to check the combination of temperature or pressure gauge. If the pressure is below 12 psi, water will need to be added to the tank. You can manually add water to the tank by opening the water feed valve until the pressure has reached 12 to 15 psi. If the problem is not related to low water pressure, mineral deposits may be in either the boiler or heat exchanger. In this case, you need to hire a professional to get the tank flushed.

The boiler doesn't produce heat.

When your boiler doesn't produce any heat, you can first determine whether or not there is power to the unit. For a boiler with a standing pilot light, you need to check if it's lit. If so, you can assume that gas is flowing to the unit. If not, check to see if the gas has been turned off. If the gas is flowing, you can attempt to re-light the pilot light. Usually, the manufacturer's instructions will be posted on the unit or nearby, so you must make sure to follow them exactly. If you're unable to re-light the pilot light yourself, you'll need to call in a contractor. If you have an electric boiler, check to see whether its circuit breaker is tripped or fuse is blown. If so, replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker.

If there is power to the boiler but heat is not being produced, check if the thermostat is in "heat" mode and has been set to the appropriate temperature. Try to adjust the thermostat slightly and see if the problem corrects itself. If it doesn't, air build-up in your heating system may be the culprit. Excess air may also cause some radiators to heat while others do not. You can release the air yourself using either a radiator key or flathead screwdriver. At the top of each radiator, there should be a small valve. Turn the valve ¼ turn counterclockwise to vent excess air from the system. Be sure to hold something underneath the valve as water will eventually begin to escape. Once the valve produces water, return it to its original position. Repeat the same process for every radiator in your home. If the system still does not produce heat, you'll need to get professional help.

With the compact and energy-efficient boilers AbleAir-1 installs, you can live more comfortably, save space and pay lower energy bills. Most of all, you can have the reassurance that your system is safe.

Aris Parviz is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find an HVAC contractor or more HVAC contractor articles at Yodle Consumer Guide.

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