Get Your Boiler Ready for Winter

With winter encroaching on our summer fun as every day passes, now is the time to check the heating system and make sure that we are all prepared for the snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures that are soon to become our reality. If you have a boiler system, you have special steps that you must take to properly care for your type of system.

Testing the boiler

Clean out the boiler room-

No matter where your boiler is located in your home, the space should be kept impeccably clean. This room should not be used for storage unless it happens to be fairly large, and the boiler can have a good 4 feet of space between it and anything else. You should sweep out the area to keep any dust or debris away from the boiler fan or pilot light. Dust can clog up these parts and cause system failure. If the pilot is blocked you are risking a gas leak. Also by keeping the area clear, you will be able to see if there are any leaks in the tank while there is still time before a fire or explosion.

Bleed the radiators-

Over time, a boiler will have a buildup of air in the system. This is easily removed if you know how to bleed the radiators. You will need to locate the bleed valve and allow it to empty. Once water begins to come out instead of air, the radiator has been successfully bled. If you have never done this before, I recommend that you have a professional do it first and pay attention to the process so that you can repeat it as necessary throughout the season.

Check the air pressure-

Before winter hits and all through the season, you should periodically check the air pressures in the expansion tank. A healthy pressure should be anywhere between 12 and 15 pounds per square inch. If it is high you need to ease the pressure by turning the release valve. If high or low pressure problems continue, you should have a professional boiler technician look at the system.

Prevent pipe freezing-

When the temperature drops low enough outside, it is possible that your pipes will freeze. This is something that can destroy your heating system and cost hundreds in repair costs. So, it is important to protect your home. The first thing to do would be to insulate any pipes that carry water. In the case of a boiler that is a lot of the system. You can purchase pipe insulation at any hardware store, or you could use newspaper or plastic as a more economical option. Also, the big mistake that is often made is leaving the home for a long period of time with the boiler turned off. The last thing you want to do is come home after a vacation and have to deal with a radiator that has exploded due to a pipe freeze. To prevent this, simply leave the unit running but keep it at a lower temperature.

Test CO detectors-

Carbon monoxide is an odorless killer, and it can escape from your boiler without any forewarning, and it can seep into the air you breathe if there is a crack in the heat exchanger. There is usually a barrier between the household air and the CO filled air formed in the boiler. But, this barrier can become cracked or damaged if the unit is old or poorly cared for. To prevent the unthinkable from happening, it is imperative to you and your family’s safety to check the CO detectors prior to operating the boiler.

Check the Thermostat-

Based on the type of thermostat that you own, this step could vary from person to person. As a universal rule, if your thermostat runs on batteries, you should replace them. It is recommended that you change them at least once a year even if they still have power left in them. Programmable thermostats have the ability to adjust temperature based on the time of day. A well programmed thermostat can save you cash by running the unit less often. This is a good time to adjust the program to fit your winter calendar. For most people, this means a lot more time spent indoors when compared to the summer.

Get a Tune-up-

Since dirty is no friend to your boiler system, it is important that you have the unit checked and cleaned on a yearly basis. This will not only protect the unit from unwanted repairs but also help it to run as efficiently as possible. However, this is not something you should do on your own. You should hire a certified boiler technician to clean the unit. This way you can have the peace of mind that the job was done right. Many companies also offer a guarantee that the unit will run more efficiently and therefore save you money when compared to a system that hasn’t been cleaned. The steps may change from company to company, but these should be the main components of a certified boiler tune-up:

  • Inspect flue and diverter
  • Clean interior vestibule
  • Clean pilot assembly
  • Adjust pilot
  • Check thermocouple
  • Clean burners
  • Adjust burners
  • Check hot water tank
  • Check gas valve operation
  • Test for gas leaks
  • Check thermostat contacts
  • Check heat anticipator
  • Check safety devices
  • Oil circulating pump
  • Check limit control
  • Inspect heat exchanger for leaks
  • Inspect combustion chamber
  • Check aqua stat
  • Check gauge or sight glass
  • Check expansion tank
  • Check and secure all panels
  • Check low water cut off
  • Check wiring
  • Check noise and vibration levels
  • Check for combustible materials around boiler
  • Check for combustion air
  • Make final operations test and advise improvements

Once this has been completed and your boiler is as healthy as it can be, you are ready for the winter to begin. It is the little things you do now that prevent the big things from happening later.


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