To most homeowners that have a house that is heated with a boiler, the thought of looking at their system can seem very intimidating. There are several steps that even the most timid person can attempt, these will help the heating system run efficiently, while saving dollars for the homeowner.
Always remember to be safe, call a trusted technician to look at your system if your are uncomfortable with any of these steps. Have the room with the boiler well lit or carry a flashlight, and watch your head, there are always some low hanging pipes that are waiting to hit your head.
First take a look at your thermostat. Most models that are over 10 years old or are the mercury type will probably be at least several degrees off. This will make the heater run longer and stay off longer than desired. The heating system will have to run considerably harder, raising utility costs. It is best to install a digital thermostat, they are much more accurate, and very easy to set. The digital programmable models are better, but not necessary.
If your home has cast iron radiators or baseboards, you will want to check if they are completely filled with water. You will need a radiator key, which are available at home centers and plumbing supply houses, to open the radiators or baseboards. If only air comes out with no water, you will need to add water, some systems are equipped with an auto fill water valve to aid in “bleeding” the system of air. If there is no auto fill valve you will have to manually fill the system. This is where you may need a professional, the piping on most boiler systems can be confusing. Radiators that are not filled with water are working at less than capacity, which translates to more utilities wasted.
If your home has copper fin baseboards then the same holds true, they must be filled with water. A professional usually must “purge” the air from the heat system.
You must keep all radiators and baseboards clear of obstructions, do not cover them with things that will not allow air to flow around them. The key to keeping them emitting heat is to have the air circulate around them, letting the heat flow into the room. Radiators that have covers over them are fine, but the front of them can not be blocked.
Look at your boiler, a visual inspection is worth the few minutes it takes to look over the heater. Turn the thermostat on so the system will run, you will want to view the heater as it operates. Some problems with boilers are in plain sight, such as leaks, an odd sounding circulator motor or an odd odor. If you notice any thing that does not seem right, call a professional to have them look at the problem. Many homeowners have missed an issue with their boiler, simply because they did not inspect the system at the beginning of the heating season, thereby wasting money on extra utilities and usually an even larger repair bill.
These few steps will bring the efficiency up on your boiler and help you to maintain it year after year. Always have a professional look at any issue that you do not feel comfortable with, and for any major repairs. Also you should have a carbon monoxide detector in your residence, place it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
With a regular check up, your boiler will have a longer life, run much better, and if there is a problem it can be fixed early on thus avoiding a major expense.
Good luck and happy heating.