Boilers produce clean, even heat, and having one in your Camp Verde, AZ home means having a truly efficient and cost-effective heating solution. However, when hydronic heating systems act up, they can be a little daunting to troubleshoot. Fortunately, with the five tips that follow, you can safely and successfully resolve a number of common issues.
1. Know the Difference Between Troubleshooting and Repairing Your Boiler
There are many good reasons to avoid do-it-yourself (DIY) boiler repairs, not the least of which is the risk of serious physical injury. The top four hazards of DIY boiler repairs are:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Severe skin burns
There’s also the fact that many DIY repairs can automatically void a boiler’s manufacturer’s warranty. Even minor mistakes during the repair process can result in complete heating system failure or lasting compliance issues.
So what is the difference between troubleshooting and repairing a boiler? Repairing is resolving a known problem that’s causing one or more symptoms by adjusting, replacing, or restoring major components. Comparatively, troubleshooting is largely exploratory in nature. It’s checking for correct settings and resolving minor issues without opening or tampering with either moving equipment or equipment that’s under high pressure. Troubleshooting entails very minimal risk and it won’t leave you without important warranty protections.
Knowing when to call a licensed heater repair company can spare you a lot of unnecessary spending and stress. It’s also important to note that according to the Industrial Commission of Arizona, performing certain DIY gas boiler repairs is actually illegal.
2. Inspect Your Thermostat and Thermostat Setting
The very first thing to check if your boiler won’t turn on or initiate a heating cycle is your thermostat. Homeowners often suspect that their boilers are having major functional or mechanical problems when the issue is simply an incorrect thermostat setting. Whether you accidentally adjusted your thermostat incorrectly or another building resident tampered with it, raising the temperature above the temperature of the room could solve the problem.
It’s also important to take a quick look at the thermostat’s location. This is especially true if you’ve recently replaced your window treatments or have added new heat-generating appliances to the area. If your thermostat is basking in the sunlight from an open curtain or sweltering in the residual heat from a nearby oven, it may register the room’s temperature as being a lot hotter than it really is. When this is the case, you can close your curtains or blinds or move the offending appliance sufficiently far away. For a more long-term solution, you’ll need to schedule an HVAC service and have the thermostat itself relocated.
3. Check the Breaker Box
Even gas-fired boilers need electricity. As such, these appliances are hard-wired into residential electrical systems. As with all other appliances that draw electrical power, they have the capacity to trip circuit breakers. Restarting your boiler and heating your home up could be as simple as flipping the right breaker switch. When circuit breakers are triggered, this is sometimes a sign of electrical overload. For instance, if you have too many devices, fixtures, and appliances on the same circuit, plugging them all in and turning them all on at once could demand more power than the circuit is rated for.
However, more often than not, boilers are installed on their own dedicated supply circuits to prevent this from happening. If yours is not, you may need to have your electrical system updated to keep the problem from recurring. If resetting the breaker turns your boiler on and it stays on, there’s nothing more to do. However, if the circuit breaker is rapidly triggered once more, leave it off and call a professional. There may be wiring or other electrical issues along the circuit that require immediate repair.
4. Check for Boiler “Sweat” and “Blood”
It sounds dramatic, but checking for boiler “sweat” and “blood” can also be an important part of troubleshooting. The development of these things is an indication of boiler leaks or serious pressure issues. Boilers sweat due to small, superficial holes within their pipes. These holes are so tiny that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Small imperfections within your boiler’s pipework are bound to develop over time due to frequently fluctuating temperature and pressure levels. In their later years, boilers may even develop superficial openings at damaged valves and seals.
When your boiler is on, you’ll see sweat-like beads of moisture on or around these components, and you may even find small puddles beneath them. If the amount of water that you’re finding is significant but there are no visible openings on your pipes and all accessible valves and seals are sufficiently tightened, this is sometimes referred to as boiler “blood”. It could indicate high-pressure issues or corrosion problems at the heat exchanger that are forcing water out through the system’s weakest points. In some instances, the best preventative strategy for this problem sounds exactly like the issue itself. Bleeding boilers or having professionals bleed them, releases trapped air bubbles to inhibit the progression of corrosion.
If your boiler is nearing the end of its lifespan and constantly sweats, there’s a good chance that it’s time for a boiler replacement. Conversely, if your boiler is “bleeding” or discharging more copious amounts of water, the problem may be solvable by tightening loose connections, replacing a single damaged pipe, or addressing issues at the heat exchanger. In all cases, it’s unsafe to attempt repairs on your own.
5. Check Your Boiler’s Temperature/Pressure Gauge
Boilers can have pressure and temperature problems without creating visible puddles of water. The best way to check for these is by reading their temperature/pressure (TP) gauges. This gauge should be a round dial at the very front of your boiler or within the unit’s control panel. Although TP gauges look a bit different from model to model, they all work the same. Temperature and pressure readings should always be below the red line or red zone and above the blue line or blue zone. If they aren’t, there may be problems with boilers’:
- Run capacitors
- Circulator pumps
- Circulator relays
- Circulator pump motors
Whenever temperature and pressure readings are outside of normal levels, schedule boiler repair service right away.
Bonus Tip: Check the Pilot Light
Some boilers have expected lifespans of just 15 years. However, many boilers can last 30 years or more if they’re properly sized, installed, and well-maintained throughout their service lives. While all new boilers have electronic ignition switches, older models have pilot lights. If you’ve never replaced the boiler in your home, there’s a good chance that it has a pilot light. Check to ensure that your boiler’s pilot is lit and look for draft-causing features that may have knocked it out. For instance, if your boiler is too near a door or drafty window, you may have frequent pilot light problems going forward. Absent of outside factors like these, pilot lights that won’t stay lit are often an indication of dirty or damaged thermocouples.
If your boiler has a pilot light, getting it to start and keeping it on could require little more than a clean or new thermocouple. However, boilers with electronic ignition switches are both safer and easier to maintain, and there are real benefits in swapping out outdated appliances for these more modern and advanced options.
Boiler Troubleshooting: Essential Tips for Smooth Operations
We’ve been serving Camp Verde, AZ since 1987. We offer first-rate heating, cooling, and plumbing services. We also provide air ducts, zone control systems, and indoor air quality solutions. If you need boiler repairs, contact Goettl's High Desert Mechanical today to schedule an appointment.