Boiler Troubleshooting Problems for Hydronic Heating Systems - Troubleshooting boiler problems will depend on what the problem is with boiler. The scope of this article will cover the basic boiler problems that can occur with a boiler and troubleshooting the basic problems with the boiler. Many of these problems will require the attention of a professional boiler technician many of which are available at either your local plumbing contractor or HVAC contractor. 

Boiler systems from one boiler to another are usually unique and various boilers systems can be very complex all the way from the boiler itself all the way through the near boiler piping and the boiler water loop. We will break down the boiler problems and boiler troubleshooting into sections from the boiler itself all the way to the loop and into groups from hot water boilers to steam boilers.

This article for troubleshooting boiler problems is not comprehensive but covers the basics. Other articles here in the boiler category of High Performance HVAC covers other problems that can occur with boilers so check our other articles for boiler troubleshooting and information.

Boiler Troubleshooting Problems for Hydronic Heating Systems - Steam Boiler Problems

Boiler Troubleshooting Problems for Hydronic Heating Systems

One of the biggest problems with steam boilers that is the cause of complaints is water hammer in the pipes. Water hammer with a steam boiler occurs when cool water meets hot steam. When water changes to steam it expands 1600 times in volume so when the cool water hits the hot steam there is an expansion at the cooler water expands as it becomes steam. The reason for the complaints is when you have water hammer in a steam boiler it sounds like someone is taking a hammer and beating on the steam pipes. Some people grow accustomed to water hammer and learn to ignore the noise the pipes makes. Water hammer can occur because the boiler is over-sized for the load or the condensation is not draining back to the Hartford loop properly. The solution to fixing the problem with a steam boiler that is suffering from water hammer needs the attention of a professional who specializes in steam boilers. This can be difficult in some areas as steam boilers are becoming a thing of the past for heating systems as they are not that efficient. Slowly the steam boiler is being replaced by hot water boilers and other sources of heating systems such as gas furnaces and heat pumps. If you have a problem with your steam boiler call plumbing contractors and HVAC contractors and ask specifically for a technician who is a specialist with troubleshooting steam boiler problems.

Boiler Troubleshooting Problems for Hydronic Heating Systems – Circulator Pumps

On older boiler systems that have circulator pumps that have couplings the most common problems is the couplings breaking which results in a loss of the hot water circulating through the water loop. The solution is to replace the coupling with a new coupling to restore water flow to the boiler loop. It is important to make sure that the circulator pump bearing assembling and the pump motor has the proper lubrication and is free and moving before replacing the coupling. If the bearing assembly is seized up or difficult to turn it is likely if you replace the broken coupling with a new coupling the new coupling will break also. Many of these types of circulator pumps have a specific way to lubricate the bearing assembling and the pump motor.

Newer boiler systems use cartridge type circulator pumps that are direct drive with the impeller of the circulator pump and the cartridge type circulator pumps eliminate the coupling and have less moving parts so there are less problems with the cartridge type circulator pumps.  Cartridge type circulator pumps typically do not require any maintenance including lubrication however always check to make sure your particular circulator does not require periodic maintenance including lubrication. Problems that can occur with any type of circulator pump including cartridge type or the circulator pump with bearing assemblies and couplings can be the motor run capacitor. Some run capacitors for some boiler circulator motors are proprietary and can only be purchased from the boiler circulator pump manufacturer or a manufacturer distributor. If the circulator motor quits running or runs slower than normal then the capacitor should be checked for proper rating which is rated in microfarads. If the capacitor is replaced the microfarad rating should be the same as the one replaced for proper functioning of the circulator motor.

Boiler Troubleshooting Problems for Hydronic Heating Systems - Air Problems with Hot Water Boiler Loops

Another big problem that can happen with hot water boiler systems is air getting into the water loop and causing a blockage of the water circulating through the boiler water loop. This happens with poor piping designs, poor air management control component functioning, or improperly flushing the system after a repair is made. With the piping design, the risers on the piping should have a way to bleed the air from the riser with either automatic air bleeders or manual air bleeders. Additionally piping design should including proper valves and boiler drains on the near boiler piping to allow for proper flushing of the boiler loop especially after a repair is made. Proper isolation valves in the near boiler piping supply and return help with flushing the loop of all the air and refilling the loop. If the boiler loop utilizes radiators or convectors then it is important that the radiators and convectors have air bleeders to get rid of air in the system that will slowly build up over time at the boiler uses make up water. There are special air management controls that can be added to the system where the makeup water enters the boiler loop to eliminate excess air in the system.It is important to make sure all the components in the hot water boiler systems including automatic air vents function properly so that the air is removed automatically when it develops in the hot water boiler loop system.

Please see the boiler expansion tank page for specifics about troubleshooting problems with expansion tanks.

Other Problems with Boilers and Troubleshooting

Oil boilers can have problems with the oil burner system and gas boilers can have a problem with the gas system. Troubleshooting these specific problems can be found on the furnaces pages as they are not in the scope of this article which is specific to troubleshooting boiler problems.

To learn more about hydronics and HVAC click here.

High Performance HVAC

Boiler Troubleshooting Problems for Hydronic Heating Systems

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