Shorter days and falling temperatures mean it's time to prepare your boiler system for use. As long as your system was functioning properly at the end of last season, this should be a simple, but important process.
There are simple steps to ensure your system is safe and prepared to keep you warm this winter.
4 Critical Steps to Maintain Your Boiler
Inspect the area. Many boiler systems are located in areas that double as storage spaces. If this is the case, make sure there's nothing near the boiler. Flammable items such as cardboard boxes are especially dangerous and must be removed. Also, make sure nothing is blocking the air intakes.
Inspect the burner. With the system open, check the burner components for signs of damage. Look for cracks and other signs of wear, and check moving parts to ensure they move freely.
Inspect insulation. Check the pipes to ensure the insulation is intact. This applies especially to outdoor pipes such as condensate pipes. Worn or missing insulation can lead to frozen pipes when you need your boiler system the most. You can find insulation tape at home centers, which you can use to repair minor damage.
Clean/replace filters. Dirty filters prevent efficient operation and can lead to overheating. If your boiler system uses disposable fiberglass filters, the best option is to replace them. If it uses electrostatic filters, use a vacuum to remove the largest particles and then wipe with a damp cloth.
Clean around the fireside. If during your inspection you notice a buildup of soot and other debris near the fireside, use a vacuum to clean the area. While you're there, check the gaskets to make sure they're in place and that they've not become brittle.
Bleed radiators. If you have a radiator system, make sure all air is bled from the lines. Air in the lines makes the radiators less efficient. A common sign that air is present in the line is a radiator that is hot at the bottom and cooler up top.
Listen: When you first turn on your boiler, you'll probably hear some creaks and pops as the parts warm up. Once the system is at operating temperature, listen for knocks and clangs that don't sound normal. If you detect a problem, consult a technician for a more in-depth inspection.
Smell: Your nose is another excellent tool for identifying boiler problems. Once the accumulated dust has burned off, there should be very little detectable smell. There should not be anything that smells burned. If this is the case, turn the system off and consult a professional.
Inspect: Check the boiler's flame to ensure it's the proper blue color. If the flame appears yellow or smoky, there's a problem. Several things can cause this and the system will need to be inspected by a professional technician.
Any home that uses fossil fuels should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that quickly becomes deadly should your boiler system develop a problem. At a minimum, there should be a detector near all sleeping areas. To catch problems early, install a detector near the boiler itself. Part of your boiler maintenance and preparation should include checking each detector for operation and replacing the batteries.
Taking these steps should be all that's required to ensure your boiler is ready to operate safely and efficiently. If you have any doubts or identify any problems, consult an HVAC specialist to perform a complete inspection and service.
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