Preventing and Dealing with Common Boiler Issues in Winter

cold woman wrapped up in blanket on couch

There’s never a good time for your boiler to quit on you, but the worst time may be when winter is knocking at the door. Inconvenient though it may be, this is one of the most common times for boilers to break down. After it’s been more or less inactive through the summer and fall, it tends to balk when forced to wake up. 

How to Get Your Boiler Ready for the Winter

You can save yourself the inconvenience and discomfort of a boiler breakdown by looking for telltale signs of wear and tear during the warmer months. However, the most important thing to remember is boiler maintenance is not a job for the DIY enthusiast. It takes a trained professional like the HVAC technicians at Holtzople to complete a full assessment, confirm findings, and address any issues that may be preventing effective operation. No matter how comfortable you feel with general home maintenance and repair, this is a job for trained professionals—and we’re particularly proud of our staff, voted the Best of Frederick multiple times over the years. 

Here are just a few things you can do to make sure your boiler will run efficiently when it matters:

Check for Warning Signs:

  • Inspect for Any Leaking

If there’s a leak, you may have a faulty pressure valve or pump seal. If it’s around your system’s pipes, it may be caused by pipe corrosion. In either case, have a leak looked at as soon as possible.

  • Listen for Unusual Sounds

Banging or gurgling sounds can often be the soundtrack for an impending boiler breakdown. You may have air in the system or low water pressure. If you hear a whistling sound similar to what a tea kettle makes when it starts to boil, you could have lime scale build-up. A trained professional can flush the boiler to fix this problem before it leads to a total breakdown. 

  • Check Your Boiler’s Pressure Gauge 

Low pressure in your boiler can be the result of many factors. For example, oxidation can affect pressure in your boiler, as can a particulate buildup on the inside of fire tubes. Oxidation and chemical water treatments can also be implemented to help to reduce build-up, but should only be performed by a qualified professional on the correct schedule specified by the manufacturer.

  • Check Your Boiler’s Open Flame

Take a look at your boiler’s flame. It should be clear blue. If it looks yellow or smoky, contact us immediately. Discoloration could mean you have an underlying issue that needs to be investigated and addressed without delay.

These are just a few of the things our team can help you investigate and address to be sure your boiler is running efficiently as winter descends. However, not every common problem can be foreseen and fixed in advance. Should something go awry, our team is standing by to assist. Many of our customers opt for membership in our Comfort Club to be sure they always receive priority service and our best rates.

Common Winter Boiler Issues 

No Heat or Hot Water

Say you wake up on a cold December morning and the house is frosty. You head in for a hot shower and all you get is an icy blast of water. No heat. No hot water. Could mechanical failure be the cause? Definitely. These boiler components are most likely to need replacement:

  • The circulator pump, the device that moves hot water through your household’s radiators and then back to the boiler to reheat the water so the cycle can begin again, may stop completely or have an issue. For example, if it’s running hot, it may be overheating. 
  • The ignitor—the device that lights the boiler—could be malfunctioning. 
  • There could be an issue with the boiler’s pilot valve assembly or a blockage in the vent pipes. 
  • The relay switch may not be operating correctly. 

Intermittent Shutdowns

Does your boiler keep shutting down? Do you hear a bubbling sound coming from the pipes? The problem may either be frozen pipes or a buildup of condensation causing a blockage in the lines. Any pipe issue needs to be addressed immediately by professionals who can assess and make repairs, and possibly insulate the pipes to help prevent them from freezing in the future. 

Cold Radiators

Your radiators are working, but are parts of them not heating properly? This is likely caused by either air trapped in the system or a build-up of particulate matter. If your radiators are cold at the top, having them “bled” by a professional will often release any trapped air. Should the lower part of the radiators be cold, however, your issue is likely a build-up of sludge—which means you’ll need a professional power flush to clear the blockage.

Your boiler is the foundation of one of the most important systems in your household. It represents a significant investment and is absolutely key to your family’s comfort. One of the wisest things you can do is talk to us about putting a planned service agreement in place to protect the life of your equipment, help avoid system failures, and ensure the best possible response and rate whenever you need us. Contact us today!