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Anyone who has ever trudged through the snow knows the sweet relief of slipping into a warm and cozy home. While the last few winters in Baltimore have been relatively mild (all things considered), many of us remember 2016’s Winter Storm Jonas that dumped some two feet of snow across Baltimore and the entire northeast. With winter right around the corner, now is the time to check that your home’s heating systems are working properly. And for a lot of us, that means a boiler tune-up.

What is a boiler? And how does it work?

Commonly found in many older homes, a water boiler is a versatile piece of equipment that serves a variety of heating purposes, from warming the domestic water used in a home’s sink or shower to powering comprehensive hydronic systems that heat the home. And in some cases, it even does both.

boiler diagram

Combination (or combi) boilers offer both space and water heating through one efficient appliance. In the same way a water heater provides hot water on-demand, the same can be said for a combi boiler as it transfers heat from warmed boiler water to domestic water until the desired temperature is reached.

When it comes to space heating, there are also two separate ways these powerful appliances can operate. The first is by heating and circulating water throughout a series of pipes that connect to baseboard heaters or radiant floor loops. The other is by creating steam that travels through a similar series of pipes to heat the home.

Most boilers operate as part of what’s called a closed-loop system. That means that after the water or steam has been circulated throughout the house, it cools again, and returns to the boiler to repeat the process as directed by the thermostat. 

Common problems you might experience with your boiler

There’s a reason why boilers have been in existence for decades: They tend to work well. However, like all equipment, they can break down—and when they do, it can leave you in an uncomfortable spot with a chilly home.

There are a handful of problems homeowners might notice after firing up their boilers for the first time. The most common, and perhaps the most frustrating, is when the boiler simply doesn’t heat. Several different issues might be in play when examining why a boiler won’t heat correctly, including low pressure and a faulty thermostat.

Another of the most common problems we see is leaking. Boiler leaks are usually caused by a malfunctioning valve or seal, though corrosion of the pipes can also be the culprit. In the coldest months, it’s also possible for the boiler’s condensation pipe to freeze, causing a clog and the boiler to break down. Other problems you may experience with your boiler include a buildup of sludge called kettling, the boiler turning itself off, unusually loud noises coming from the boiler, and issues with the thermostat.

Preventive maintenance on a boiler

The most effective way to ensure your boiler works properly when you need it the most is by completing proactive maintenance with an annual boiler tune-up with Prime Plumbing. There are seven essential steps that should take place during this appointment:

  1. Our technician will first perform a visual inspection of the boiler and associated piping.
  2. Next, they will disconnect the burner and clean/vacuum the burner area to rid it of any debris.
  3. Oil any circulators that are present.
  4. Verify that all safety devices are working properly.
  5. Drain, fill, and bleed the piping system of air for proper circulation.
  6. Drain and refill any overhead expansion tanks.
  7. Lastly, the tech will turn on, test, and verify that the boiler is working optimally. 

Prime Plumbing can handle your boiler tune-up

As with a lot of equipment right now, the parts needed to fix some of the most common boiler problems are experiencing prolonged shipping times due to nationwide shortages. That’s why you should consider scheduling a boiler tune-up with Prime as soon as possible. If the weather turns and your boiler fails, it could take time to get the correct parts. We are offering a $99 boiler tune-up that includes all seven steps outlined above on natural gas and propane boilers (we don’t currently service oil burners). By being proactive with your boiler maintenance, you can be sure that your home stays nice and toasty all winter long.

And remember: Save time, call Prime!