Q: “Chuck, what should I do before I turn on my boiler for the season?” — Paul, Detroit, Mich. A: As we head into the heating season here in Michigan, it’s important to prepare your boiler for the winter season. Proper operation of your boiler is key not only for maximum efficiency, but also for safety. Proper boiler operation relies on three major components: the ignition system, the exhaust system, and the water system. Follow these checklists before you fire up your boiler for a long, cold winter.
For a standing pilot ignition system:
- Check and clean the thermocouple with steel wool or fine-grade sand cloth.
- Clean the burner tubes with a wire brush or steel wool.
- Vacuum the burner compartment to remove all dust and debris.
For electronic ignition:
- Check and clean the flame sensor with steel wool.
- Visually check the igniter for a good clean spark or the glow bar for a solid orange color to ensure ignition of gas.
As with any gas-fired equipment, be sure to have both a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in the close vicinity of the equipment. Carbon monoxide is odorless which makes it extremely dangerous and even deadly.
An obstructed exhaust system is a serious health hazard that can cause carbon monoxide to back up into your home. Obstruction may cause higher efficiency boilers to not fire at all.
- Check the chimney flue or exhaust piping to be sure it is clear and without obstruction. (During summer months, it is common for birds and other animals to make nests in piping.)
- If you have a cast-iron sectional boiler, it is also important to run a brush in between the sections to clean out soot buildup.
- Use a Shop-Vac to clean out the exhaust path.
Your system may be either hot water or steam. These tips apply to both types.
- Be sure that your water feed system is functional; check both manual and automatic operation. This component fills the system with water as needed. If it is not working properly, the boiler can overheat, causing serious damage.
- Drain and flush your system every year and keep the water as clean as possible. Specially formulated cleaners are available to add to the water to clean the inside of all your piping and radiators. (Buildup in the water system can cause gauges, safety devices, and valves to fail.)
- Be sure to check all safety devices as they are directly related to your boiler’s operation, help ensure your personal safety, and protect against equipment and property damage.
- Expansion tanks, pumps, and any other in-line water components should always be visually inspected and manually checked for proper operation.
You should always have your boiler checked and maintained by a qualified technician.
Proper maintenance is one of the things that’s often overlooked by homeowners, but it can help extend the life of the equipment, maintain maximum efficiency, protect your home from damage, and — most importantly — protect the safety of your family.
Lo About Chuck: Chuck has been a PVF industry icon for over 42 dog years. He has never been one to lie down on the job — he has done everything from fetching will call orders, to chasing down trucks to make sure his deliveries are on time. So, remember: If you’ve got a problem and you’re feeling stuck, don’t get discouraged, you can always ask Chuck!