Fall is quickly approaching, and with fall comes the need to add heat to our homes. Because of its history, Boston has a large variety of home heating systems, including both hot water heating systems and steam boilers. Like other types of heating systems, hot water heat systems can range in efficiency from plain inefficient to highly efficient. Good system maintenance and hot water heating system inspections in Boston can help keep a high efficiency system operating at its peak, and poor maintenance practices can cause a high efficiency system to lose 25% or more of its potential.
This post will deal with hot water heating systems and what should be included in an inspection. In my next post, I’ll discuss steam heating systems and a proper inspection for those types of heating plants.
First, I think it’s important to discuss the difference between hot water heat and steam heat. A hot water system (also called a “hydronic” system) does have a boiler, but the method of distributing heat is what distinguishes a hydronic heat system from a steam boiler. A hydronic heat system has a “heating boiler” that is usually fired by gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LP) or heating oil. The system may or may not include a tank for water storage.
Generally, an inspection should include examination of all heating system components; the fuel source and its controls; the distribution system for the hot water; and the controls and safety devices that regulate the operation of the system and the heat that is generated. Boiler inspections should be conducted annually since boiler-based heating systems require regular maintenance.
The safety inspection should include an examination of all components of the fuel supply, as well as an inspection of the chimney or system vents. Debris should be removed to ensure safe system operation.
Boilers can be made from a number of materials including copper, cast iron and steel. If the boiler, tank and heating coil show signs of leaking, significant rust or corrosion, a replacement of the entire system may be required. Routine maintenance can help keep the mechanicals in good shape. Also, limiting the amount of moisture in the basement by using a dehumidifier, keeping gutters and downspouts clean, making sure floor drains are working, and making sure your sump pump (if you have one) is operational can also prolong the life of the system.
Boiler inspections should indicate – among other things – that the boiler is heating to the correct temperature; the pressure inside the tank (if the system has one) is safely limited by relief valves; all system valves are opening and closing fully; the expansion tank is in good order; the thermostat is properly sensing temperature and controlling the system operation accordingly; the pump is working properly; and exhaust gases are being directed into the chimney or exhaust vent.
The distribution system should also be checked for leaks and signs of corrosion, and all distribution valves should be checked to ensure that they’re in good working order.
Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can assist with boiler inspections, boiler maintenance and repairs of all kinds. If you would like more information about our boiler inspection and maintenance services, or would like to schedule an inspection, please contact us at (617) 288-2911.
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