The Basics Of Hot Water Heating System Maintenance

Hydronics in a nutshell, need love too.

Hot water heating system maintenance begins with due diligence. Think of the boiler room as the heart of your home. This is the room in your house, be it in the basement or in the attic, or maybe your boiler is in a garage, wherever it may be it's pumping the life sustaining, comfort providing, cozy environment you've come to love.

So what happens when the heart stops? The answer is you'll freeze your butt off, your pipes could freeze, the family will get all upset at you, and you may allow permanent damage that could have been avoided with some simple maintenance practices.

Every homeowner should make it a point to get to know the systems that keep them warm and cool. Even if you always call a serviceman, knowing a few things about your system can mean saving some money and give you the piece of mind that the service is done well and complete.

Learn the components that make up your hot water heating system, what they do and the price they'll cost you if they fail,( most parts eventually do). Build a solid relationship with your serviceman or woman. It's important to have someone on hand you know you can trust.

Honeywell RTH7600D Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Amazon Price: $47.88 Buy Now
(price as of May 5, 2016)

Hot Water Heating Systems Explained

How it all works

Hydronic hot water heating is an assembly of components that collectively provide heating to a designated area or areas.

Usually the system will start with a hot water boiler. Piping is then run to radiation that's installed in the area or room being heated. This radiation is connected with a feed from the boiler, usually three quarter inch copper tubing or poly vinyl tubing.  A return pipe carries the water back to the boiler. This continuous loop raises the temp within the radiation which then in turn uses the convection process to heat the room.

If you have a one zone system, then you will have one loop and one thermostat that controls the temp in your home. If you have a multi zone system then you will have more then one loop and a thermostat for each zone. It may look more complicated then a single zone but it's really just the same thing again and again.

Hot water heating components are piped into the loop near the boiler. These may include circulator pumps, flow check valves, boiler drains and relief valves. Some systems contain a pump for each zone and some will have one pump and zone valves that open and close when each zone calls. The one thing that all of these components have in common is that they should all be visually inspected for leaks on a regular basis.

One of the most common causes of catastrophic system and boiler failure is neglecting to repair a small leak or leaks. Hot water heating systems have an automatic feeder that will replace the water as it leaks from the system. This type of heating runs on 12 to 25 pounds of pressure and when the pressure drops for any reason the automatic water feeder valve will replace the water with city water or well water until the set pressure is regained.

The big problem we have here is the feeder is also adding minerals and iron and magnesium and sulfur. All the things that eat metal. Hot water heating systems have cast iron parts that are meant to be used with distilled water in a closed system. After the system is initially filled, the water within the system distills rapidly and all of the impurities and minerals that attack metal fall to the bottom of the system and remain there where they won't do any damage.

Once a leak in the system occurs, the boiler and other parts of your system can begin to break down within days of new water automatically being added to the system. This explains why any leak detected in a hot water heating system should be repaired immediately.

Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation, Works with Alexa
Amazon Price: $249.00 $201.60 Buy Now
(price as of May 5, 2016)

Step By Step Check List For Your Hot Water Heating System

Hot water heating maintanence by the numbers.

Walk into the boiler room and face the boiler. The first thing we're looking for are any signs of water that would indicate a leak. Fixing any leaks in the system is the first and foremost task when maintaining a hot water heating system.

Hot water heating systems run under pressure. This pressure comes from the city water line or your well pump. An automatic water feeder valve maintains the pressure. What this means is any leaks will push water out constantly so they should be obvious.

If you find a leak on any component, you'll need to identify the part and find the right article in my library to fix the leak.

Normal maintenance does not include fixing leaks. Your looking for bad components, faulty parts that require service, we're doing this at least once a week during the heating season and say once a month the rest of the time.

#1  After we know the system is tight and nothing is leaking, we're going to check all the components for any signs of corrosion. This would indicate a past leak or a small leak that comes and goes.

#2 Turn all thermostats to high temp and watch the boiler operate. Spend a few minutes letting it come up to high temp and shut down. Observe the pumps coming on and any zone valves operating. Dust all electrical controls and wipe down the boiler and any surrounding piping. This will not only keep your boiler room dust free but also allow a better view at joints and potential leak locations.

#3 Oil any pumps that have oil spouts/tubes. This may include oil burner motors, circulate pumps or any other moving parts in your system. 3 in one oil or a similar lubricant is recommended.

#4 If you have a standing pilot gas boiler then you'll vacuum out the area where the burner is, in the base of the unit. If you have a newer high efficient gas unit, there will be nothing you can service within the burner. Clean out the cabinet and thats about it.

#5 If you have an oil system then you will need to service the oil burner and filter at the tank. I have another article specifically written to help you out with that task.

When you've finished this routine maintenance task you will sleep better knowing your hot water heating system maintenance is well in hand.

Lux TX9000TS Touch Screen Seven-Day Programmable Thermostat
Amazon Price: $138.00 Buy Now
(price as of May 5, 2016)
Lux WIN100 Heating & Cooling Programmable Outlet Thermostat
Amazon Price: $34.99 Buy Now
(price as of May 5, 2016)