Is Trouble Boiling? The Homeowner's Guide to Keeping a Boiler in Prime Condition

The Homeowner's Guide to Keeping a Boiler in Prime Condition
If you're tired of overspending on your monthly bill, then it might be time to test the health of your boiler.

Do you know how old your boiler is? Has it needed repairs recently? How long do boilers last? These are good questions to ask if you want a boiler in prime condition.

Boilers need regular check-ups and servicing if you expect to get the most life out of them. Maintaining your system can boost the energy efficiency of your house and save you money. Read on to learn about the average life of a boiler and whether it's time for a replacement.

Which Type of Boiler Do You Have?

If you're thinking about buying a new boiler system or repairing your current one, you should know which type you have. Different boiler systems need different parts to function at their best.

The best type of boiler for your home will vary depending on where you live and which fuel resources you have. The boiler type that works well with your home will maximize savings.

Electric Boilers

Electric boilers are common replacements for old boilers but less so in Alberta as our natural gas is relatively cheap. Electric boilers use power from the main house supply to heat elements in the boiler. When water passes over these heated elements, it's heated and then sent to its destination.

This type of boiler is safe because it doesn't burn fuel that might create carbon monoxide. An electric boiler is a great option because they are easy to service and maintain. They also fit easily within your home because they don't need bulky flumes or storage compartments.

Condensing Boilers

Condensing boilers are more energy-efficient and eco-friendly than older models. They work by sending hot gas through the heat exchanger to heat water.

While older models lose some of the heat they produce, condensing boilers work in a way that captures more of the heat generated from burning the gas. A second chamber warms up water with the remaining heat that comes back into the system. This means you consume less to do your heating which often appeals to those who are environmentally conscious.

Keep in mind that a condensing boiler needs an extra pipe to drain away condensed water. If there isn't an internal drain available, you'll need to install an external pipe.

Oil Boilers

Oil boilers are often used in homes with limited access to natural gas. They work like gas boilers but use oil to make hot water. Keep in mind that oil boilers will be less cost-friendly than other options.

Biomass Boilers

A biomass boiler uses fuel like logs, chips, or wood pellets to heat water. They're like oil boilers because they make a good option for homes without connections to gas. This type of boiler needs more space in your home. You'll also need to install a flume or chimney.

How Long Do Boilers Last?

Whatever shape your boiler is in, you're probably wondering how long it will last until it needs a replacement. As long as you take good care of your boiler, you won't need to buy a replacement for at least 10-15 years.

The best way to maximize the lifespan of your boiler? Scheduling regular maintenance is the easiest way to keep your boiler going.

You should schedule annual servicing for minor maintenance. Over the course of 12 months, your boiler works hard to give warmth to your home. This causes normal wear and tear that is easily managed if it doesn't build up.

Another good time to have a professional check for damage is when you move to a new house. You might not know when the previous homeowners last had their boiler serviced.

Sometimes it's an easy question to ask the estate agent. You can also hire a technician before you start unpacking so that you know it's ready to go.

When is the best time to schedule an annual service? Your boiler works the hardest in cold months, so it's a good idea to service your boiler in the Summer before the weather changes.

This is because technicians will be more available in Summer when the area's boilers aren't working as hard. It's also a good precautionary step to take so that you know your boiler is ready to go when the weather turns cold.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Boiler

Besides regular servicing, there are other ways to maintain your boiler and extend its life. You might not be a professional on the ins and outs of your system, but it's good to be aware of these maintenance techniques.

Bleeding the Radiators

Your radiators are an important part of your boiler's system. If they aren't working well, then it affects your boiler's ability and efficiency.

A simple way to help your radiators stay in shape is to bleed out excess air. Open the valve on your radiator to let out any trapped air. This helps the radiator heat up fully and keeps your boiler from having to work extra hard.

Power flushing

Is your boiler noisy? This might mean your radiators need power flushing. This cleaning technique flushes out debris and rust inside the heating system.

Power flushing requires special chemicals to deep clean your home's system. Have a technician do this job for you so that the debris buildup won't cause damage to your boiler. You should also consider installing a water softener to lower the amount of pipe buildup.

Clean Up Clutter

This is a simple task, but an effective one. If your radiators can't work properly, then your boiler can't do its job. Make sure your radiators have plenty of space and ventilation so that it doesn't cause problems for your boiler.

Check the Boiler Pressure

Your boiler's pressure is an important factor in its ability to work efficiently; pressure that is too high can cause major damage, and pressure that's too low makes your boiler work extra hard.

Check the boiler pressure gauge every two months to make sure it's at a good percentage. If the arrow is in the green, then it's working well.

Use Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Most boiler problems are obvious and easy to spot. If your boiler is faulty and producing carbon monoxide though, you may not notice until it's too late.

According to the ACEEE, there are new regulations to lower the number of hazardous air pollutants like carbon monoxide. You should install carbon monoxide detectors next to your boiler for safety purposes.

Beyond Repairs: Is It Time to Replace Your Boiler?

According to experts, it's time to replace your boiler if it's over 15 years old. Before you throw out the old and install something new though, you should look at other signs of boiler aging. Here are some telltale signs that you need a new boiler system.

1. Your Boiler Needs Repairs All the Time

Do you need a boiler repair every six months? If this is the case, then it's time to say goodbye to your old model and install a new one.

Boiler repairs can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you end up wasting. If your current system isn't energy-efficient, then the money you're spending on repairs won't help you in the long run. Instead of spending a few hundred dollars every six months to fix a dying boiler, invest that money into a new system that won't need repairs for a while.

2. Your Utility Bills Are Through the Roof

Do you fight over your electric bill in hopes of finding a cost-efficient solution? As boilers get older, they have to work harder and use more energy to do the same amount of work. In fact, scale buildup can make your boiler use about 7% more fuel to produce the same amount of heat.

What does this mean for your wallet? If your boiler is working 7% harder, then you're paying 7% more with each bill.

3. Your Boiler Is Burning Yellow

This is a major red flag that it's time to replace your boiler. If your boiler is burning gas and producing yellow flames instead of blue, then it's not burning correctly.

Why is this bad? Because those yellow flames may be putting carbon monoxide into the air. Even if it's not at lethal levels, low amounts of carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, nausea, and chest pain while higher concentrations can be deadly.

4. You're Cleaning Up Frequent Leaks

You'll likely see leaks as your boiler ages. It might be because of cracks in the body or because a valve needs replacing.

No matter the cause, you're looking at spending at least $200 for basic repairs. Complicated internal issues will cost even more. If leaks are a recurring issue for your boiler, then it's best if you replace the entire unit.

5. Your Current Boiler Rates Low

Does your current boiler fail today's energy efficiency standards? Today, manufacturers measure the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of boiler models to make sure they meet standards.

The Federal Trade Commission requires new boilers to show their AFUE rating so that homeowners can compare models. This is how you know if your boiler is good at turning energy into heat.

The rating scale goes from A-G and tells you how efficient your model is. A-rated boilers will have a 90% efficiency or higher. G-rated boilers will function at lower than 70% efficiency.

Inspect your boiler and find out what its rating is. If it rates low, then it's a good idea to replace it with a boiler that will work at maximum efficiency.

Think Ahead Before You Choose

Before you choose a new boiler, think about the cost of both the machine and the installation. It's a big investment, but if your boiler is working at 80% efficiency or less, you'll save money in the end.

Retrofitting Your Boiler

Instead of replacing, a money-saving option might be to retrofit your boiler. Retrofitting is when you upgrade parts of your current system so that it's more efficient.

This might be the more cost-efficient choice if your current boiler still has several years left. Older models that are in good working condition but don't meet the efficiency standards of new models can benefit from small upgrades.

Retrofitting your current boiler can maximize your home's efficiency while adding to the health of your boiler. It might be a good action to take if you're not quite ready for a new replacement but want to get more life out of your boiler.

The Cost of Replacement

The cost of a new boiler will vary between $3,000-$7,000 or more depending on what type you need. Biomass boilers and condensing boilers need extra parts installed into the house. Oil burners need regular oil purchases for fuel.

You'll also need to consider the efficiency of each type of boiler. Electric boilers have higher AFUE ratings because there's no energy loss through flues or chimneys. They use more electricity though, so some homeowners will prefer oil boilers or biomass boilers.

Don't let high boiler costs scare you away. Since you're only replacing it every 10-15 years, each new update will come with tech advancements and improved design. The new boiler that you get will be a major improvement and will save you money every month.

Getting the Job Done

Another cost to consider is regular servicing to keep your boiler working at its best. Every boiler will have an internal buildup that slows down its efficiency. This means you'll need to service your boiler for regular cleanups and repairs.

Those who skimp on servicing will usually get hit with very costly repairs later on due to the neglect of their boiler.

Find a trustworthy servicing company that can guarantee your boiler is installed properly. Our team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing Edmonton is here to help you have the best experience every time your heating system needs help.

Get the Most Life out of Your Boiler

The boiler is a vital part of every home because it produces heat that you need every day. The average life of a boiler is 15 years when it's taken care of well.

Remember to schedule annual servicing and stay aware of damages. The answer to "How long do boilers last?" is easy when you know how to clean and maintain your boiler.

Want to talk to a professional about repairs or replacements? Contact our friendly team today and request a job estimate right away.