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Diagnosing The Loss Of Heat From A Residential Heating Boiler

by Russell Lowe

Radiant heat from a residential heating boiler is usually delivered to multiple rooms. Warmth from the heated water is emitted from a radiator or an exposed section of piping in each room. If heat becomes unavailable in one or more areas, the boiler heating system can be examined to determine a possible cause of the problem.

Residential boiler heating entails a network of water pipes. The typical heating appliance in each room is a horizontal unit attached along the baseboard of a wall. The heating unit consists of a section of pipe enclosed in radiating fins to assist in the dissipation of heat. Because of the protective cover over the baseboard unit, you may not immediately notice the lack of heat.

Zone heating

Each radiator or heating unit is designed to heat a specific zone. A room may have one or more individual heating zones. Each heating zone is likely controlled by its own thermostat. If a particular zone does not receive heat after you set the thermostat, additional steps are necessary to diagnose the problem.

Zone valves

Between each room heating unit and the boiler, there is usually a valve dedicated to that particular heating zone. The zone valves are likely located near the boiler and can be visually examined. Each zone valve should open when the associated zone thermostat indicates that heat is needed. Many zone valves have a manual switch on the valve that overrides the thermostat setting. The manual switch may allow you to direct heat the affected zone until a professional repair can be performed. If you have a lack of heat in more than one zone, the problem may lie with another system component.

System water leaks

Look around the boiler for water leaks. A boiler heating system contains a pressure relief valve that is designed to release water if the system water pressure becomes excessive. The system relies on the pressure tank to help maintain a consistent water pressure level, and failure of the tank can cause the valve to release water.

The pressure tank normally contains air in the upper portion of the tank. To test the pressure tank, use your hand and thump the side of the tank. The top of the tank should sound distinctly different than the bottom. If there is no difference in sound, the tank may be full of water. A professional repair is necessary if leaks are discovered or if the pressure tank is waterlogged.

The fins inside each baseboard heating unit can also be vacuumed periodically to remove dust and enhance heat dissipation. Contact a boiler repair technician for further assistance in repairing a residential boiler.