Boilers are remarkably sturdy systems, and are among the most long-lived heating units. There are boilers still in use today that are over a century old, passed down from generation to generation. Still, boilers are not invincible, and part of helping them to live so long is regular maintenance. That includes knowing when your boiler is in need of repairs. Let’s take a look at some of the warning signs that you need to have your boiler repaired.
A boiler is said to be “kettling” when it produces a deep rumbling noise during operation, like a giant kettle boiling. This may seem counter-intuitive, but most boilers are not meant to actually boil water. Instead, they heat water to a point just under boiling, then distribute it. The reason this is done is that boiling water produces large amounts of steam, which expands exponentially and creates large amounts of pressure.
When the heat exchanger in the boiler becomes blocked, often by mineral deposits in hard water, water flow becomes restricted and boils in the pipe. The steam buildup quickly reaches dangerous levels, putting an immense amount of pressure on the pipe. That’s what causes the rumbling sound. Most modern boilers have safety measures in place to shut the boiler down before any pipes can rupture. Even so, if you hear your boiler kettling you should call a professional as soon as possible.
As with any hydronic system, leaking is never a good sign. There are a couple of common causes for leaking in a boiler system, including faulty valves and pipe connections. If your boiler has been kettling, it’s possible that your heat exchanger has sprung a leak, which is a very big problem. Without expert knowledge, it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to identify the cause of the leak on your own. If you can, see if you can follow the leak back to its source. If not, simply call a professional and let him or her do it. Regardless, a boiler leak is not something that should be ignored.