Thanksgiving Disaster Prevention

Happy Thanksgiving from Boulden BrothersThanksgiving is here!  A great holiday filled with food, family, and fellowship but a lot of preparation work goes into a great Thanksgiving celebration every year.  The warmth of good food, a clean home, and welcome warmth from the cold outside all work in concert for an amazing occasion. Unfortunately, the dread of an oncoming disaster can add unneeded stress to an otherwise great celebration.

Holiday problems aren’t always nice enough to wait until after your guests have had their fill and gone home.  Problems may strike both before and during your party.  While you can’t prepare yourself for all of them, there are a few really simple things you can do to ensure that your party is ready to deal with major issues before they arrive.

Proper Plumbing Care and Maintenance

It never fails; every year at Thanksgiving Boulden Brothers gets an astounding number of service calls for clogged drains.  It’s usually not for the reasons you might think.  Clogged toilets area common occurrence, but not by any more of a margin than normal.  For one thing, they’re easy to prevent.  Many of the problems we see with toilets every year are due to improper use of low-flow toilets.  You should never flush anything other than human waste or toilet paper.  Other items, even wet-wipes labeled “flushable” have a high chance of clogging your drains.  If you want to prevent a disaster scenario before it ever starts, be careful of what gets flushed.

But caution shouldn’t end there.  You see, the largest number of calls we receive around Thanksgiving aren’t for clogged toilets or sewer lines, they’re for clogged sinks.  In the couple of days leading up to and through Thanksgiving, the call volume we receive for help with clogged drains is higher than at any other point in the year.  Bad drain habits are to blame for this.

People, especially those with a garbage disposal, tend to treat their kitchen sinks as a waste basket for cleaning up kitchen scraps.  But this mistreatment leaves many of them with clogged or smelly drains, usually just in time to be a problem.

  • Never pour fats, cooking oil, or excess grease down your drain.  They’re liquids while cooking but they congeal and solidify in your pipes quickly.
  • Fibrous and starchy foods, such as peels or turkey skins, can hang or collect inside your drains in much the same way that hair does in any other drain.  Stringy items like these should be thrown away with regular trash or composted outdoors.
  • Make sure that your disposal, if you’re using one, is running before you start pushing non-fatty or stringy food down into it.  Filling it full and then turning it on is a great way to break your disposal before Thanksgiving even starts.

What to Do for Clogged Thanksgiving Drains

Do not fix a clogged sink drain, especially one with a disposal, using liquid decloggers or solvents.  While these work for hair traps and some other issues, they are not rated for foods and oils which have been flushed down the sink.  To solve these clogs, use a plumbing snake to clear the clog.  If You’re unfamiliar with how to use a snake, or you don’t own one and simply want a fast-fix before the party starts, call your friends at Boulden Brothers.  We do answer many of these calls and we’ll get your drain flowing freely in no time at all.

Happy Thanksgiving from Boulden Brothers!

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

How Does Geothermal Heating Work?

How does geothermal heating workAs a kid years and years ago I read about geothermal power in a work of science fiction.  The idea that clean, free energy existed under the ground without massive refineries, smokestacks, or nuclear plants seemed very futuristic.  A short while later I learned that actual electrical power production using geothermal energy has been possible since the early 1900s, and continues to be used in geothermal hotspots around the world.  But when we talk about geothermal heating and cooling in your home, we aren’t talking about the production of power, just a method to regulate temperatures.  The principle is the same either way, and it’s just as amazing and clean as it was so many decades ago.

How it Works

The core of the Earth is hot, hot enough that it’s mostly molten metal and rock.  Tectonic friction and extreme pressures generate an amazing amount of heat, warming the Earth from inside.  In addition to this, the ground is an exceptional insulator, resisting changes in energy fairly well.  During the summer, the ground just below the surface is warmed and sees little variation in temperature throughout the seasons.  When you move down to about 30 feet, there is almost no change in temperature year round.

By pushing water beneath the surface into this relatively temperate zone, heat energy can be collected and piped back up into the home where a water radiator warms the entire home.  As an added benefit, this same heating system generates enough heat to act as the hot water system for your home.  All of this is made possible using an electric pump that replaces the refrigerants, compressors, and furnace fuels used in traditional heating and cooling.

Another version of the geothermal system uses an aquifer.  This underground source of water is usually deep enough for the water to already be temperature regulated.  Water from the aquifer is pumped up into the home where it is only used for heating (the water never leaves the radiator pipes) before it is returned to the aquifer.  This kind of heating doesn’t deplete the aquifer and no water needs to be filled into the system before it can begin working.

In short, a geothermal heating and cooling system uses water as a way to move heat into a home during the winter and a way to remove heat from a home during the summer.

Benefits Over Traditional Furnaces

When all is said and done, the goal is to regulate temperature in the home.  So is a geothermal system actually better than a more traditional forced air furnace?  While there’s never a catch-all system that’s right for everyone, a geothermal system is usually more energy efficient than a forced air or fueled system.  Geothermal heating systems also double as cooling systems during the summer, which makes them a total replacement for a typical HVAC system and putting them on par with reversible heat pumps as well (though again, they are more energy efficient BTU to BTU).

A few other ways where a geothermal system is more beneficial:

  • Some systems can be built completely vertical, using very little area
  • Water isn’t expended within the system
  • Zero carbon emissions at the home
  • Also heats your running water
  • No toxic refrigerants are used
  • No external fuel needed

In the interest of fairness, the drawbacks to this system are in installation costs and work.  If your home isn’t already equipped with a geothermal system, the excavation can take out a sizeable part of your yard (which will take time to restore to normal).  The lawn will regrow but the excavation and installation costs can be extreme.  If you’re building a new house or looking for ways to save on energy in the long run, it’s a worthwhile expenditure.

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Outdoor Security Lighting

Outdoor lighting has been steadily increasing in popularity. People love to have the ability to showcase their home while also getting the benefit of additional home security.

If you want to maximize the security benefit you get out of your outdoor lighting, the first thing you have to do is survey your immediate premises. Take a good look at the house, the landscaping, perimeter, interior, and surrounding areas. Then make a note of any security concerns you have.

From there, you’ll be able to come up with a list of improvements. It could be something like adding a motion light over your garage door. If people walk outside by your garage area during the nighttime, a light will show you exactly what’s going on. Maybe you need a light in the backyard, or maybe you want to keep varmints out of your garden. The system could detect the motion from rabbits or deer and turn on the light to scare them away.

There are a lot of considerations that you can make to improve your home’s security. You might want to make sure there was adequate lighting at the front door so it would be intimidating for intruders. A spotlight right on someone nefarious would make them think twice before doing anything they’re not supposed to.

We know that most burglars and thieves don’t want to be in the spotlight. They’ll seek out a dark, isolated area of the home where they feel more comfortable. A motion detector in those areas might be a handy way to alert yourself and the neighbors that someone’s there. You might also want to use a photocell that detects when it gets dark. If not, you could set the lights to a timer to accomplish something similar.

All of these considerations may be tough for you to figure out for yourself. That’s why you should contact Boulden Brothers online or by phone. We’ll make a recommendation based on your home’s unique needs. Remember, the Boulden Brothers electricians have years of experience, whether it’s installing security lights or outdoor landscaping lights.

We look at each home on an individual basis and decide the best way to get both power and lighting installed. There’s no doubt that the best place to look when you have a project like this in mind is with Boulden Brothers. We’ll give you the information that you need to make a good decision. That way, you’ll end up feeling more secure with an excellent security lighting system for your home.

Lower Heating Costs Using a Humidifier

Higher humidity can reduce heating costsDuring the summer months, high humidity is terribly annoying.  When it’s hot and humid outside, everything feels sticky, it’s difficult to use the touch screen on a phone, and it makes keeping one’s hair in order practically impossible.  The combination of heat and humidity can be miserable, causing temperatures to feel even hotter than normal.  So why then would anyone recommend adding a humidifier to your heating system for the winter months?  Because a simple humidifier is an effective method to solving many of the problems faced by you and your friends throughout the colder months of the year.

Dry Air from Heating

Most central air systems are standardized to deliver both heating and cooling.  During the summer, the cooling action of an HVAC system dehumidifies the air.  This drops the relative temperature and dries out the air to a comfortable level.  In the winter, the furnace (or in some cases, reversible heat pump) has a similar effect on the air in your home.  When the air is heated, it also dries out.  While dry air is a benefit in summer, it’s actually a problem when the temperature outside drops.

Dry air on its own comes with a host of problems.  It makes the air colder, but we’ll address that in a moment.  The drier air also increases static electricity (compounded by the fact that heavier fabrics, synthetics, and sweaters come out of the closet to fight the cold) which, while an annoyance to humans, can be dangerous to sensitive electronics and will surprise your pets when they walk up for a petting.  Finally, it dries out your skin.  Staying warm in winter is usually accompanied by the curse of chapped lips, dry eyes, and flaking or cracking skin.  To some, it’s a worthwhile trade off, but to others it means a winter filled with creams, lotions, and eye drops.

Dry Air:

  • Colder Temperatures
  • Static Electricity
  • Dry Skin

How do you resolve this problem?  Add a little moisture back into the air after it’s been heated.  Increasing the relative humidity of your home makes it difficult for water to evaporate, decreasing how quickly your skin will dry out.  The increase in humidity will also decrease static electricity (but your favorite sweater will probably still give you enough of a jolt to surprise friends).

Humidity and Relative Temperature

The title of this post mentions lowering heating costs and we mentioned that dry air feels colder, if it’s not evident now how a humidifier can save you on heating costs, allow us to explain.  It takes energy to turn water into a vapor.  When water evaporates from a surface, it takes heat energy for it to turn into a vapor.  This heat energy usually comes from the surface itself, lowering the temperature of the object.  Evaporation is one of the major ways our bodies keep us cool during the summer (and why a cool breeze is so refreshing).  As the level of humidity in the ambient air increases, less water can evaporate to fill the water saturated air, stymieing the cooling process.

humidifier heat indexPut simply, adding water to the air (humidifying) makes it difficult for the same air to cool off occupants in the room.  The room feels warmer than it actually is because we already generate heat and it becomes harder for our bodies to cool in humid air.  This difference can be quit drastic in fact, as you can see on this chart from HowStuffWorks.  It’s recommended that the best balance of humidity, year round, is about 45%.  At this level of humidity, problems with mold growth are minimal and the setting you pick for your thermostat is closer to that actual value.  You’ll be able to leave your thermostat at a lower setting, saving you on energy costs and operation time.


A home humidifier, built directly into your ventilation system, can make your home more comfortable in the winter.  These devices are often cheaper than the extra five-degrees of warmth that comes from setting your thermostat higher, saving you money and saving energy overall.  If you have any other questions, or want a humidifier installed before things start to get really cold this year, just call Boulden Brothers.  We’ll be glad to come out and help you.

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Water Softeners

Water softeners do a great job of removing hardness from water. They’ll even remove iron if it’s present in a low enough concentration. All salt-based water softeners operate under a very simple principle called ion exchange. A resin in the softener removes calcium and magnesium from the water. It then uses salt to periodically flush the accumulated hardness from the resin. It’s a tried and true technology that’s stood the test of time.

There are non-salt options, but I believe that they’re better classified as a descaler. There’s no doubt that descalers work differently from a salt water softener. They do not remove calcium and magnesium from the water. Instead, there’s a change to the chemical makeup of the calcium and magnesium so they don’t adhere to each other and result in scale buildup. Since those two chemicals are still present in the water, a dropper test to determine hardness will show no difference. There are, however, many manufacturers of tankless water heaters that require the use of descalers in hard water areas.

When it comes to standard salt water softeners, I don’t think you can say that one system works better than another if it’s using the same resin. (Remember, resin is the media that removes the hardness from the water.) There are, however, decisions that need to be made that can influence how well the system will work. The size of the system is one factor that makes a difference in this regard.

You don’t want to base the size of the unit on the number of people in the household. Let’s say you’re an empty nester and you have a very large four-bathroom house but only two people living in it. If you were to sell the home to a new owner who has three or four kids, they’re going to run into trouble. You really have to size for the home, not for the number of occupants.

The next decision you’ll have to make is how often the system will regenerate. It can regenerate based off of a timer or you can have it metered, which means that it will only regenerate itself when a certain number of gallons have passed through the system. In some rare cases, homes might have a manually regenerated system. (We don’t see them being used anymore.) Metered systems will probably end up saving salt because a timer based system will regenerate at a set time regardless of how much water you’ve used. Even if you’re on vacation and haven’t used any water at all, the timer will still go off.

It doesn’t make any sense to install a water softener only in the kitchen sink. Calcium and magnesium aren’t harmful to you. You’re removing them because they add scaling or hardness to your piping, water heater, and fixtures. Hard water is an aesthetic issue and it also reduces the life of your plumbing components. Additionally, soft water uses half as much soap as hard water to get the same job done. You would stand to benefit the most if your entire house had soft water. Think about how much money you would save each year if you cut your laundry detergent use in half.

Once you get a water softener installed in your home, maintenance is fairly straightforward. The salt needs to be replaced periodically. The system will also need to be cleaned occasionally depending on the quality of the incoming water. If properly maintained, hardness or iron won’t build up excessively in the unit.

If you want to find out if your home will benefit from a water softener, contact us online or give us a call today. We’ll send a Boulden Brothers technician to your home to test the water for hardness, iron, pH (acidity), and chlorine levels. If you have a concern that bacteria may be in the water, a test must be run in a state approved lab. We can help you get through that process as well.

Install Low Flow Fixtures and Save On Water

Save on water costs with low flow fixturesUnless you have a large lawn, your water bill isn’t usually the focus of concern when bills come due.  Even then, reducing the cost each month from how much water you use doesn’t just improve your standard of living, it helps with local water conservation efforts.  One of the simplest methods for reducing water use just requires a little time and some initial investment.  Low flow fixtures reduce your water use without changing your lifestyle or habits (you can work on changing those to increase the savings if you want).

How Low Flow Fixtures Work

The goal of a low flow fixture is to reduce water used without sacrificing the benefits you’re used to (e.g. high pressure shower heads).  To do this, multiple technologies have been developed that reduce the amount of water throughout your home or at the fixture itself.  In short, different fixtures use a combination of stream control, aeration, pressure adjustment, or simply giving a water flow rate option for each use.

Laminar-Flow Faucets – Rather than increasing the pressure with a more powerful pump (increasing the amount of water used per second), laminar-flow faucets adjust the shape of the water stream to maintain pressure with less water.  For shower heads, this usually means a pressure of 80 pounds per square inch with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less.  Laminar flow systems leave you with a clear stream of 100% water.

Aeration Systems – You can also maintain the pressure in a line while using less water by replacing it with air.  Aeration systems either use a sprayer or air pressurizer to add air into your water line.  This is done either by fixture design (at the fixture) or in a pressure manifold before water is pushed out to faucets.  By adding air into the line, the pressure level is maintained with less water flowing out.

Half-flush Toilets – For waste disposal, these toilets have two different options.  Liquid waste requires easily half the water of a traditional flush toilet, so half-flush toilets use two options.  The first uses less water for liquid waste while the full-flush option deals with solid waste.  Throughout the day, less water is used without any drastic change in flow rate.

Pressure Assisted Toilet – Most toilets use some form of pressure to clear the bowl.  This buildup of pressure requires extra water.  Low flow toilets use pressurized air instead.  It’s a trade off because the pressurization is very noisy, but they use roughly 45% less water than a traditional toilet.  For many the trade-off is worth it.

Gravity Assisted Toilets – As an alternative, gravity flush toilets simply use gravity to aid in flushing.  Their much quieter but require some initial pumping to get the potential energy necessary for a full flush.  Either way, both pressure assisted and gravity assisted toilets are more efficient than traditional toilets.

Most of these options require a professional plumber to install, but they typically reach a full return on the investment within a year.  If you don’t like the bill you’ve been receiving on your water bill, try upgrading to low flow fixtures.

If you need any assistance with installation or repair of low flow fixtures (or any plumbing fixture or appliance), don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Boulden Brothers plumbing!

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.


Repiping Your Home

When it comes to repiping a home, the quality and experience of the plumber are critical. Repiping a home isn’t something that most homeowners will ever have to deal with. It means that there’s been a critical failure in the home’s pipe materials. For example, it could have been a plastic pipe that deteriorated over time or a metal pipe that has corroded due to the water quality.

You’re basically starting from scratch when a plumber is replacing your home’s pipes. The difference is, when the pipes were installed during the home’s construction, there wasn’t any insulation or drywall hindering the process. Now, the plumber has to use their knowledge and experience to determine the best way to go about getting the job done. They have to consider the least intrusive way to replace the pipes so that the cost and inconvenience are minimized.

The entire repiping process will likely take about two to three days, depending on the size of the house. Some parts of the home are easier to repipe as well. For example, the first floor may be relatively easy if the home has a full basement or crawlspace. It would be fairly straightforward to get water up to the kitchen sink or hall bathroom/toilet. There also might not be much drywall that would need to be replaced.

When water needs to be transported to a second story, that’s when it’s a bit more challenging. Drywall might have to be cut so the pipes can be put in place. Otherwise, there might be a way to get water to the attic and then bring it down to the second floor. It really requires a plumber with extensive experience and expertise to make sure the job is done in an ideal manner. A good plumber will adhere to code, make sure that the same problem will not occur again in the future, and minimize the amount of work it takes to repair the home after the repipe is complete.

It should go without saying that the job needs to be done by a qualified professional. If an amateur or inexperienced plumber attempted to repipe a home, you could end up with disastrous consequences. The greatest threat to doing a job like this by yourself is doing something incorrectly. All of a sudden, a leak that springs up while you’re away will end up dumping up to 50 gallons a minute of water right into your home.

Unfortunately, most homeowner insurance claims are for water damage. Doing the job on your own means that you’re relying on your homeowner’s insurance as your only option. When a licensed insured plumber does the job, you’ll have their insurance to fall back on if there’s a problem. That’s why it just makes more sense to hire a qualified professional to get the job done right.

The repiping process might even be an opportunity to make some improvements. If the home is very old, it probably won’t have all the safeties required by current code. Once the house is repiped to today’s standards, you’ll know that an experienced plumber is meeting today’s safety codes. An amateur likely won’t be aware of proper code, so they won’t put valves, expansion tanks, or other components that could be crucial when it comes to protecting the home.

If a home needs to be repiped, Boulden Brothers will look at each case individually and decide what’s in the best interest of the homeowner. Is it best to do an isolated repipe for just one bathroom that’s having a problem, or should the whole home be redone? Which pipe material (metal or plastic, for example) would be best? We’ll answer all those questions for you, explain exactly what needs to be done, and keep you informed every step of the way. The most crucial step is being adequately prepared in advance.

To get started with repiping, contact us online or give us a call today.

What Does BTU Stand For?

What Does BTU MeanThe short answer is that the British Thermal Unit (BTU) a standard of measurement for work done.  A single BTU is the amount of work required for raising the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.  This is equal to roughly 1,055 joules.  Science mostly uses the joule as the standard unit for work, but BTUs are still used to rate heaters, air conditioners, power generation, and propane systems.  Any furnace or HVAC unit you have installed will be listed in terms of BTUs.  In fact, the price of propane is measured in relation to BTUs.  Propane gas is sold based on the current cost of a single therm (100,000 BTUs).

How Many BTUs Does My Furnace Need?

Similar to how using an air conditioner that is too large or too small for your home will put a strain on the unit, the same goes for your furnace.  To heat your home properly, a furnace uses thousands of BTUs.  A large system may cycle irregularly, decreasing efficiency, while a small unit cannot adequately heat your home.

The best way to ensure the most efficient BTU rating for your furnace is to get a professional evaluation.  Heating professionals and contractors use multiple load calculations to determine exactly how much work a system will need to do to properly regulate your home’s temperature.  The simplest calculation is:

BTUs per Square Foot x Square Footage of Home = BTU Output Needed

The average BTU output you need is based on the climate.  Cooler climates will naturally need a higher BTU rate for heating in the winter than warmer climates.  For residents of our home city, Newark, Delaware, a BTU rating of 40-45 per square foot is roughly optimal.  Of course, our techs here at Boulden Brothers can help you identify the most efficient system for your home.

Of course, a similar measurement can be done to estimate cooling needed for your home during the summer. has an excellent guide on selecting BTU capacity for cooling, and for measuring non-rectangular rooms.

How Does This Help Me?

Knowing how many BTUs your home needs for heating or cooling can guide your future decisions.  If you’ve noticed that your home doesn’t heat properly in the winter, a quick check for the BTU output of your furnace can help identify that as the source of the problem.  Rather than paying for inspections and repairs, you can schedule a replacement to a more efficient or higher output model.

If you’re planning to upgrade your home with a new addition, you can estimate how powerful of a central heating and air unit you’ll need in the future.  You might be fine with your current unit, but adding another 500 square feet of space may put too high a strain on your existing system.  You can incorporate the cost of a new central system into the new space, or search for a better solution.  Either way, if you call Boulden Brothers for help we’ll be glad to offer assistance.


If you have any further questions on how to maintain your HVAC system, talk to the licensed, trained technicians at Boulden Brothers.

Visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+ for more useful information and advice.

You can reach us at (302) 368-3848 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all your plumbing, electric, propane, and HVAC needs.

What is SEER?

If you’re thinking about purchasing a new HVAC system, it’s important to pay attention to the SEER. Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) is a mathematical equation to determine the efficiency of the system. The EPA has mandated that the southern half of the country, including Delaware, adhere to a minimum of 14 SEER. (There are fewer total cooling hours further north so they have different requirements.)

If you compare a 14 SEER unit to a 28 SEER unit which is at the very high end of efficiency, the 28 SEER unit requires half the operating cost. In other words, the efficiency rating scales linearly. Even though the 28 SEER unit is incredibly efficient, you probably won’t see a savings over the lifespan of the equipment. Of course, this really depends on your unique use case. You’ll have to spend a bit of time figuring out whether the higher efficiency rating will end up saving you money in the long run.

There are some cases where it does make sense to use higher efficiency equipment. It’s a good idea to install a unit with a higher SEER if your house uses air conditioning very often. If it’s a summer home or a situation where the air conditioner isn’t used as often, you’ll have to weigh the cost/benefit. Is the cost of the more efficient equipment going to be offset by the long-term benefit in electricity savings? Don’t worry about figuring it out all by yourself. That’s what we’re here for.

Boulden Brothers will be able to explain what the SEER means for your particular use case. We’ll tell you how much the equipment will cost and how the price factors into the energy savings over the life of the system. We’ll help you make an educated financial decision about which efficiency would be best for your home and living patterns. Remember, a second home that’s used four weekends a year needs a different kind of unit than a primary residence that’s being cooled all summer long.

Here’s how we figure out the numbers: A three ton 36,000 BTU system divided by 14 SEER would equal to 2571 watts/hour. A three ton system divided by 16 SEER would equal to 2250 watts/hour. That’s a difference of 220 watts/hour. We can multiply that number by the cost per kilowatt in your area to figure out the annual operating savings based on how you use your system.

When it comes to gas furnaces, the math is similar but we use a different kind of calculation for efficiency. Gas furnaces don’t use SEER. We instead look at the efficiency by calculating how many BTUs are actually going into the ductwork to heat your home and how many BTUs are going out your chimney as waste. When a system is 90% efficient, for every 90 BTUs that are heating your home, 10 BTUs are going out the chimney.

If you’re weighing your options about the ideal HVAC system for your home, give Boulden Brothers a call or contact us online. We’ll walk you through the process and give you all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Top 10 Boiler Problems

10 most common boiler problemsIf you use a boiler to heat and cool your home, you probably don’t give it much thought throughout the year.  Your boiler heats both your home and your water, but the extra load for home heating in the winter is when it’s most likely to fail or develop problems.  If you have the chance, get your boiler inspected and maintained before the harsher weather sets in.  A properly maintained furnace can be fixed before problems develop, putting less wear on the system overall.

This winter, here are the 10 most common problems your boiler is likely to face:

  1. Banging, Whistling, Gurgling

Cause:  Air in the system is usually the cause of strange banging or whistling noises from your boiler (though low pressure and kettling can also be at fault).  A pump failure will generate many strange noises of its own.

Fixes:  Bleed your radiator or get a power flush of the pipes.  This should remove excess air from the system.  If noises are still an issue, call a qualified technician to look at the pump or boiler itself.

  1. Kettling

Cause: Lime scale buildup within the boiler or its piping.  The most obvious sign is strange noises (gurgling, rumbling, whistling) coming from the pipes.

Fixes:  Flushing the pipes should remove the buildup.  If the noises continue, consult a professional.

  1. Boiler Keeps Turning Off

Cause:  Unfortunately, many issues can cause your boiler to shut off regularly.  Low water pressure, thermostat problems, air and water mis-circulation, or a closed water valve can cause your boiler to shut off.

Fixes: Call your water utility company to see if work is going on in the area, it could explain the lower water pressure.  Check to see if any valves necessary for your boiler’s operation are partially or completely closed.

  1. Radiator Doesn’t Heat

Causes:  If your radiator won’t heat, or stays warm at the bottom and cold at the top, it could be due to air in the system or rust buildup within the pipes.  A pump circulation issue may also be to blame if hot water is not reaching the top of the radiator.

Fixes:  Once again, bleeding the system is your best chance of cleaning out excess air if that’s the issue.  Otherwise, you may need a power flush to clean out the rust.  At worst, a technician is necessary to fix the pump if that’s what’s preventing water from flowing through your radiator.

  1. Thermostat Inaccuracy

Causes:  An aging or broken thermostat can become inaccurate or completely non-functional.  This leads to excessively hot water or a lack of boiler operation depending on how the thermostat is malfunctioning.

Fixes:  First, you should make sure that your thermostat is operating.  If the clock and timer is set correctly, and the thermostat is powered, then you may need to replace it instead.

  1. Pressure loss

Causes:  If you’re seeing a heavy pressure loss within your boiler system it could be due to a water leak or a broken relief valve.

Fixes:  If the problem is solely a loss of pressure over time, following your manual’s re-pressurization procedure could fix the issue.  Otherwise, you should get a professional technician to take a look at the boiler.

  1. Frozen Condensate Pipe

Causes:  If you have a condensate pipe (a PVC pipe that runs out of the home to remove excess condensed water), it can sometimes freeze as it moves outside.  When this pipe is frozen, that water builds up in the boiler and can drip or flood out when too much is collected.

Fixes:  It is highly recommended that you hire a professional to fix this issue.  However, if you know where the frozen portion of the pipe is, you can attempt to thaw it out using hot water or a heat wrap.

  1. No Heat or Hot Water

Causes:  Usually a major system issue such as an arrested airlock, damaged diaphragm, or messed-up motor valve.  Smaller issues such as a damaged thermostat or low water pressure can also be an issue.

Fixes:  Call a licensed technician to inspect and repair the boiler.  Boulden Brothers would be glad to help get your heating and hot water back in order in a timely manner.

  1. Pilot Light Goes Out

Causes:  Your pilot light extinguishes when fuel is absent or something actively snuffs it out.  This can be caused by a thermocouple issue or a draft within the pilot light enclosure.

Fixes:  Regardless of the cause, this is best left to a professional.

  1. Pipe Leaks

Causes:  Depends entirely on where the leak is.  Degradation of the pipes due to rust, or simply age can cause leaks.

Fixes:  Consult a professional plumber or boiler technician to find the cause of the problem and stop it.

If you have any further questions about your boiler or how it works, talk to the licensed, trained technicians at Boulden Brothers.

Visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+ or give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for more information or to schedule a repair for your boiler. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.