8 Reasons Your Boiler Could Fail

A sudden boiler failure often comes as a shock to homeowners, especially when it happens during the middle of winter. Unfortunately, homeowners often fail to notice the signs of impending boiler failure before it actually happens. By recognizing the following red flags, you’ll be able to take proactive steps towards maintaining or replacing your boiler before it breaks down.

Old Age

A quality boiler can last for a long time, but boilers aren’t meant to last forever. With the proper care and maintenance, a traditional gas boiler is designed to offer anywhere from 10 to 15 years of reliable service. Some boilers are able to last for 20 years or more through a combination of excellent maintenance and high-quality components.

Aging components can bring about a wide variety of boiler problems, which is why it’s important to have your boiler replaced once it’s exceeded its recommended lifespan. If you haven’t replaced your boiler within the past 10 years, then it may be time to seriously consider a newer, more energy-efficient replacement.

Thermostat Malfunction

Thermostat malfunctions are a relatively minor problem, but one with major consequences for your boiler. A faulty thermostat can prevent your boiler from turning on or shutting down properly. Thermostat failures can also lead to bad settings that leave your home too warm or too cold for its occupants. If you’re having problems with your boiler, the thermostat is usually one of the first components you’ll want a professional to check.

Igniter or Pilot Light Failure

Gas and oil-fired boilers rely on pilot lights and electronic igniters to fire up the main burner. Without the flame source or spark these components provide, you wouldn’t be able to use your boiler at all. So it’s no surprise when your boiler ends up being sidelined because the pilot light won’t stay lit or the igniter fails to function properly. Although these problems are relatively easy fixes, you may want to consider replacing your boiler if these problems also happen to be commonplace.

Circulator Pump Failure

The circulator pump plays a major role in delivering hot water to the radiators and baseboard heaters located throughout your home. Once it stops working, your boiler won’t be able to push the hot water it needs in order to function properly. While circulator pumps usually share the same life expectancy as the rest of the boiler, it’s not uncommon for them to fail prematurely due to defect or neglect. Common signs of circulator pump failure include constant leaks around joints and flanges and strange noises during operation. Although circulator pumps can be replaced separately, it’s a good opportunity to see if the rest of the boiler system is also in need of replacement.

Lime Scale Buildup

Lime scale and mineral deposits can build up inside the heat exchanger and other areas of your boiler. This buildup can severely restrict water flow unless it’s treated in a timely manner. Heavy lime scale buildup can also lead to “kettling,” a condition where the water inside the boiler boils and turns to steam, creating the same noises you’d hear from a tea kettle, but with serious consequences for your boiler.

Chronic Leaks

Water leaks are quite common with ailing boilers. Whenever there’s a water leak, it’s usually a sign that there is a potentially serious problem with your boiler. For instance, stress cracks and loose joints brought on by fatigue and old age can lead to water leaks. A malfunctioning pressure relief valve can also cause water leaks. It’s a good idea to have a boiler expert take a look at your unit at the first sign of trouble. This way, you’ll be able to repair or replace your boiler before any serious problems arise.

Poor or Nonexistent Maintenance

Ignoring the need for regularly scheduled maintenance can easily condemn your boiler to an early death. In fact, poor or nonexistent maintenance is one of the most common causes of boiler failure. A neglected boiler not only offers increased energy consumption and reduced performance, but it could also pose a serious threat to your household’s safety and well-being. An annual checkup performed by a seasoned professional can help extend the life of your boiler while ensuring your household’s safety. If your boiler has experienced constant failures due to neglect, then you’ll need to replace it with a newer and more reliable unit.

Poor Sizing

Many homeowners and a surprising number of contractors often believe that they are better off having too much capacity rather than risk having not enough. That’s how the vast majority of boilers — up to 85 percent, according to some experts — wind up being the wrong size, with many of those boilers being too large for the homes they’re installed in. Oversized boilers not only increase energy costs through wasted fuel, but they also have shorter lifespans due to a variety of mechanical issues. For instance, an oversized boiler may experience constant short-cycling problems, leading to excess condensation and eventual corrosion of the exhaust flue and other boiler components. Having trouble with your boiler? Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling offers comprehensive boiler service for homes throughout the Washington, D.C., area.