Steam heating systems are some of the most energy-efficient home warming systems in existence and these glorious warming systems can keep your home nice and toasty for many decades to come without costing you a dime for repairs.
But to keep your steam heat system in great condition, you will need to properly maintain it. Some of the steam heating system maintenance tasks are safe enough for you to do all on your own and there are only a few small tasks you need to stick to weekly. But some maintenance tasks are best left in the hands of professionals.
In this guide, we are going to discuss the tasks you should leave to experts and we are going to show you how to do those small maintenance tasks all on your own.
Tools To Include in Your Maintenance Kit
A few trusted tools can make your maintenance tasks a lot easier. Here is a quick look at the three main tools you should have on hand before you get to work.
A Boiler Bucket
You will need a strong 2.5 gallon galvanized steel bucket with a sturdy handle. A strong BPA plastic bucket with a sturdy handle can also be a good alternative.
Work Gloves and Attire
Steam boilers and pipes can get pretty hot. Get a good pair of work gloves so you can avoid burns.
It is also best to wear some work clothes or old clothes unless you don’t want to splash your expensive outfits in dirty murky water.
You should also wear protective shoes with lots of traction, so you can protect your feet and avoid slipping and falling when you work.
A Screwdriver and Allen’s
Get a sturdy screwdriver, allen’s, or channel locks so you can loosen up nuts and screws while you work.
Your Weekly Steam Heating System Maintenance Routine
Before you get to work on maintenance tasks, you should choose a convenient time to work. It is always better to work during the daytime than to struggle around in the dark. It is also best to schedule your maintenance day when you don’t have a lot on your plate and during work hours so you can call a boiler company if you have an emergency on hand.
Once you identify a good time for your weekly maintenance schedule, you should try to stick to that schedule as much as possible. Here is a quick look at the tasks you will need to do on your steam system once a week.
It is important to inspect your hot water systems regularly.
First, you need to take a look at the gauge glass. The sight glass is fitted on the side of the boiler and usually consists of a glass tube that is about 5/8 inches in diameter and 8 – 10 inches tall. The water level should be about halfway up the gauge glass.
An empty or completely full gauge glass is usually an indication that something is wrong with the system. Contact a boiler expert or your boiler service company to come and repair your system if you notice this type of issue.
Next, you need to check the pressure gauge on the hot water system. Low-pressure steam boilers usually operate at around 0.5 – 1.5 psi. If the needle jumps into the 2 – 5 psi level, then you should contact your service company because there is too much pressure in your system which may result in pipe blowouts. Do not worry too much if you don’t see the gauge needle move much. A stable needle indicates a stable system.
Maintenance Tasks for Cast Boilers
Original cast boilers like the American Radiator often have a gas conversion burner, a pressure control, a pressure gauge, and a pressure relief valve with a drain.
These boilers are pretty easy to maintain but they do sometimes create a layer of sludge at the bottom of the hot water boiler. This layer of sludge can clog the pipes and will affect the heat transfer inside the boiler.
Once a week, you should grab your galvanized steel bucket and drain a full bucket of water from the hot water heating system. Dump the water down the floor drain. Most of the sludge will empty out when you tap water from the boiler. You can also check the drain to ensure that there are no clogs.
Next, you can replace the water you drained by filling the boiler through the manual fill valve. Keep an eye on your gauge glass. You can turn off the water when it is half full.
If you find the water levels drop lower throughout the week then you could have a leak in the system. Leaks should be sought out and repaired by a professional.
Maintenance Tasks for Next-Gen Boilers
Next generation steam boilers like the American Standard or the Bee-Line also need weekly maintenance.
You will need to open up the float chamber weekly to clear out mud and sediment from this area. This is an important task because these boilers usually have a float on the inside that needs to be able to move freely and clear from the boiler sides in order to function properly.
Drain a bucket of water from the boiler to remove the sludge or mud. The best way to drain this type of boiler is while it is running. Dump the water from the water cutoffs while it is firing. This way you can keep an eye on the operation to see if it is still functioning well.
The sudden loss of water will cause your boiler to automatically shut off because the float will indicate a low water cutoff point.
Remember to top up your boiler again if it doesn’t have an auto-fill function and to turn it on again once full. Check to see if it is still in good running condition before you leave.
How to Add Water To Your Boiler
Boiler water levels usually only run low if there is a leak in the system but they can also start to run low if the boiler temperature was set too high to trigger constant tension valve releases.
You should check the boiler water levels every week. If the system doesn’t have enough water, it won’t function well and it can even become damaged because the higher temperatures can heat the steel and weaken your boiler and pipelines. Wraps, cracks, and leaks can occur if this happens.
To top up your boiler water level, you can follow the following simple steps:
- First, you need to turn off the boiler heat by setting the thermostat to the lowest temperature. Allow the boiler to cool down. If you add water to a hot boiler, you can damage your system and become seriously injured by a release of pressurized steam.
- Next, you need to check your water levels. The sight glass will give you a good view of the current water levels. The water level should be in the middle but shouldn’t be over one inch below the center.
- If the water levels are low, you can pull down on the water feed valve. Water will start to pour into your boiler. Keep an eye on the sight glass as the water flows into the boiler. When the meter reaches the correct level, you can push the handle back to close up the feed valve.
- Remember to raise the temperature on your thermostat again before you leave or the boiler won’t turn on to warm up the water.
When to Call A Professional
Steam boilers and even hot water boilers are very expensive. The last thing you want is to damage your system when you are trying to do a few common maintenance tasks. Here is a quick look at when you should be calling the help of a boiler servicing company.
When You Are Not Sure About the Service
It is best to call the service company to come and show you how to do the weekly maintenance tasks before you attempt them on your own. Boiler systems can vary a lot and it is always safer to get a professional to teach you the ropes.
When You Notice Something Strange
Any definite issues in your heating system like a water leak, high-pressure level, low-pressure level, clogs, blockages, constant low water level gauge, and others should be repaired by a professional. These systems are pricey to repair and proper maintenance from a service technician will restore the issue and reduce the chances of extensive damages.
For Annual Services
It is best to get annual service from your service technician. One proper inspection can help keep your system in good condition so you can continue to enjoy low energy costs and a great indoor temperature.
We are quite certain that these steam heating system maintenance tips will keep your home warming system in good condition so you won’t have to do any extensive repairs or replacements any time soon.
But if you want to learn more about other types of heating systems then you should have a look at some of our other guides. On Climesense we will help you choose the right household warming system and we offer good advice to help you keep your devices in great condition.