Hydronic systems are relatively uncommon in new homes, with less than 1% of new construction projects opting for this method. While forced-air heating may dominate new construction, many older homes still utilize hydronic systems with forced hot water or steam heating. As a result, it's not uncommon for new buyers to suddenly find themselves responsible for maintaining these systems.
If you've just moved into a home with hydronic heating, you may not know where to begin with routine maintenance and upkeep. Even if you knew all about your old forced-air heating system, there are some critical differences when dealing with a boiler. These three tips will ensure that you know how to keep your hydronic system well-maintained and efficient.
1. Read Your Gauges
Forced-air heating systems don't provide much feedback to end-users. While newer furnaces typically include a display for error codes, there's not much else you can use for troubleshooting. On the other hand, boilers typically include a gauge that shows the internal water temperature and the system pressure. Understanding this gauge is critical to keeping your system operating correctly.
While you don't need to watch your gauge obsessively, you should occasionally check on it while your system is running. You should generally see pressure below 30psi and temperatures below 200 degrees. Higher temperatures and pressures will cause your relief valve to activate, while pressures below around 12psi will cause the boiler to call for make-up water. Neither situation is normal.
2. Bleed Your Radiators
Radiators and baseboard heaters occasionally required bleeding to remove air trapped in the system. Air can become trapped for numerous reasons, including poor system design or regular wear and tear on the plumbing. If too much air ends up in the system, your heat will perform poorly, and you'll hear plenty of unpleasant banging and rattling from your pipes.
Bleeding is a procedure you can do yourself, so it's worth learning how to carry out this simple task. Knowing how to bleed your radiators will help you save some money on maintenance, and it provides a good first step if you're trying to troubleshoot a problem with your hydronic system.
3. Schedule Annual Maintenance Visits
While you can (and should) perform basic monitoring and maintenance tasks on your own, there's no substitute for a professional service visit. Just as with a forced-air heating system, you should plan to have an expert check-up on your hydronic equipment at least once per year. This visit should include routine cleaning, inspection, and maintenance of all components in your hydronic heating system.
While hot water and steam systems may be less common, there's no reason to worry if your new home includes one. With a little knowledge and care, you can enjoy the many benefits of hydronic heating without spending any more than you would in order to maintain a modern forced-air heating system.
For more information, contact a heating system maintenance service in your area.