Boiler-driven hot water heating systems are popular in Washington DC because of their reliability and efficiency. But breakdowns do occur, especially as units age, and they can happen for many reasons. The first step is to make sure you’re actually dealing with a breakdown and not something much more simple. If you’ve lost heat from your boiler, check to make sure there’s fuel in your oil or gas tank before making a service call. Also keep in mind that part of the heating system is electrical. A recent power outage or short circuit in the house could have tripped the circuit breaker for the boiler.
Next, check the emergency shut off switch. It looks like a typical wall light switch but with a red cover and bold lettering indicating the off and on positions. It’s usually placed in a convenient spot in the basement. In many Washington DC homes it’s located at the top of the basement stairs. Sometimes the switch is turned off accidentally, but if a repairman or someone else in you house turned it off for a reason, you need to find out why.
If the emergency switch is on and all the circuit breakers are on and there’s plenty of fuel, the next step in diagnosing the problem is checking the boiler. First, understand that most heating appliances automatically shut down when a critical component stops functioning properly. Don’t put yourself or your family at risk. Don’t attempt to restart or repair the boiler yourself. But you can help your technician help your Washington DC heating technician by checking a few simple things before making the call.
A puddle on the floor usually means a pipe or valve is leaking. A drop in the water level inside the boiler could have triggered the shut down. But leaks in joints can also occur when something else shuts the boiler down and the metal plumbing shrinks. Is the puddle getting larger or is it stagnant?
If all the pipes are cold, carefully touch the metal panels covering the boiler. They usually warm up a bit when the boiler is operating normally. Listen for the faint hissing sound of the pilot light. If the boiler is cold and completely silent, the pilot light may have gone out, triggering a shut down. Don’t attempt to relight the pilot. Keep in mind that many new boilers in the Washington DC area have pilotless electronic ignitions.
If the pilot is lit but the pipes and boiler are cold, and boiler uses fuel oil, the burner motor may have stopped working. Restarting a malfunctioning unit may cause further damage, so call a technician if you suspect this is the problem. Oil burner motors can stop working for many reasons, including soot blocking the air supply, blocked fuel line, dirty electrodes inside the motor, or seized up bearings. Only a licensed Washington DC heating technician can correctly diagnose and fix such problems.
Call Polar Bear today if you need boiler repairs in the Washington D.C. area!