Published onOctober 7th, 2021
How to Prepare Your Boiler for Winter: Pro Boiler Maintenance Tips for NYC Cold Weather
It may be the beginning of autumn here in New York City, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the heating season, which will be here before we know it. If you are a property owner or manager, it’s essential that you know how to prepare your boiler for winter. Here are the top tips from the experts at Calray Boilers. We always advise clients to get ahead of the game. That way, if they need a part serviced or replaced, they have plenty of time before those radiators start filling with steam.
Your Boiler Maintenance Checklist
Check gauges and sights
All the gauges and sights glasses on your boiler should be working properly and easy to read. Over time, they can get cloudy with dust and grime, so give them a wipe.
You need to have the correct running pressure to produce adequate steam with your boiler. The owner’s manual should indicate the proper pressure, which you should test prior to the heating season. If the pressure is too high, shut down the boiler until it can be professionally serviced, as this is a real danger.
Assess for leaks
It’s easy to become complacent about small leaks, but these indicate something is loose or worn with the boiler, either with the piping system or the tank itself. Check the following to make sure no water is escaping:
- The boiler tank, looking for corroded spots that might have worn through
- Pipes and all pipe fittings or connectors
- Gaskets, O-rings, and seals, looking for cracking, hardening, or misshaping
Make sure valves are functioning properly
We often find blockages in valves due to the buildup of hard water scale and sediment. Fall is an opportune time to clean the valves and replace any that you cannot restore. Vinegar and lemon juice, which are acidic, can dissolve reasonable amounts of limescale.
If you continually have problems with buildup in your boiler system, it’s an indicator that an upstream filtration system is needed to screen out unwanted elements from your boiler water. This will help your boiler run more smoothly and extend its lifespan. You may also need to treat your boiler water if it’s being used in a closed steam system to eliminate hard water buildup in your steam traps, pipes, and radiators.
Evaluate burners and other combustion elements
Your boiler flame should always burn blue. If it looks yellow, it’s usually a sign of incomplete combustion, which could be producing carbon monoxide in your boiler room. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer because it is taken up very quickly by the body before people even realize it.
Yellow flame usually means there are some blockages around your burner. Another sign of incomplete combustion is a heavy layer of soot around the burner area.
You likely have a variety of pumps for various functions, such as feeding the boiler, distributing hot water to taps, and steam return. These should all be functioning correctly with no unusual or loud noises or excess vibration. Tighten any mounting straps or hardware as needed.
Additionally, check the electrical connections for all your pumps and pump controllers. Check for:
- Worn or frayed wires
- Broken or partially melted plugs
- Pumps that trigger circuit breakers or cause flickering lights
As with elsewhere in your boiler system, any pump seals and gaskets should fit snugly and still have good elasticity. Sensors and float rods that tell your pumps when to run should be in good working order and not stuck or broken.
If you have pumps shutting down frequently due to overheating, it may be because your boiler room is too hot. Better ventilation can cool the room and prevent this.
Clear the exhaust system and vents
Flues, exhaust pipes, and vents must also be clear. Check for the buildup of any unwanted material or blockages created by birds, rodents, or trash. A blockage in any of these conduits can reduce your boiler’s efficiency as well as pose a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Don’t forget steam traps
If your building has steam returns from unit radiators, your steam trap system needs to be running smoothly too. Otherwise, your boiler will continue to fill with fresh water, which needs to be heated from a cold temperature. This will cost you more money over time. A properly running steam return system can extend the life of your boiler by helping it run more efficiently. Signs your return system needs service include excess hard water buildup, blockages, or your boiler continually filling and firing when it should simply be recycling warm condensate.
Double check safety features and alarms
Your boiler system safety alarms and alerts are perhaps the most vital part of the boiler room. Your owner’s manual will indicate what safety elements are in place with your particular boiler model. Double check that all of these are working, especially your pressure relief valve.
Your boiler room should be outfitted with the required smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure these are operational and be sure to do at least monthly battery checks if they are not hard-wired.
Call Calray Boilers for Professional Service
When you can’t solve the problem on your own
We understand there are limits to what even experienced property managers can do themselves when their boiler needs fixing, especially if new parts are involved. We’re happy to come out and assist with any repairs that are out of your wheelhouse.
Also, we recommend professional service at least once a year, and in many cases twice yearly, to ensure your boiler has an expert once-over before or after the heating season. Calray Boilers offers annual service contracts to make this easier and to ensure your boiler is operating optimally 12 months of the year. Our partners at Sanitary Plumbing can help with radiator and piping issues, and Antler Pumps can assist with any pump problems that crop up too.
Call us at 212-722-5506, or use our convenient online form to schedule an appointment.