Published onMarch 1st, 2021
The More You Know: What Is an Automatic Water Feeder?
If you’re new to property ownership or management, or if you are upgrading your current boiler system, you might have wondered, “What is an automatic water feeder?” This post from the experts at Calray Boilers explains the function of this device, why it’s used, and how adding one to your system can improve boiler safety and efficiency.
What Is the Function of the Automatic Water Feeder?
Maintain water levels
An automatic water feeder adds water to your boiler when it is needed to maintain safe water levels for operation. When the water level gets too low, the boiler can “dry fire,” which can cause extensive boiler damage. We discuss the multiple ways boilers lose water in a section below.
How Do Automatic Water Feeders Work?
Boiler systems for heat and hot water are particularly prevalent in the northeastern part of the United States, and perhaps nowhere is more well-known for its radiator heat than New York City. Prior to the advent of automatic water feeders, water had to be added manually. This was done through a variety of methods that were both time consuming and full of potential for human error. Manual water filling also meant someone needed to watch the boiler 24 hours per day and be available for frequent water feeds.
Some boilers still use a manual water feeder setup. They usually work by opening a pipe with a handle, like what you would find on old-fashioned outdoor spigots, or by pressing a button. Also, some automatic water feeders have a bypass that allows for manual water feeding should the need arise. This can come in handy if the automatic water feeder malfunctions or if there is an electrical power outage.
Nowadays, boiler water feeders are much more sophisticated. They function as a valve that opens and closes on demand. Usually, they work in concert with the low water cutoff valve. When the low water sensor indicates the water is getting too low for safe operation, the automatic water feeder is triggered and sends more water to the boiler. This prevents dangerous circumstances. These automatic water feeder units are relatively small and unobtrusive, so they don’t require extra space to install.
Why Do Boilers Lose Water?
Boilers lose water while functioning for a variety of reasons. Steam heat systems lose more water than hydronic systems because of the nature of their operation.
As steam radiators run, some of the steam is expelled through air vents to control the amount of warmth given off and to regulate pressure. Therefore, you will observe and hear an automatic water feeder running more frequently if your property has steam heat, especially first thing in the morning when radiators typically get a boost.
Boilers can also lose water through small leaks and tank corrosion. These should be remedied as soon as possible, which is why we recommend regular boiler maintenance and why boilers are routinely inspected in New York City.
One place where leaks commonly occur in steam boiler systems is in the condensate return line. This is the conduit that transports condensed water (that used to be steam) back to the boiler to be used in the next heat cycle. You may see this line, or it may be contained within the walls of the building and/or floor of your boiler room.
If you are losing water and have ruled out all other causes, it’s worth checking the condensate return line. Not only is a leak there costing you lost water and causing your boiler to feed more often, but it can also cause internal water damage and mold.
You can significantly extend the life of your boiler by preventing excessive water loss and refilling. Therefore, it’s smart to keep water loss to a minimum wherever you can.
How Do You Use an Automatic Water Feeder?
Tips from the pros
If you decide to use an automatic water feeder with your boiler, follow these tips for the best experience:
- Call Calray Gas Heat Corp to install a new automatic water feeder. We can help you with Manufacturer’s recommended installation.
- Since your automatic water feeder will be tied to your low water cutoff, you need to make sure the latter is functioning properly. Check it often to ensure it hasn’t become encrusted with mineral scale or stuck to the side of the boiler tank.
- Monitor your automatic water feeder carefully immediately after power losses, like blackouts and brownouts. Sometimes, reductions and outages in power can cause false triggering of the low water cutoff, resulting in overfeeding of water. Some systems can employ an interrupter switch to limit water filling to the boiler and nearby pipes.
For more information about automatic water feeders, water feeder installation, or troubleshooting boiler problems, reach out to Calray Boilers today. You can call us at 212-722-5506, or schedule an appointment at your convenience via our online form.