On what day of the year is a boiler most likely to fail?

According to HSB loss data, cast iron boiler losses increase in the fall as the heating season starts, with the highest failure rate occurring on January 15th. Now is the time to think about boiler maintenance, instead of January when you have cold, angry tenants and a pool of water in the basement. This article, although not a complete list of all the things to check, serves as a brief guide.

This preparation advice applies to any boiler used for heating and consists of performing annual maintenance, verifying proper operation and set points, and maintaining your boiler during the heating season with the use of a boiler log.

  • Have your service provider perform annual maintenance and give the boiler a thorough checkup.  This could include draining and flushing the boiler, replacing gaskets, lubricating fans or pumps, and cleaning the soot.
  • Have them check all of the safety controls including the pressure relief valve and the low water cutoff, which should be disassembled and cleaned or replaced as necessary. Don’t forget to check that the air vents to the boiler room are free of debris.
  • After the service is complete and the boiler closed, start the boiler and verify set points for your operating controls. Many hot water boilers are damaged due to improper water temperatures or water temperature differentials through a process called thermal shock.
  • The technician should also make burner adjustments to optimize combustion and efficiency.
  • Test low water cutoffs and safety relief valves regularly to ensure that these critical devices are working.

HSB strongly recommends using boiler logs. In addition to documenting when you last checked the safety devices, the log is used to spot issues before they escalate. Look for unusual operating trends such as temperatures slowly changing over time or make-up water increasing.

If you prepare your boiler now and properly maintain the system, you can avoid having to explain why the building is without heat on January 15th and how much it will cost to repair.

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© 2018 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions.

Patrick Jennings

Pat is the go-to engineer for boilers at HSB. He has been crawling around, studying, talking and writing about boilers for almost 30 years.

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