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Plumbers: Back Then, Today, and Tomorrow

When talking about any profession, most people tend to focus on the here and now. That's understandable. it's really important to know what's going on in the present tense. But you are missing out on some vital information if you never read and learn about the history of a profession. This applies to plumbing, in particular. You can really further your understanding of the profession by knowing how it began and what changes have been made over the years. That's why we sometimes reference the history of plumbing on this blog. We'll also dive into the future of the profession from time to time because, after all, you have to know where you're headed.




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Plumbers: Back Then, Today, and Tomorrow

How Do Water Leaks Affect Your Home's Boiler?

by Madison Dean

Hydronic heating systems rely on boilers to heat the water that keeps your home comfortable. Of course, any system that uses water for anything will require plumbing, and your home's boiler is no different. The hydronic heating plumbing in your home is a "mostly" closed loop, although many residential systems will have a way to add make-up water. Some systems may do this automatically.

Unfortunately, this system is only closed when there aren't any problems. Like any other plumbing in your home, the water lines that feed your radiators or baseboard heaters can develop leaks. While a burst pipe is usually a fairly dramatic and obvious event, some leaks are much more minor. Regardless of size, any leak can affect your home's boiler in these three critical ways.

1. Lowered Efficiency

Your boiler will attempt to heat the water in your home's heating system to a preset level. If there's a leak in the system that's reducing pressure or your system is constantly adding new water, the boiler will struggle to maintain this temperature. As a result, your unit will run longer, wasting energy and money compared to a system operating correctly.

If the boiler can't maintain the correct temperature (or close to it), it may run indefinitely or run until it trips its high-limit switch to protect the burners. You'll also get less heat from radiators or baseboard heaters, resulting in an overworked boiler that can't keep your home nice and warm. You may face these issues with even relatively minor leaks due to the reduced water pressure.

2. Frequent Safety Shutoffs

Nearly all modern residential boiler installations will include a device known as a low water cut-off. This device has a simple function: monitor your boiler's water level and shut it down to prevent dry firing. Some systems may also have automatic feeders, adding make-up water from the supply when the low water cut-off switch trips.

If your system has this equipment, you may experience frequent safety shutoffs. Your boiler may shut down long before satisfying your thermostat, only to turn back on when the water reaches an appropriate level. In addition to wasting water and energy, this process can be frustrating if you're waiting for heat on a cold day.

3. Dry Firing

Dry firing is a worst-case scenario that should be relatively uncommon (if not impossible) on modern boiler designs. Dry firing occurs when the boiler runs without water. Since water passing over the heat exchanger helps maintain the boiler's temperature, dry firing can cause the burner to overheat or even fire. Modern systems with low water cut-offs should prevent this situation, but it's always a possibility.

The consequences of a water leak in a hydronic heating system are potentially severe, so repairing water leaks is critical to protect your boiler from operating inefficiently or suffering more substantial damage. To schedule repairs, contact a boiler service in your area.