If your home uses hydronic heating, then your system is powered by either a boiler or a water heater. Although water heaters have become more common heat sources in recent years, boilers are still a popular option in many residential and commercial buildings. Unfortunately, the high pressure and temperatures produced by boilers commonly lead to leaks at their the boiler itself or the hot water pipes. Quickly Identifying and repairing boiler leaks is crucial to keeping your heating system functioning properly and safely,
Why Do Boilers Leak?
If the leak is in your hot water pipes, then it may have nothing to do with your boiler at all. The pipes used to distribute steam from your boiler are likely to be made from copper, and copper pipes can leak for a variety of reasons. Over time, copper pipes can corrode and wear away. This corrosion is sometimes visible from the outside, but pipes can corrode internally as well. Internal corrosion weakens the walls of the pipe, ultimately leading to the "sudden" appearance of pinhole leaks and other problems.
Outlet pipes and valves can also suffer damage from the boiler operating at higher than normal pressures. The design of a boiler accounts for its typical operating pressure range with some overhead for safety, but prolonged periods of increased pressure can result in components failing prematurely. In some cases, these leaks may be intentional, as boilers are designed to vent water through pressure valves in the event of severe overpressure situations.
Finally, your boiler likely makes use of a variety of gaskets and seals near its access points and user-serviceable components. These seals are necessary to maintain pressure and prevent the loss of water, but they can fail from exposure to water, sediment, and heat. While most seals will eventually wear out, unusually high pressures or temperatures can lead to premature failure and the need for heating repair.
Dealing With Leaks
Modern boilers are designed to be safe, but that doesn't mean that problems should be ignored. If you notice a leak in your boiler or hot water pipes, it is crucial to contact a professional as soon as possible. Many leaks are relatively straightforward to repair, but it is just as essential to find the cause of the leak. Corroded pipes, for example, can sometimes be the result of poor electrical grounding, while failed seals may be the result of a boiler that is clogged with sediment and operating with too much pressure. Fixing the underlying problem will get your boiler working correctly and prevent costly future repairs.