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Your boiler is normally one of the most reliable appliances in your home. But even reliable appliances need attention every now and again. Whenever it needs attention, there's a good chance that your normally-silent boiler will make itself heard.
If your boiler's making a racket, there's a good chance that something's going on. The following talks about the various problems that often add up to a noisy boiler, plus a few solutions you and your HVAC technician can use to quiet it down.
The water that goes into your boiler usually contains small amounts of salts and minerals. It's not unusual for lime scale and other minerals to accumulate around the heat exchanger. Unfortunately, these minerals get baked on as they sit on the exchanger, creating hotter-than-usual spots on the surface. These spots bring the water immediately around it beyond boiling temperature, causing bubbles to form.
When these bubbles run into cooler areas of the boiler tank, they collapse violently enough to be heard throughout the system. This is the "kettling" effect that many boiler experts reference when dealing with boiler noise issues.
Lime scale and other mineral deposits can be taken care of with the help of a descaler specifically designed to tackle these deposits. The descaler is added to the boiler, which is allowed to run for as long as the descaler's cleaning instructions permit. Afterwards, the water is flushed out of the system. A follow-up treatment may be required to prevent further accumulations of minerals.
If you live in an area where hard water (water with heavy concentrations of minerals present) is prevalent, you might want to consider running your water through a softener before it ends up in the boiler.
Not Enough Water
In many cases, kettling is often caused by inadequate water levels in the boiler itself. If the boiler's water level drops low enough, the remaining water can come to a boil and create kettling issues. Fortunately, nearly all residential boilers have Low Water Cutoff Valves (LWCOs) that prevent further damage from being caused should water levels drop below a safe level.
Poor water pressure is a common cause behind low water levels in boilers. You or your heating contractor should make sure there's enough water being produced from the mains to accommodate the boilers. Also, the boiler's water pressure should be within the parameters set by the manufacturer. Most boilers operate with between 12 and 18 pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure.
You might want to check the water feeder system to ensure that there's an adequate amount of water being fed into the boiler.
Unexpected breaches in boiler pipes and connections or a faulty valve often allow air to sneak its way into the system. The resulting pressure differential between the air and the steam generated by the boiler can create banging and slamming noises throughout the heating network.
In addition to tracking down and repairing air leaks, you or your HVAC contractor will have to purge the system of its excess air by opening the air bleeder valves.
The average boiler operates within a range of 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit – just enough to reliably produce steam but well below water's boiling point. However, an incorrectly set boiler thermostat can easily send water temperatures well above its boiling point, producing kettling issues and the serious risk of explosion.
It's also a good idea to check your thermostat for any signs of defect or disrepair. After all, a faulty thermostat can easily result in overheating issues that could damage or even destroy the boiler.