It's never a good thing to venture down into your basement and discover a puddle of water at the base of your boiler. Not only does this indicate that your boiler is probably not heating your home as well as it should, but the water accumulation can lead to mold and water damage. It's important to get to the bottom of what's causing the leak, and then take action to address it. Here's how:
Step 1: Check the pipes for corrosion and leaks.
It's possible that the water is coming not from the boiler itself, but from the pipes that feed into it. Look over these pipes, and see if you spot any sections where they are corroded or where there are cracks that the water is leaking from. If you find a leak in the pipe, you will probably want to have that section of pipe replaced by a professional. However, in the meantime, you can use pipe wrap to temporarily stop the leak. Follow these instructions:
- Add water to the foil bag that the pipe wrap came in, and let it soak for at least a minute.
- Remove the softened pipe wrap from the package. Peel one end off of the roll, and start wrapping the wrap around the pipe. Make sure you wrap back and forth a little bit so the patch extends a few inches on either side of the leak.
- When you reach the end of the pipe wrap, grip your hand around the wrapped pipe and squeeze for a minute or so. This helps adhere the wrap to the pipe.
Step 2: Check for actual holes in the boiler.
If your boiler is rather old, it is possible that corrosion has lead to a hole in the actual holding tank. Usually, these are seen along corners and edges of boiler units. Look for corroded area -- the corroded area can be quite large, while the actual leak is the size of a pin hole! If you spot what you think is hole in your actual boiler, the only way to stop the leak is to turn off the water supply to the boiler. Place a bucket or pan underneath the hole to catch any remaining water that trickles out. Use space heaters or some other alternate source to keep your home comfortable until your heating specialist arrives. Chances are, you're going to need a new boiler.
Step 3: Look at the pressure gauge.
Locate the pressure gauge on your boiler. It is a round dial that is typically found near the top of the unit. Ideally, the pressure inside of your boiler should be between 12 and 18 psi. If the pressure gauge indicates that the pressure is higher than this, then the increased pressure might be causing water to seep out from joints between pipes and your boiler, or from any of the various valves on your boiler.
If your boiler's pressure is too high, locate the pressure relief valve. This looks like an open tap with a lever on the top. If this valve is plugged with scaling, it may not be properly releasing pressure from the tank. Replacing the valve or removing the scaling will allow the pressure to be released, which should slow down the leaks.
You can attempt to remove scaling from the valve yourself simply by scrubbing it with limescale remover and a toothbrush. If this does not seem to loosen the valve and let the pressure escape, then the valve probably needs to be replaced. If you're handy, you can try turning off the water and power supply to your boiler (for safety reasons), and then unscrewing the valve. Take it to the hardware store to ensure you buy one that's the same, and screw the new one into place.
If your boiler is still leaking after the pressure valve is cleaned or replaced, then the sustained high pressure in the boiler has probably loosened some of the joints between the boiler and pipes. In this case, it is best to have a professional like Robinson Heating & Cooling Inc come identify and fix the exact problem.