5 Reasons Why Boiler Maintenance Is Important

Plumber installing a boiler

More than just an idiom for the anger you’d feel if your boiler stopped working mid-winter, blowing a gasket could literally happen if you skip out on annual maintenance. A few other reasons why boiler maintenance is important? To start, it’ll extend your boiler’s lifespan, protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning, and lower your energy bills.

But First, What Is a Boiler?

A boiler is a cylindrical-shaped container that uses hot water or steam to heat buildings, including homes and businesses. As with any other central heating system, a thermostat tells the heat to cut on. Then, the boiler (which is usually located inside your basement or garage) fires up the water held inside it with gas, electricity, or oil, and sends it through pipes, floorboard radiators, and/or radiant floor heaters, thus warming up the interior of your house.

5 Reasons Why Boiler Maintenance Is Important

1. To Ward Off Expensive Repairs

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With preventative maintenance, you can head off a boiler breakdown and avoid having to spend time in a home with uncomfortably cold temps — the song says, “It’s cold outside,” thank you very much. 

During this regular servicing, a plumber or an HVAC pro will have the opportunity to spot minor malfunctions before they get out of hand, saving you money in the long run — a new boiler typically costs anywhere from $3,500 to $8,500, whereas regular boiler maintenance will run you significantly less (between $190 and $480).

2. To Maintain the Warranty

Boiler manufacturers provide warranties that can last between one and five years, with 10-year and limited lifetime warranties (typically 25 years) available, as well. A type of insurance policy that covers boiler repairs for a specified amount of time, the warranty can become invalidated if a homeowner doesn’t adhere to an annual boiler service schedule.

3. To Scale Down Energy Bills

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Routine boiler service can optimize your boiler’s fuel usage, ensuring less energy consumption and lower emissions of harmful gasses. If it’s time for a new boiler, another cost-effective measure is to invest in an Energy Star-certified boiler. A few features include:

  • Updated combustion tech
  • No need for a pilot light
  • Reduced flue gas combustion loss
  • Savings between $420 and $780, depending on boiler type

4. To Increase Your Boiler System’s Lifespan

The standard lifespan of a boiler is 15 years, and that is dependent on proper maintenance, efficiency, boiler type, and boiler size. After that time, save a year or two, regardless of maintenance, it will no longer function optimally. To facilitate its longevity to this point, though, homeowners should bring in an HVAC technician once per year to locate and fix any issues.

In addition to this boiler repair service and maintenance, a few other ways you can extend the life of your boiler are:

  • Improve pipe insulation
  • Add rust inhibitor to prevent corrosion
  • Bleed radiators/flush buildup
  • Use a magnetic filter/keep particles and sludge out of system

5. To Give You Peace of Mind

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An estimated 420 people die and 100,000-plus become ill each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S. Gas boilers, when not working properly (e.g. the heat exchanger is cracked or fuel isn’t burning all the way), can leak carbon monoxide — another important reason to never let preventative maintenance lapse.

Together with the above mentioned examples, other causes of carbon monoxide leaks include:

  • Insufficient ventilation
  • Broken boiler components
  • Obstructed chimney

During preventative maintenance, an HVAC technician experienced in gas safety can find those issues and remedy them before a leak actually occurs. (Note: If you have a gas boiler, you should also keep working carbon monoxide detectors posted throughout your home.)

FAQ About Boiler Maintenance

What does regular maintenance of a boiler involve?

Annual boiler maintenance includes the following tasks and can be performed by a gas safe-certified plumber or HVAC technician:

  • Inspect all components (e.g., burner, thermostat, heat exchanger, etc.)
  • Ensure proper ventilation
  • Clean boiler parts/check for buildup of sludge and corrosion
  • Check electrical connections and seals
  • Examine gas pressure/flow; ensure no obstructions
  • Test functionality/safety measures

What’s the difference between a boiler, a water heater, and a furnace?

A boiler is an HVAC-related appliance that heats homes and other buildings using hot water or steam. This hot water is also used for showering, bathing, cooking, laundry, and the like.

A hot water heater only heats water for showering, bathing, cooking, etc. Part of your plumbing system, rather than your HVAC system, a hot water heater cannot actually provide heat for your home’s living spaces.

A furnace, like a boiler, is also a part of your HVAC, but it heats air instead of water to warm up your home. And, rather than transporting the heat through pipes and radiators, heated air is blown through vents all over your house.

What is AFUE?

Every boiler on the market today must display its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. This rating measures how well a boiler turns fuel into heat — whether it’s powered by gas, oil, or electricity — and a rating of 90% or higher is considered high-efficiency. 

Modern gas boilers tend to hover between 90% and 98.5% AFUE, while electric boilers score between 95% and 100% AFUE, meaning there’s practically no heat loss. Even so, the U.S. Department of Energy warns that electric boilers may be an uneconomic choice given the overall high cost of using electricity. Instead, they suggest opting for a heat pump if you want to stick with an electric-based heater.

When to Hire a Professional

Whether you need annual boiler maintenance or you’re ready for an upgrade, hire an HVAC pro near you. They’ll conduct a thorough inspection and perform any necessary repairs; or, they’ll assist you with selecting a new boiler that’s energy efficient and correctly sized for your home.

Note: Never try to fix a boiler on your own — boiler repairs are never a DIY type thing. Not only could you damage your system and even cancel out your warranty, but you could also accidentally leak harmful gasses, such as carbon monoxide into the air.

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Andréa Butler

Andréa Butler is a writer and editor. And while she hasn't been blessed with DIY skills herself, she is adept at writing and enjoys sharing home improvement tips and pool care guides for the true DIYers out there.