Hydronic System Protection

Over the years, I’m sure that many of you have been called by a customer to inform you they are going to sunny Florida or somewhere warm for the winter and asked for your expert advice on protecting their home’s heating system.

I would bet that your first suggestion would be to add some type of non-toxic anti-freeze to the system and that would be one of my suggestions also. But remember that any anti-freeze can weaken by delusion over time, possibly from changing a water feeder or a circulator.

Remember also, that all manufacturers recommend an annual strength test, which is done by using the test strips provided by the manufacturer. Also, do not mix brands due to their lack of compatibility. You should also be sure that you leave a tag identifying the type and date the anti-freeze was installed, for future reference.

With the advantage of this century’s electronic technology, think about recommending some type of freeze guard device that most all of your local suppliers carry or an alarm company that will call the police or fire department, should there be a need, or will also call the burner service provider should the heating system fail. A fuel level device that can be remotely monitored directly from an oil dispatch center is another good suggestion also, since it’s difficult to monitor fuel in a vacant home.

Reviewing your service record to make sure the system has had a current annual tune up is another good idea to review. After all, who wants to be called out for a no heat call due to a plugged nozzle, filter, or pump strainer; and let’s not forget to check all the safety controls, including the low water cut-off.

As a reminder, the anti-freeze that you added to the boiler, does nothing to protect the domestic water piping in the home and I have seen more than one cracked toilet and water pipe split due to a ‘burner out.” Many companies have purchased an electric pipe thawer to handle a frozen pipe condition, and they work well as long as you have the power source available that does not throw the breaker.

I’m also glad there aren’t many of the old T-87’s that go down to 45 degrees, because they too created issues by holding off the water circulation to the system. This in turn could allow a heat pipe in the older home to freeze when exposed to a draft condition.

There are controls sold that have freeze guards built in, so should the water temperature drop due to a burner fail, the circulator will continue to function. The theory is simple; water that is moving at a specific rate will not freeze!       

After all of the above has been addressed, there is one element that is difficult to control and that is a power failure, that could disable some of the system’s safety devices or affect measures that have been put in place to protect the home. Unless, of course, a generator has been installed that will energize automatically in the event of a power loss and remember all generators require maintenance. On a final note, remember to always get the correct customer contact information to the proper people in your company, should an emergency occur.

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