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  • Writer's pictureRob Mitchell

Is it time to replace my boiler?

Updated: May 4, 2023

Boilers don't come with expiration dates. And, as many people find out the hard way, they can throw in the towel with no warning at all. However, there are some signs that they may be nearing the time for replacement.

How old is your boiler?

There are many factors that can affect your boiler’s lifespan, such as frequency of use, maintenance, and the brand you’ve chosen. Even within brands, different boilers may have varying lifespans. Regular maintenance can keep a boiler going strong for many years, but even the best-kept boilers wear out eventually. Condensing boilers haven’t been on the market for a long time and therefore it is hard to predict their longevity. With proper maintenance, they are expected to last at least 15 years or longer. Cast iron boilers, on the other hand, should be considered for replacement if they have been operating for more than 20 or 30 years. Some of these boilers can last even up to 50 years or longer, but even with decent annual maintenance, their efficiencies are much lower than today’s cast iron boilers.

Old Boiler

There are a variety of boiler issues which can be fixed to postpone the inevitable. Sometimes, you can get by with boiler repairs, but at some point, investing in a new boiler will become necessary.

Are your radiators taking a long time to heat up?

A boiler should reach temperature fairly quickly. Radiators that are slow to heat could mean there is a blockage or cold spot. A boiler service might fix that. However, if the radiators still take a long time to get hot, even after a service call, it could be time to replace the boiler.

Is the temperature inconsistent?

Your boiler should be reliable when it comes to keeping temperatures consistent. For instance, maybe a certain room doesn’t get as hot as another. Or maybe your showers get cold in the middle. If you notice signs like this, maybe it’s time to consider a new boiler. Not only will a new boiler keep your temperatures more stable, but it could also have better controls.

Is your boiler making noises all the time?

When a boiler is turned on, it makes a noise. It’s normally a constant hum that you might not even notice. However, if your boiler is clunking, banging or whirring, these sounds should alarm you. Unusual sounds can be because of a broken valve, pump problem or general wear and tear. If you notice it’s being much more vocal than usual, then you should have a professional take a look at it.

Kettling is when your boiler sounds like a kettle boiling. This occurs if there is a leak in the pipe system somewhere or when the water flow is restricted because of scale deposits built-up in the heat exchanger. Limescale and sludge build-up in the heat exchanger are common in areas where hard water is prevalent. A chemical clean or power flush may be enough to clear out the sludge, limescale, or other blockages.

Is your pilot light blue or yellow?

If your boiler uses a pilot light, it should burn blue. This means it’s getting all the oxygen it needs to burn strongly. If the pilot light is yellow, that indicates you have a problem. The first thing you should look for is debris or dirt blocking the air intake valve. If you have cleaned the air intake valve and the flame is still yellow, you could have an issue with a carbon monoxide leak. Black soot is also another sign you have this type of leak.

Do you see signs your boiler is leaking?

A boiler that leaks or requires additional make-up water could be nearing the end of its lifecycle. A leak indicates that a seal or valve is broken. Water damage from boiler leakage can be expensive to repair. Water from a leak might also get into electrical parts and lead to a short circuit. You’ll want to replace a leaking boiler if it can’t be properly repaired.

Are there visible signs of corrosion?

One of the most significant signs of when you should replace your boiler is when you can see corrosion. While most of today's manufacturers design boiler systems to resist corrosion, broken valves and leaks allowing air in can and will lead to corrosion. Corrosion can also be caused by the reaction between the heat exchanger and burners. If you see corrosion, it might be best to consider a new boiler.

Have your utility bills been rising significantly?

As time goes on, it’ll take more work for your boiler to maintain its internal temperature. Barring a price increase by your energy provider, rising fuel costs usually mean that your boiler is becoming less efficient, wasting fuel. If this drop in efficiency can’t be repaired, it most often is best to replace it. Boiler technology has improved significantly in the last decade or so. A new boiler may pay for itself in reduced fuel costs in a shorter time period than you think.

Are you frequently needing to call for boiler service?

Having parts repaired and replaced occasionally is normal. However, there’s a major difference between calling once a week vs. once every few months. At a certain point, simply replacing the boiler with new equipment is a better investment than to continue paying for the increasing cost of repairs on the old boiler.

If your boiler is currently working, but nearing the end of its lifespan, choosing to upgrade to a newer, more efficient system can offer benefits. Most importantly, you can plan the change. This is definitely preferable to facing an emergency in the middle of winter.

If you have concerns about your boiler, we would be happy to come evaluate its condition and discuss our observations with you.

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