The fire-tube designed boiler was a common staple in older businesses and homes because it was quite efficient at producing both hot water and heat with various type of fuel from wood fire and coal to natural gas and propane. If you have one of the outdated boilers in your home or business, when something goes wrong it can be almost as bad as trying to diagnose a dinosaur, because the design is a concept that is now unfamiliar to most average people. Here are a few of the most common problems the fire-tube boiler can have and your guide to either making repairs on your own or getting in touch with a professional who can.
Problem: No steam is being released through the steam release valve.
Solution: The steam that is release from this valve is what essentially heats your home. If you have no steam, you have no heat. Therefore, you will have to get the problem addressed right away. This could be related to lost water in the tank, but may also be a clog in the steam release valve. If you suspect the release valve is clogged, it is crucial that you open the pressure release and cut fuel or power to the boiler until a professional arrives. Otherwise, a lot of pressure could build up in the tank, which will be a safety concern.
Problem: The water coming from the fire-tube boiler is only barely warm.
Solution: Low water temperature from the boiler usually means that one of more heating elements inside of the pressure vessel tank are damaged or not working. You will likely have to have a contractor come out and take a look to determine which one is faulty.
Problem: Pilot light will not stay lit for more than a few seconds.
Solution: If your boiler has a standing pilot light in the fire box, not staying lit is usually a sign that the flame is not getting enough oxygen. Thoroughly clean the area of any dust, dirt, or debris that could be blocking airflow.
Problem: Pressure release valve will not close.
Solution: With outdated versions of the fire-tube boiler still hanging around after a lot of years, it is not uncommon for some of the most basic parts to see signs of damage. If you have a pressure release valve that is stuck in the on position, it is likely that it will have to be replaced. Remove the connecting power source from the unit and make sure the pilot light is out before calling a contractor.
When you become a little more familiar with boiler repair issues that the fire-tube boiler can have, you will be better equipped to handle an issue when it comes up. Remember, however, if you are ever in doubt or do not feel comfortable tackling a problem on your own, a heating contractor will have the experience necessary to help you out.