Troubleshooting 101: Your Boiler IQ!

Have you ever found yourself without heat on the coldest night of the year? Did you call a heating contractor for emergency after-hours service only to find out you were out of fuel or had accidentally cut the power supply? If so, don’t feel bad! This happens all the time during the winter months, but to save you the service call bill and ourselves the time, True North will troubleshoot first before scheduling a call. And you can do it yourself! Here’s how:

There are a few basic things to check before calling your contractor that will help you prevent spending money on service calls, have your heat back up faster, and give you peace of mind. Today, True North’s Service Manager Dan Walsh walks you through what you should do the next time you find yourself without heat:

  1. Check if you have fuel! A large percentage of emergency callers are simply out of fuel. You may need to get educated about how to read your fuel gauges – you can always call the heating contractor that installed your system, consult the user manual that came with your boiler, or google the make and model of your boiler to find information on reading your fuel gauge.
  2. Check your power! Every boiler has two switches: one at the boiler itself, and one at the top of the stairs to your basement. Check the switches – is it possible that someone in the household accidentally shut one off? The switch at the top of the stairs will be identified with a red cover plate that says EMERGENCY SWITCH, while the switch near the appliance will look like a typical household light switch. Make sure that both are on before proceeding to the next step.

BONUS TIP: If you did need to turn on a power switch, you may have just solved your problem – that’s great! But don’t panic if you don’t hear or see the boiler kick into action right away. Depending on the make and model, your boiler may take a minute or two to start up. But if after a few minutes you don’t see/hear/feel the boiler working, then go ahead and proceed to the next step.

  1. Check the boiler! Every boiler, regardless of fuel type (wood pellets, oil, gas or propane) will have an indicator light or panel that will indicate if there is an issue with the appliance. Is there a red flashing light or an error message showing? You might need to call a technician to deal with this, but you might not. Try resetting the boiler using its reset button (typically placed close to the burner on the appliance. That may solve your issue. But if it doesn’t, don’t try to reset it again. This is a good time to go ahead and call your heating contractor to set up a service call.

BONUS TIP: If your boiler is displaying an error message or indicator light, snap a quick photo of it to show your contractor. Even if you are able to restore heat and nullify the error message by resetting the boiler, you may want to email your service department to follow up and make sure that there won’t be any ongoing issues, especially if there are a few weeks or months of winter left. Always keep in mind that any information is good information and sometimes keeping a record of the correct information can expose the cause of a problem.

If this all sounds simple, that’s because it is! You would be surprised at how many service calls are truly this easy. Here at True North, we believe that an educated homeowner is a happy, empowered homeowner and we want you to be able to do basic troubleshooting like a pro. So feel free to reach out to us with any questions, and we hope we can help you stay warm all winter.

However, some homeowners may find that they have come to a point at which their boiler needs to be replaced, and if that’s the case for you, we encourage you to learn more about heating your home with wood pellets, heat pumps, biofuel or natural gas, all great alternatives to oil or propane that will keep your heating bill low, decrease your home’s carbon emissions significantly, and help to support Maine’s local economy.