Heating Up the House

Yesterday morning, when I woke up and came down the stairs, I found that our dormant thermostat read 58°F. I decided it was time to get the heating system ready for winter. We have hot water baseboard heating, so I wanted to flush out the system, refill it, and bleed the line. I had very little energy yesterday, so I didn’t start working on the heat until late in the evening.

I got a bucket ready and drained the system. Then I opened the series of valves to refill it with clean water. I watched the pressure gauge for a little while and the needle didn’t move. I opened the drain valve to see how fast the water was flowing from the fill line. It seemed like a pretty puny stream, so I thought maybe there wasn’t enough water pressure to fill the boiler.

water draining from a spigot into a green bucket

We had trouble getting the system to fill a couple years ago, so we called out a plumber. He located a filter that was full of crud. I think that house call cost about $100. Eager for a chance to fix something we’d had to pay for last time, I opened the pipes and located the filter. It looked too clean to be the culprit, but I pulled it out for a better look anyway.

wire mesh filter in a threaded plumbing jointclose-up of a cone shaped wire mesh filter sitting on a white towel

The filter was definitely not the problem. Next, I checked the backflow preventer. That wasn’t it either. Since water was definitely flowing through the system, I decided to try filling it again. This time I waited longer for the needle to move on the pressure gauge. I stood there and visualized the whole system filling up with water before the pressure could increase.

When the needle started to move, I had a good laugh. As it turned out, the only part of the system with a problem was the valve operator’s patience. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure my original hypothesis would have been possible. Nonetheless, I’m glad I ran with it, since I learned more about the components of my home’s heating system. It was a rather stressful experience though, so I hope I remember all of this next time.

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