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If you rent or own, your boiler is the unsung hero, providing heat and hot water to your home. We usually don’t think about our boiler until something goes awry.
We typically rely on the yearly inspections to make sure everything is running smoothly; however, things can go wrong. What about in between those inspections we go to where the boiler is and start to hear noises?
A noisy boiler is not typically dangerous and it is essential to know what kind of boiler you have and to be able to identify the noise you hear correctly. You can fix most sounds yourself, but the root of some noises are more complicated and require an engineer.
There are approximately eight noises identified the most. Half of those noises are potentially dangerous and should have an engineer come out as soon as possible to prevent severe damage.
While the other half can be a DIY project, some situations can end in calling an engineer out to take a look. Knowing the different noises and the potential threat behind them is information for any renter or home-owner.
What noises are potentially dangerous?
Four noises are potentially dangerous. Either the cause requires immediate attention or one out of the many reasons requires immediate action. If you hear the below sounds, please seek the guidance of a professional to assess the root cause.
The first potentially dangerous noise is vibration; a couple of things can cause this. Because one of the reasons can be a build-up of sludge, it is best to call an engineer to come out to evaluate the situation.
- A build-up of sludge – this cause is especially dangerous because it can cause overheating.
- A malfunctioning pump is shaking inside the case.
- An incorrect setting is currently on your pump.
Another potentially dangerous noise is banging; a couple of things can cause this. Older cast-iron heaters identify this noise more frequently.
The most likely culprit is due to kettling. Kettling is build-up limescale or corrosion on the heat exchanger. The other cause could be big air bubbles popping, which can cause excess movement and the fear the boiler is going to fall (it will not).
Because of the potential of the banging sound caused by air bubbles, it is best to call an engineer to come out to evaluate the situation.
The next potentially dangerous noise is tapping. This noise is most likely due to kettling. Kettling is build-up limescale or corrosion on the heat exchanger.
This build-up causes a restriction of water flow, which causes the water to boil, then the boiling water will steam. You should call an engineer if you encounter a tapping sound coming from your boiler.
The last potentially dangerous noise is a drone. The sound has also been described as a plane or foghorn. A droning sound is a characteristic of a pump that is about to fail.
If there is a mechanical pump failure or air and debris gets caught in the impeller. When one part starts to break, this can quickly escalate.
If other areas break down in addition to the starting system, it can affect your home. As soon as you hear a droning sound, you should call an engineer immediately to come out to evaluate the situation.
What noises can I potentially fix myself?
Four noises can potentially be dealt with yourself. The solutions can be done on the spot or require a little bit of research, either on a webpage or a YouTube video.
My first bit of advice is, radiators need a key, and I would make sure you know where to locate yours. You may encounter a situation that is over your head, and I would encourage you to seek the guidance of a professional to assess the root cause.
The first noise you can potentially fix yourself is a rattling noise; a couple of things can cause this.
- Loose objects can be shaking against one another.
- Air could be in the pipework.
- Loose valve
- Faulty pipe or valve.
First, you can try a radiator bleed and bleed the valve. There are many how-to videos on Youtube on how to bleed correctly. If you do that and still hear the noise, you can try and tighten any loose valves and clip any unclipped pipes. If the issue is due to a defective pipe or valve, it is best to call an engineer to come out to evaluate the situation.
The next noise you can potentially fix yourself is a humming noise; a couple of things can cause this.
- For an electric water heater, the heating element needs tightening.
- There can be build-up heating and expanding inside.
- High pressure can need readjusting.
- A washer on the tap needs replacing.
- There is an issue with the fan or the bearings within the fan.
First, you can try to tighten, readjust, or replace anything you see that could use it. If you need a detailed how-to video, Youtube is an excellent resource for in-depth DIY videos. If you still hear the noise after you try all of the above first, it is best to call an engineer to come out to evaluate the situation.
The next noise you can potentially fix yourself is a boiling kettle noise. Boiling kettle noises are historically caused by kettling or trapped air inside the system.
You can try to bleed your radiators to try and remove the trapped air. Then, check and adjust the pressure if needed. The other reason could be limescale or debris in the system. If the cause is due to the limescale build-up or debris, it is best to call an engineer to come out and evaluate the situation.
Dripping or Girgling
The last noise you can potentially fix yourself is a dripping or gurgling noise, which is caused by trapped air. The trapped air is not immediately dangerous; however, the trapped air can decrease the productivity of the boiler.
If your boiler is not operating at 100%, it can use more gas and stay on longer, which can lead to a higher energy bill. You should bleed your radiators as soon as possible to try and remove the trapped air. In colder months, frozen pipes can cause this noise. It is best to unfreeze your pipes as soon as possible to avoid damage.
Where can I get more information?
If you are unsure of how to describe your noise, you can visit https://www.hometree.co.uk/energy-advice/boilers/boiler-noises.html. This website has sound bites of all the sounds mentioned above so you can narrow down which noise you are hearing.
The site also includes two mystery sounds; these are sounds that are harder to describe. It also explains what the mystery sounds can be and how to fix them.
If you want to try and bleed your radiator at your home, you can visit https://youtu.be/0IP54Kbgnv0. The link will take you to a popular YouTube video that will walk you through step-by-step.
Alternatively, you can visit http://thediyguy.net/2014/10/how-to-remove-air-from-your-heating-system/. This site has a YouTube video for removing the air from your heating system on the page, and then lists the steps below the video.
If you are unsure how to find a qualified engineer to call to come to inspect your boiler, you can visit https://www.hamuch.com/heating-engineer.
At the top of the page, you put in what professional you are looking for (like a heating engineer), then your zip code and hit the search button. Once you hit the search button, you will be brought to a page where you can write in detail the issue you are having.
Also read: Is A Noisy Wheel Bearing Dangerous?