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Question DetailsAsked on 5/11/2015

can a 22 year old forced hot water by oil heating system that is leaking water be repaired not replaced

This heating system had been repaired because of same problem about 3 years ago

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1 Answer


When you say heating system, I presume you mean a hydronic heating system - a hot water boiler (which runs up to maybe 180-210 degrees when heating), circulating hot water through hot water baseboard heaters and maybe also in-floor radiant heating coils - this is called a Hydronic heating system in the trade.

If you mean just a hot water heater - if leaking from the pipes or the overpressure valve it can be repaired no problem unless the threads in the tank itself have corroded out - you don't want to try to repair those. If the tank itself is leaking, replacement time.

If the pipes are leaking then that is just a normal hot water pipe repair - you shut off flow to that loop or pipe or, if piping in the "manifold" area may need the furnace shut down and partly drained (good time to do your annual partial draining to drain out sediment too) so the leaking joint is dry and can be repaired- usually solder connections on copper pipes. Unless this is a very old system getting a lot of leaks (say around every year or so at random places along the piping), just repair the leaks - no need to replace it if it is working OK and you are comfortable with an older system in the house. Actually, these commonly (with older units) last 30+ to as much as 100+ years with an occasional leak repair (usually in the pipes within a couple of feet of the boiler, especiall;y at the dielectric coupling, and especially if you turn it off (bad) or down to pilot (better) in the summer. Othear common "repairs", more in the line of periodic maintenance, include electric control box and gas controller if they fail (typically 20-30 years or more), circulating pump replacement every 20 or so years but sometimes far longer interval, air tank and inlet control valve maybe every 10-15 years. And air vent and overpressure/ overtemp valve replacement every few years as part of the annual servicing, when they fail to perform or test satisfactorily. Air vents are usually the most frequent maintenance item - when they fail you start getting air bubbles gurgling through the system, but if you have a plumber install shutoff ball valves at their fittings, you can then turn that off and (taking care to wrap with rag because there will be a slight very small spurt of very hot water) remove and replace the about $10-15 air vents yourself when needed.

In my experience, newer electronic controlled units last about 1/2 those times before major repairs are needed, and the newer thinner walled copper pipe now used for hydronic systems will probably not last over 40-50 years.

If the boiler itself is leaking - not at a pipe joint, but the actual boiler "radiator" inside the unit, those are rarely repaired because cast iron repairs are very hard to make last, plus if it corroded through at one place then it is probably about ready to go along entire lengths of the casting. However, the heat exchangers or "boiler" itself commonly outlasts all other parts as long as it does not have leak or condensate water running down into it constantly from above.

If you can tell what was replaced 3 years ago and needs repair now, it might help with saying if this sounds like a death-knell or just a more or less routine maintenance - you can reply back using the Answer This Question button right below your question. However, I would expect repair is a far more viable measure now than replacement unless you are in a very high fuel cost area where a more efficient unit will save you a marked amount of money. In normal fuel cost areas, the few hundred to maybe $500 or so a year in fuel savings with a more efficient units does not pay off the maybe $3-6,000 replacement cost for a boiler unless you are certain this is your forever home and will not be moving in the foreseeable future.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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