Plumber performing boiler repairs

Boilers, Hot Water Heaters and How They Work

When homeowners think of staying warm, a reliable furnace is probably the first thing you think of. But plumbing appliances like your hot water heater and even boilers are just as useful. Your hot water heater is vital for laundry or bathing, while boilers can be efficient solutions for whole-home heating. With a skilled team of installers and service technicians, Mark Allen can help make the most of these appliances.

Let’s review how both systems are designed. You can make a more informed decision when you’d like to schedule boiler installation of your own. And when you need any sort of boiler repair, call 412-381-2500.

Understanding How a Boiler Warms Your Home

While furnaces are the most common heating system these days, boilers are commonly used options too. You can still find them in old houses by way of standing or baseboard radiator systems. Modern boilers are making a comeback thanks to design innovations.

When the temperature drops below your current settings, the boiler begins heating water for distribution throughout the house. Different zone valves direct the water to each radiator thanks to a powerful circulating pump. But now, boilers are also compatible with contemporary HVAC ductwork. A hot water coil is placed in the air ducts, heating the air through convection before it circulates through your ventilation system.

Most boilers keep this water supply between 180 to 200 degrees (F). To keep the entire supply at optimal temperatures, the circulator continues to pump water until the coldest water has made its way back to the system. Maintaining the pressure of this system is best at around 30 pounds per square inch (psi). A gauge located on the front of the boiler allows you to check both the pressure and the water’s temperature.

Other important parts of a boiler are the air scoop, water feeder, expansion tank and relief valve:

  • The air scoop, also known as an air separator or air purge, removes any air bubbles held in the water. This reduces noise and stops air-bound radiation from impacting the system’s efficiency.
  • Automatic water feeders continue to add water whenever necessary to keep the system full, lowering the risk of problems.
  • The expansion tank extracts excess water generated by the heating process.
  • Lastly, a relief valve keeps the water pressure at safe/efficient levels. If it isn’t working right, you risk overheating the system or forcing too much water into it.

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First Up: How Do Conventional Water Heaters Work?

In most designs, a hot water heater is essentially a large storage tank with integrated heating elements. Water stored inside the tank is continuously heated until you need hot water somewhere else in the house. The water is heated to your preferred temperature before being sent to the faucet or appliance that needs it. For best results, the water heater’s thermostat should be set between 120 and 140°F. This reduces the chance of scalding or bacterial growth.

Alternatively, tankless water heaters are comparatively recent and don’t use a storage tank, as the name suggests. Rather, it heats water as it arrives from your main water line. This can be very energy-efficient since you don’t need to constantly heat water like you would with a traditional tank water heater.

Five Signs Your Boiler May Need Professional Service

Call a trained boiler repair technician if you recognize any of the following signs:


The burner is making strange sounds or emits a smoky odor:

These burner problems often point back to trouble with the combustion process. We can take a look at the burner assembly itself along with the air and fuel supply lines.


Constant air sounds:

A noisy boiler can be a frequent sign of air stuck somewhere in the system, reducing efficiency. While most of the time these air pockets are in the pipes, there may also be something wrong with the circulation pump.


Water leaking out from the relief valve:

In most cases this is a sign that the water pressure inside your boiler is too high. This could be due to a malfunctioning pressure relief valve or that there’s something wrong with the expansion tank.


Water dripping from any of the piping connections:

Leaks at the piping connections usually stem from damaged seals, joints or connections in the system. Addressing these leaks early prevents more damage or loss of efficiency.


A burning or odor like gas:

The smell of natural gas or something burning can be a serious safety concern. There may be a leak in the fuel supply line or a damaged burner assembly. A fast response ensures safety and prevents the risk of a fire.

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Whether you’re looking to fix a problem or you’re ready for an upgrade, Mark Allen can help.

We offer repair and installation services for both hot water heaters and boilers, and our certified staff will find out what your boiler or hot water heater needs to stay in the best possible shape. Reach out to us at 412-381-2500 to arrange a free consultation.

We service all major makes and models, so contact us today!

Save Even More with Special Offers

A complete sense of comfort shouldn’t be out of anyone’s budget. Mark Allen lightens the load with seasonal promotions, discounts and other special offers. These offers help lower costs for key services, new equipment or whatever else you need for your comfort and peace of mind. Check out our current offers for more details on how to save.

Committed to Comfort from the Very Start

While a long history of service is impressive, nothing is more important to customer satisfaction than a dedication to total comfort. Mark Allen considers your peace of mind our top priority, and that hasn’t changed since we first opened our doors. Learn more about our history, and how our communities support us just as much as we support you.