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As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.

Adding Water to a Steam Boiler

Add Water To Your Boiler to Keep that Steam Heat Humming

Add Water To Your Boiler to Keep that Steam Heat Humming

This bitingly cold weather is one more reminder to pay close attention to your heating system.  If you have steam heat you may need to add water to the boiler (and yes – it’s a boiler, not a furnace, if your heating system uses water).

During our last cold snap I spent two hours in an unheated foreclosure.  It took me all day to thaw.  The first thing I did when I left that frigid house was to return to mine to check on my boiler. 

I love steam heat.  I had it in my first house and it’s in my current house too.  Neither  boiler had an automatic feed so it’s up to me to make sure the water level is sufficient.  You would think I would know how to add water to a steam boiler by now.

But when I arrived home that day I wasn’t sure.  Could I add water to the boiler if the heat was on?  Would it hurt the boiler if I added water when it was hot?  Could I break the furnace?

Turns out when adding water to a steam boiler you want to turn off the heat and let the boiler cool.  Adding cold water to a hot boiler can crack the boiler – which will then require replacement – or worse, according to at least one article I read, cause the boiler to explode – eek!

Best practice I guess is to not wait until the coldest day of the week to check the water level in your steam boiler.  And if you want more help  with your steam heating system the very best resource is Dan Holohan’s The Lost Art of Steam Heating - it’s really the bible for homeowners with steam heat.

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  1. Denise Hamlin

    Excellent tips for anyone with a steam boiler Liz. I’m sure not everyone knows that you need to switch the system off and wait for it to cool down before adding water.

    It’s not something we need to worry about here in Iowa City, it’s mostly forced air heating here. (Occasionally in turn of the century homes there will be a steam boiler, but it’s not common).

  2. Elizabeth Bolton

    Hi Denise! It’s an important thing to remember. I sold a condo with a steam boiler and not long after the new owners moved in they had a cracked boiler. I’m betting they added cold water to a hot boiler. Bummer! An expensive lesson for sure.

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