From the Forum – Annual maintenance on hot water radiators and boiler

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Annual maintenance on hot water radiators and boiler

“I own a 1920 row house in Petworth and now that it’s getting colder, I’m looking for recommendations for someone who can provide basic annual maintenance/check up to our hot water radiator and boiler system. In particular, it’d be great to have answers to:

1) Who would you recommend?

2) What particular services should I look for or avoid?

3) What’s a fair price to pay?


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15 Comment

  • I’ve wondered the same about water heaters. The maintenance guides say your supposed to drain the whole tank annually to get the settled sediment/rust out. How does someone in a condo do that, exactly? Do people actually do this?

    • It is good to drain the tank annually as a scheduled maintenance task. However, this should be done every year from the time that the tank was installed, and if not, it is best left alone. Especially if the tank is at or exceeding its statistically useful life expectancy.

  • epric002

    we just had sila HVAC come out for a $69 maintenance deal and he checked out/cleaned our ancient boiler (repair guy said he’d never seen one so old and was going to look up the serial number to see how old it was), radiators, and even fixed the thermostat on some electric baseboard heaters i have in the basement. i’m planning on calling them back out to install programmable thermostats for everything.

  • jim_ed

    1) I use CroppMetcalfe. On the pricier side relatively speaking, but I think it evens out because their work has always been honest.

    2) Avoid any replacement without a second opinion, or repairs over $1000 for something older than 10 years (15 years for a boiler). Also be be extremely weary if they offer any type of duct cleaning for less than $300 – that’s a red flag for scamminess. Also avoid John C. Flood like the plague.

    3) for an annual service, they usually run $80-$120 for it, but most companies will offer coupons at this time of year to get the price $60-$80.

  • PDleftMtP

    I’ve been happy with BMC/Clower. Hard to compare prices, but on the AC side of the system they recommended something much cheaper and easier than the competitors (and it worked).

  • Google/YouTube are your friends. It’s actually pretty easy to perform maintenance on a hot water heater.

  • I know people have different comfort levels with this type of thing, but in my admittedly unprofessional opinion, I think it’s better to put that $60-120 in a jar that says “future boiler/hvac/water heater repair/replacement” than to do the annual inspections. Unless something is currently not functioning, I don’t think technications can accurately guess what part might fail this winter versus next winter (or in 5 years). And if it does fail this winter, call the technician then (or your 2nd or 3rd option if yours is busy). Going without heat in an interior row home (w/o children or pets) for a day or two isn’t the end of the worId. Unless there’s a crazy cold snap where everyone’s boiler/furnace breaks at the same time, and you were left w/o heat for an extended period, I just don’t think it’s worth it. Again, personal preference based on my assessment of that risk.

    tl;dr: if it ain’t broke….

    • Agree.
      If you are at all handy/techy you can save yourself some very expensive (because most techs are going to be 100+ per hour) but simple repair/service calls by knowing what model you have and getting a spare igniter and flame sensor (this includes forced air furnaces as well though the AC component of those is much trickier to self service). You can also extend the lives many types of igniters/sensors by removing them and hitting them with some high grit sand paper. In my experience 90% of the time a unit won’t fire up it is one of these components and both are usually under $20 and available online. If you have radiators you should also know how to bleed them and add water pressure if need be (you may not need as you may have an autofill valve).

  • I’m not sure that there is any maintenance to be done on a radiator other than to bleed it for air pockets when necessary. If a radiator is completely cold or has cold spots after you’ve run the furnace for awhile, take the radiator key and slowly open the valve to let out any air that is trapped inside. Note that you should have a bucket under the spout because at some point water will start spurting out (or steam if you have that kind of radiator).

  • I will only use Stevens Plumbing from now on. They’ll do this service and give the system a check up. We’ve used other companies in the past, but Stevens has always been dependable and they’ve been honest about the scope of the job. Last winter our pipes burst and they sent a supervisor out to help us out because everyone else was busy on jobs. I know this post makes it sound like I work there, but I don’t. Check out their Yelp reviews.

  • I really like Mirko at PCK HVAC ( I think the whole company is Mirko. He’s done a lot of work on our system: replacing radiators and fittings that leaked, and replacing a broken controller board in the boiler. His prices are great and he knows radiators and boilers really well.

    • Seconded. Mirko has done my heating and cooling for years (1930s rowhouse) and is dependable, has flexible hours, is very low cost and just an all-around nice guy. He is the ONLY regular house maintenance guy I would recommend without a second thought. I think I have even given him a key to my house in the past…

  • Foley Mechanical Inc is the best in the area. They tend to focus on expensive installations and large commercial plants, but they definitely know what they’re doing.

  • I had Sila out last month to perform a fall tuneup on my boiler. Everything was great, and the technician seemed very knowledgeable. They are a little pricier than others in the area, but I have found their service to be worth it. I signed up for their maintenance plan this past summer, and both technicians arrived on time.

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