Well, Well, Well: Safety Issues of Non-electric Boilers During Power Outages

If you recently bought a home that has a boiler that only needs gas to operate, you may grateful to have a way to keep yourself and your family warm if there is ever a power outage in the winter. But if you have a well for your water source, this many not always be possible. There are a few important safety issues that you need to know or you could put your home and family at risk. It's important to understand how your boiler system works and what can happen as the result of a power outage. 

How Gas-Operated Boilers Work 

In order for a non-electric gas-operated boiler to work there needs to be several things: gas, pilot light, bulb thermostat, pressure relief valve, piping, and water. The weight of the mercury inside the bulb thermostat makes the bulb move position based on temperature. This triggers the release of gas into the system when temperature fall below the thermostat setting. The boiler burns the gas, which heats up the water inside the tank. When the water is hot enough, the water or the steam it creates goes through the pipes and into the radiators throughout the home. As the water or steam cools, it gets pulled by gravity back to the boiler tank to be reheated again.

Water Loss Is Expected & Needs to Be Replaced

Some water loss during the process is expected, especially in systems that use steam. Because of this, water needs to be continually added to the boiler. In some homes, water is automatically added via the plumbing system. But in other homes the homeowners may need to add water manually. It's important for enough water to always be in the boiler or there is a risk that the boiler will explode from malfunctioning and/or dry-firing. The gas would heat the tank regardless of whether or not there is enough water in there, which will cause a dry tank to explode. 

But Here's the Thing: Well Pumps Don't Work in Power Outages 

Most well pumps are electric, which means they don't work in power outages. Without water being pumped into your home, you won't be able to use any water during a power outage and neither will your boiler, especially if it is connected to automatically take the water it needs from the plumbing system. However, If you manually add water to the boiler, you could use bottled water during a power outage. Just be sure to not add cold water to a hot tank or you could cause the boiler to crack. But of course, how would you heat bottled water during a power outage? 

In order to still be able to use your water during a power outage, you'll need to have an emergency power supply backup for the well pump. You can do this with a solar-powered well pump. 

Another Thing: Carbon Monoxide Detectors Also Need Electricity 

Whenever fuel-burning appliances and equipment are used in homes there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, it's important to have functioning carbon monoxide detectors. But since most detectors are hardwired into the home's electrical circuitry, they also don't work during a power outage. 

To ensure that your home is safe from carbon monoxide during power outages, purchase new carbon monoxide detectors that have built-in battery backups in them. 

Non-electric gas-operated boilers can continue to provide heat during power outages, but they can also spell disaster when they aren't supplied with water due to an electric well pump. Speak with your boiler repair service for additional info about what you would need to do during and after power outages to keep your boiler working safely. 


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