Published onDecember 7th, 2020
6 Signs of a Bad Circulator Pump
If you own or manage a rental property in New York City, you know having adequate heat and hot water for tenants is a top priority. One of the devices that helps ensure that is a circulator pump. Here are six signs of a bad circulator pump you should be aware of. When you know the signs, you can recognize them before your phone starts ringing off the hook because tenants are unhappy.
Purpose of the Circulator Pump
Keep hot water flowing
Also known as a recirculator or recirculation pump, your circulator pump is part of your hot water system. In some properties, it’s used solely to keep hot water moving through the pipes at all times. This way, tenants never have to wait for hot water at the tap. Ultimately, recirculating hot water is more convenient and less wasteful. It can also help property owners save money on water and energy bills.
In some buildings, a circulator pump is also part of the boiler system. Not only does it propel hot water through the pipes for bathing and cleaning, but it also keeps a steady supply of hot water available for steam heating.
Signs of a Bad Circulator Pump
No water in the system
Depending on the anatomy of your plumbing, you may see no water circulating at all, or you may have hot water only at certain spigots. Often this isn’t due to a complete failure of the pump but rather, it’s a stuck impeller. The impeller is the guts of the pump. It moves water from the pump’s intake side to its outlet. It resembles a fan or water wheel.
Sometimes tapping the pump can get the water circulating again. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to have a pump expert check it out to see if it simply needs cleaning or if it needs a complete replacement.
Occasionally, we see a circulator pump that is inadequate for the needs of the property. This can occur if the wrong pump was installed or if the needs of the building have increased since the circulator pump was first put in. Swapping out the pump should fix this issue.
Radiators not getting hot
If you rely on a circulator pump to supply your radiators and your circulator pump is not working, you will not get heat or will get very little heat. Tenants will be quick to tell you about this!
Usually, you can tell that the pump is not coming on or staying on (see below), which means it needs cleaning, repair, or replacement. If the pump is working, the lack of heat is due to another problem with your heating system, such as the boiler itself, the pipes supplying the radiators, or radiator valves.
Pump won’t come on or stay on
A circulator pump that won’t come on at all or that refuses to stay on could be due to a few different problems:
- Disconnected or corroded wiring (may require attention from an electrician)
- Broken parts inside the pump, including the pump motor that powers the impeller
- Problems with the relay switch, causing the pump motor to fail to turn on or to cut out intermittently
- Malfunctioning or incorrectly adjusted bypass valve (see “Hot water coming from the cold tap,” below)
- Pump overheating and shutting off
- Thermostat not adjusted properly or not working
- Failure to coordinate between the thermostat and the pump’s aquastat, which decides when to turn the pump on or off depending on the temperature of the water
If you’ve done what you can to evaluate or fix these causes and the pump is still failing, it’s time to call the pump professionals.
A circulator pump that makes excessively loud or unusual noises has something wrong with it. Likely candidates include:
- Wrong size pump for the system (too large or too small)
- Air in the line (needs to be bled)
- Bearings need replacement or have come loose
- Pump not properly aligned with pipes
- Internal part malfunctioning, such as a valve
- Improper pump mounting
Pump leaking water
Leaking water is also a sure sign that something is wrong. You may notice a related drop in water pressure along with this symptom. If you see rust on the exterior of the pump or nearby, you know the leakage has been going on for some time.
Typically, this problem can be repaired, meaning you won’t have to replace the entire unit. We usually see one of four things causing leaks: worn or broken mounting bolts, worn or broken seals (AKA gaskets), improperly attached or broken flanges or joins, or malfunctioning valves.
If you’re stuck dealing with a bad circulator pump, don’t let it turn into a major headache for you and your tenants. Reach out to Antler Pumps today by calling 212-534-2500 or using our easy online form to schedule an appointment.