Troubleshooting Expansion Tanks

An undersized expansion tank or one that is completely filled up with water will cause the boiler pressure to increase when the water heats. Because the expansion tank is too small or too filled with water to absorb the excess pressure, the relief valve will begin to drip. The dripping relief valve is only symptomatic of the real problem, and replacing the valve will in no way solve it.

There is not much you can do about an undersized expansion tank except replace it. As a rule-of-thumb, expansion tanks should be sized at 1 gal. for every 23 ft2 of radiation, or 1 gal. for every 3500 Btu of radiation installed on the job. In Table 10-3, the allowance is slightly higher.

If the problem is a completely filled tank, it should be partially drained so that there is enough space to permit future expansion under pressure. The first step in draining an expansion tank is to open the drain valve. The water will gush out at first in a heavy flow and then tend to gurgle out because a vacuum is building up inside the tank. Inserting a tube into the drain valve opening will admit air and break the vacuum, and the water will return to its normal rate of flow. After a sufficient amount of water has been removed, the drain valve can be closed.