HVAC 101: Circulators

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What is a Circulator?

The circulator is a critical component to your hydronic heating system. Their purpose is simple: move hot water from your boiler through your radiators or air handlers. Each circulator uses its own built-in pump to force hot water through your pipes to its destination and then pull that same water back to the boiler to be reheated. The pump can be controlled by a thermostat or aquastat, which turns the pump on and off based on the temperature of the water and which specific zone is calling for heat. When the water in the heating system cools down below the set low limit, the circulator’s pump turns off, triggering the boiler to turn on.

What Causes a Circulator to Malfunction?

There are a few common reasons why a circulator may malfunction, including:

  • Worn out bearings
  • Electrical issues such as a failed motor or faulty wiring
  • Air in the pipes
  • Insufficient water flow
  • Degraded or worn out seals or gaskets
  • Corrosion or mineral buildup in the pump or pipes


How Do I Know if my Circulator is Broken, and How Will it Affect My System?

A broken circulator is fairly easy to spot. It may cause some minor discomfort at first, but if left unrepaired, it could lead to serious damage in your home. Here are a few signs that can indicate your circulator is broken:

  • No heat/hot water: If your boiler is up to temperature but the pipes remain mild, it’s possible your circulator is not working properly.
  • Noises: A circulator that is working correctly should run with a light hum. If the pump is making louder or high pitched noises, there is likely an issue that needs to be looked at.
  • Intermittent heating: If the circulator is not functioning properly, the heating system may not heat consistently, causing some rooms or sections of a zone at times to be colder than others.

A malfunctioning circulator can lead to further issues in your home such as frozen pipes and/or water leaks causing property damage. You may also notice a difference in your energy bills as your equipment is continually running to satisfy the zone that is calling for heat. However, if you are experiencing noticeable changes in your HVAC equipment’s performance but aren’t sure if it’s your circulator causing the issue, make sure to give Levco a call.


What To Do About It and What To Expect:

If your circulator appears to be having issues, start by contacting a local HVAC professional like Levco to assess the situation and make the appropriate repairs. 

Residential circulators are simple devices that do not take long to diagnose or replace. The parts generally cost between $100-$600 depending on the size required for your system and can be replaced generally the same day as the diagnosis in 1-2 hours. After replacement the technician will run tests to make sure your new circulator is working as intended. 

Older circulators require periodic lubrication (usually done during your annual tune up) but the new models are self lubricating and have a life expectancy of 5 to 10 years.


How Levco Can Help You (and Your Circulator)!

At Levco, each of our certified technicians has years of experience with heating and cooling systems like yours. Our mission of solving problems for our customers, often before they even know they have them’” is focused on delivering an experience that exceeds expectations every time we are asked to help. 

While nobody can ensure your equipment won’t have its issues over the years, Levco promises to work hard to maintain it at peak performance and be ready to assist in the case of an emergency 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If you suspect your circulator is broken or are experiencing other HVAC issues, contact us to learn more on how we can help!

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