How to Put Antifreeze in a Hot-Water Furnace

The normal operations of a hot-water furnace obviously eliminate any threat of freezing when the heating system is in use.
However, if the building is unused during the winter, and the heating system is shut down to conserve energy, adding antifreeze to the boiler and radiator system will prevent damage from freezing. Adding antifreeze to the furnace is only part of the process for preparing a home for cold storage. The household plumbing and appliances must also be winterized.

Step 1

Shut off the boiler and allow the system to cool before doing any work on the hot-water furnace. Shut off any water supply pipes to the furnace. Look for a line from the household cold-water system to the furnace boiler or expansion tank, and close the valve.

Step 2

Drain the hot-water furnace system. First, open the bleeder valves at each radiator throughout the home to allow air into the system. Then open the valve at the lowest point in the boiler assembly at the furnace. Drain the water into a plastic bucket. When the bucket gets nearly full, replace it with another bucket, dump the first bucket, and continue to swap the buckets until all the water has drained. Water will not drain from the radiators and pipes unless air can enter the system. The draining of the hot-water furnace and radiators can take as long as an hour.

Step 3

Add boiler antifreeze to the furnace. Close the drain valves and locate the valve to the boiler or to the expansion tank. Add the boiler antifreeze to the tank, which will prevent freeze damage from any water left in the boiler after the draining process and also protect the boiler from corrosion. Consult the hot-water furnace owner’s manual for information on the size of the boiler.

Things You Will Need

  • Pliers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Boiler antifreeze

Warning

  • Air-locking or vapor-locking is a concern when draining water from a hot-water furnace system. Water attempting to drain from a radiator will not flow if a vacuum would be created by the evacuation of the water. Opening the bleeder valves allows air to displace the water as it flows away from the radiator. Air-bleeder valves must also be opened when the system is refilled to allow the liquid to displace the air in the radiator.

About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.