Winter is here and with it building problems unique to the cold season. Many of the building owners we work with are currently experiencing issues with their boilers. Boiler issues are always frustrating, especially during winter. We talked to three boiler experts in our network to provide some helpful tips to our readers. Here’s what we learned from Mina at Agarabi Consulting, Mike at Demtroys, and Gregory at Rathe Associates:
Determine the Lifespan
Mike: The typical lifespan for a boiler ranges from 15-30 years. This is of course subjective to the type of boiler, the demand on the boiler, and ongoing maintenance.
You can measure your boiler’s lifespan by having a contractor come onsite to provide an analysis. As part of this analysis, they’ll inspect the fire and water side, which requires shutting down and opening up the boiler. It’s important that you find a trustworthy contractor/engineer who is not going to try and make money by selling you a new boiler.
Perform a Checklist
Mina: There are a vast array of checklists that are out there for building superintendents and maintenance experts to follow. Some are meant to be performed daily, others weekly. Understanding what type of boiler you have will help you better understand which checklist is most appropriate for your application. Note that every building is different and may require adding or removing items from the template checklist.
You can access a boiler checklist here. The checklist (on page 9.26) is essentially an overview of the different checks a contractor or building superintendent can perform on your boiler to help them understand where it stands in terms of performance and remaining life. When working with a contractor, it’s best if they complete some form of this checklist so you can keep a record. Ideally, your recording of the daily reading of the boiler water, make up meter, and the stack temperature when the burner is firing will tell you if you need to schedule a service call. Additionally, keeping track of the running cost of repairs made vs. cost of new equipment is beneficial. If your boiler needs replacing, we recommend starting a reserve fund to save up for the work of replacing the boiler or upgrading to HVAC.
Keep a Log
The checklist mentioned above needs to be logged somewhere. There are many tools that your management company can use in order to log this data. We at Green Potential can also help capture and store this data. You want to make sure the checklist is logged in a manner that it is easy to see day over day, week over week, year over year.
Gregory: Make sure that you’re gathering and logging data around the boiler and that someone is monitoring it regularly. By tracking how your system operates regularly, you have a better idea of when it is starting to run off the rails. For instance, if your boiler system used to only run at half capacity on a 30F day, and now it runs at full capacity on that same temperature day, you may have issues you need to address. This helps you avoid emergencies, extends the life of your equipment, and generally will lower your operating costs.
Mina: Before doing anything (i.e. installing a monitoring / flow system, buying a new boiler, replacing different parts of your current system) – establish the end-use breakdown, benchmark the building and breakdown of O&M (operation & maintenance), and capital costs for the past 5 yrs or so.
Overall, you want to find a good technician who can help your building with their boiler maintenance schedule. Be careful not to put too much stock in some of these new monitoring technologies before making sure you fully understand your current system and its issues. Let us know if we can help in any way. Good luck!