Is Your Building’s Boiler Ready for an Upgrade?
A sturdy old boiler can be the source of many years of effective heating for your commercial building, but eventually even the most reliable boiler system will start to fail. If properly maintained, a commercial boiler can last for 15 years or more — many have been known to last much longer than that. Here is a brief introduction to boilers and some factors to consider when deciding if it’s time for boiler replacement.
Boilers use a combustible fuel such as natural gas, fuel oil, or coal to heat water used throughout a commercial facility. The boiler produces hot water or steam that provides hydronic heat for the building. Boilers are also used to provide hot water for bathrooms, kitchens, and industrial operations. These types of equipment can work at low or high pressures, depending on the type of system, but hot water will always be present. Safety should always be consideration when working with commercial-grade boilers.
Factors to Evaluate
- Age — Age can be a prime consideration when thinking about replacing a boiler, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. If your boiler has been properly maintained, it will most likely last longer than average. Boilers that have been in service for 15 years or more are in the range where age is likely to become an issue.
- Condition — If your boiler is still in good condition, it will probably last for a few more years. Factors to consider when evaluating condition include the metal of the boiler and whether or not there is rust present, whether there are leaks anywhere in the system, the condition of the doors, the state of the brickwork in the combustion area, and the function of the burners and the controls that operate them.
- Performance — A boiler that is losing efficiency and heating performance is a good candidate for replacement. Maintenance and repair may keep the equipment working adequately, but eventually a deteriorating boiler will need to be upgraded or replaced.
Boiler Replacement Considerations
- Sizing — You should make sure your replacement boiler is properly sized to provide sufficient amounts of hot water or steam for your facility. Sizing in this context refers to the system’s functional capacity to produce heat, not its actual physical dimensions. Your HVAC professional can conduct a load calculation on your building to determine how much heating you need. With this information, it is relatively easy to select a boiler that will meet your needs.
- Efficiency — Many older boilers are lower efficiency models, which means they use more fuel to produce heating. Newer boilers offer high levels of operational efficiency, giving you plenty of heating for less money and by using less fuel. Look for a boiler with a high AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating. An additional indicator is high efficiency is the government’s Energy Star program certification. Boilers with an AFUE of 80 or above can earn Energy Star designation.
- Ventilation — Since boilers burn combustible fuel, there will be gases and fumes produced as a result. The most common and probably the most dangerous of these gases is carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas that can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted by humans. A boiler system must have proper ventilation to ensure combustion gases are safely and effectively routed out of your building.
- Installation — Proper installation is essential when replacing a boiler. In addition to considerations about carbon monoxide, care must be taken to ensure a boiler is correctly installed to handle the pressures produced by hot water and steam. Otherwise, there can be a risk of water leaks or even explosions that can cause serious damage or injuries. Make sure your new boiler is installed by a qualified professional.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on upgrading your boiler, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
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