Maintaining a Building's Infrastructure The Health of Your Boiler System

In many ways, a building’s boiler is like the heart is to the body: it provides heat and circulation; it works unseen; and if properly maintained, it will function well for decades without a problem. Maintaining the heat source of the community is as important and as specific as the care people take in watching their weight and their cholesterol levels. And when the weather gets colder and a building’s boiler is taxed harder, it is crucial for the boiler to be maintained well, and for it to be running at optimal efficiency. Failing to do so will inevitably put added strain on the machine and end in a breakdown.

Keeping the boiler system operational is a combination of off-season maintenance and routine checkups. Unless each maintenance step is performed correctly, unnecessary problems could plague a boiler. Failing to keep the boiler in shape also could lead to a complete shutdown of the system. If water levels and pressure limits in a boiler aren’t kept in check, the machine can overheat, crack and fail.

That’s why boiler service companies, superintendents and other people who check on the boiler must be trained professionals who fully understand the tasks they perform. Incorrectly fixing or failing to fix a boiler which needs repair could cost a building’s residents money that’s unnecessarily spent.

Leaks and inefficiencies can mean wasted energy costs, but inept or irregular maintenance can lead to the worst scenario of a boiler breakdown. Not only is it inconvenient to order a new boiler in the chill of winter, but the machines will cost more at that time. While a building is waiting to get the new boiler delivered and installed, residents may have no heat unless a temporary solution is found. Some companies rent boilers to be used temporarily, but costs for the machines start at $8,000 per month. These temporary boilers also require installation, which costs $15,000 or more.

Shaping Up

Maintaining this basement-dwelling, warmth-producing behemoth isn’t so complex. Boilers operate constantly when they are needed most, and like any machines, they will have problems. But regular maintenance can prevent many unnecessary repairs. Not cleaned properly and a boiler will accumulate soot and other dirty residue. Tests that have been conducted by municipalities, heating plant engineers and boiler manufacturers have proven that even a small amount of soot (1/8" to 1/16") will drain boiler efficiency by as much as 25 percent depending on the system. This amount of wasted fuel translates into wasted dollars to any multi-family building. A boiler system must be completely clean on the water and fire side. A clean heating surface results in maximum heat transfer and less heat (dollars) up the stack.

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