By Edward W. Moore Jr.,
operations and maintenance manager
As the summer officially comes to an end and the prospect of another cold and stormy winter approaches, the time is now for maintenance staff at New York City condominiums and cooperative apartments to take a hard look at their boiler maintenance programs.
For many, executing a professional heating and boiler maintenance program now can ensure an effective and efficient outcome during the frigid winter months when heating systems work overtime to keep residents warm.
In many instances, a building can reduce energy costs while extending the life of its heating system through systematic equipment checks, testing and monitoring. Increasingly, training programs from energy management companies provide maintenance personnel with valuable training that can help staff identify problems early on, while leveraging the latest technology and information to maximize the efficiency of a heating system.
Following are some basic tips for maintenance staff to consider this fall:
Conduct Annual Boiler Combustion Analysis Tests
One needs to make sure that the boiler is operating at the proper air/fuel ratio through all load ranges. If this is not the case, boiler efficiency will suffer. Maintenance staff can check the air/fuel ratio by conducting boiler combustion analysis testing on individual boilers. The by-products of the combustion process can be measured to determine how efficiently the system is working and to help identify what adjustments should be considered to optimize boiler efficiency.
Perform Boiler Cleanings Based on Stack Temperature
While this may seem to be a basic maintenance requirement, often boiler cleaning is overlooked. Poor combustion, due to an improper air/fuel ratio setting, will lead to increased soot buildup which results in excessive exhaust temperatures. By monitoring the exhaust temperatures, maintenance workers use stack condition to proactively determine when the boiler requires cleaning. Making sure proper cleaning techniques are used on a regular basis will help to ensure proper functioning of the unit, improving heat transfer and extending boiler longevity.
Monitor Boiler Firing Sequence
Mechanical wear is one of the biggest contributors to an inefficient boiler. As such, the boiler firing operation can be a clear indicator of where mechanical wear is taking place. By educating maintenance workers on the moving components, mechanical sounds, and timing, potentially troublesome areas can be easily identified. By ensuring smooth moving components, proper damper operation, and timely boiler ignition, the boiler downtime can be scheduled or averted entirely.
Proper Boiler Chemistry
One must also be keenly aware of the need for regular monitoring of boiler water chemistry activities as this will ensure proper boiler functioning and extend the life of the boiler. The corrosion of boiler internals can be prevented through regular monitoring of the pH and suspended solids in the boiler water. Although these services are typically performed by water treatment contractors, a continuous program of monitoring and awareness of contractors’ results will prevent boiler tube leaks and preserve the life of the equipment.
Track & Monitor Fuel Consumption
Maintenance staff must always be on the lookout for early signs of an inefficient boiler. The fuel burning rate of the boiler must be accurately tracked, as this often offers an early indication of degraded conditions and poor boiler performance. By monitoring the daily oil or gas consumption, maintenance workers can identify when higher daily consumption rates occur and take the corrective steps necessary to improve the overall efficiency of the boiler.
Training building workers to conduct these assessments can help track energy consumption and improve boiler efficiency as the outdoor temperature begins to get colder. Not only will the improved efficiency reduce operating costs, it will also contribute to improved tenant comfort and importantly preserve the life of a heating system. By instilling and following these practices now, property owners can ensure that their boiler system will be operating at maximum capacity