Prepare your Boiler for Winter

As the temperatures fall, many commercial building owners are starting to think about turning on the heat. In order to ensure that your boiler or heat exchanger is ready for the cooler weather, follow these tips to prepare your boiler for winter.

Regular Service.

Boilers should be serviced once a year by a certified engineer. The engineer will check all parts and clean components,and review boiler room logs. These logs provide information on factors such as fuel consumption and flue gas temperature, and are recorded on a daily or per-shift basis. This baseline data can then be compared against current readings to determine if the machinery is within safe operating parameters, or if trouble is brewing. If the boiler is older, it’s often recommended to have it serviced every few months.

Turn it on.

Boilers can potentially seize up if not regularly turned on. In order to prevent this from happening, it is recommended to turn the heat on for 10-15 minutes a few times during the summer, in order to ensure that all parts are working correctly. In addition, they can lose pressure over time, causing inefficiencies. Keep an eye on your pressure gauge, and keep it topped off. Water levels, operating pressure and temperature, and low-water cutoff should be checked every day. Further instructions on maintaining pressure can be found in your owner’s manual, or contact us if you’re not sure.

Bleed it out.

Radiators need to be bled if they’re colder at the bottom than at the top. This signifies that air is trapped in the system and needs to be released. If left in the system, this air places unnecessary strain on your boiler and wastes energy and money. In order to bleed the radiator, switch the heat off, and place the key into the bleed valve. Turn the key counterclockwise 25%, and you should hear air hissing out. When water starts to drip out of the bleed valve, lock it back up and clean up any spilled water.

In addition to bleeding when necessary, the water column and boiler should be blown down daily, and the feedwater pump’s operation should be inspected at the same time. Feedwater pressure and temperature should also be inspected.

Check for warning signs.

Classic ones include leaks, cracks, clunking noises, or soot accumulation.

Particulate buildup on the inside of fire tubes is a common issue, as is oxidation. If the system is receiving too much water (or not enough), this can cause issues. Remember what we said about keeping the pressure topped up? This is why. Chemical water treatments can also be implemented for areas with hard water, or other water issues. These treatments can help to reduce oxidation, and should only be performed by a qualified professional, on the correct schedule specified by the manufacturer.

Note that cast-iron boilers don’t generally need water treatment. In fact, water can potentially damage gaskets on some cast-iron models.

Problems may stem from the maintenance and installation of the boiler as well. Steel-construction boilers can last 25-30 years when properly maintained. However, if a boiler is not properly installed, it can potentially spring a leak 2-3 years into its lifespan. Regardless if it’s cast-iron or steel, however, it’s recommended that once you see a leak, don’t just replace the tubes or pipes that are leaking right now; replace them all.

Open flame.

Visually inspect your boiler’s flame. It should be a clear blue; the same color as any gas flame. If it looks smoky or yellow, contact us immediately. There may be an underlying issue that we need to look at. Flue gas temperature, gas pressure, and oil pressure and temperature should all be checked on a daily basis as well.

Let your boiler breathe.

Boilers need adequate ventilation. If they’re inside a closet, don’t store clothing or shoes in the same space. Airflow is important! We’ll let you know if your boiler has adequate ventilation, or needs more airflow.

Insulate the pipes.

When temperatures get below zero, the external condensate pipe can potentially freeze, causing the boiler to shut off as a safety measure. In order to prevent this, insulate the pipes, or keep the heat on very low when temperatures are extreme.

Watch out for silent killers.

If a boiler is not operating correctly, it can produce carbon monoxide. This odorless, clear, tasteless gas can kill. In order to prevent this, install a carbon monoxide detector with an alarm. The detector should be placed in the boiler room and tested each month to ensure that it is working

These tips should ensure that your boiler is running efficiently, and that you’re prepared for the cold winter ahead. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to schedule an inspection, contact us. We’d be glad to help!

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