Maintaining energy performance
In the current challenging economic environment, it is often tempting to delay the servicing of boilers to reduce expenditure. Pete Mills explains why this attitude can often end up incurring greater cost over the longer term.
There are three main reasons why the controlled maintenance of boilers and heating systems should be considered key.
The first is that they need to be inspected annually to ensure the continuing safe operation of the boiler and associated equipment — with employers, for example, having legal obligations to ensure the safety of gas appliances under regulation 35 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
Although modern boilers have a range of integrated safety features and are certainly safer now than they have ever been, an inspection by a trained engineer and timely intervention where it is needed still has the potential to act on any potential safety issues long before they come to prove costly.
With current trends moving towards multi-boiler cascade units, service downtime is much less of a consideration as one boiler can be worked on while the rest of the cascade makes up the capacity. This means that boiler servicing can be carried out outside of the traditional Summer shutdown period, without affecting the delivery of supply.
With more specialised equipment, however, it is often common practice for many facility-management companies to commission the equipment whilst manufacturers do the service and maintenance. This is not without good reason as the more specialised equipment requires specially trained engineers with the knowledge and experience to work on it. Again, in the long run, this practice extends the equipment’s life and avoids potentially costly service mistakes.
Boilers and heating systems represent a large investment, and getting value for money over the lifetime of the boiler is probably the second most significant reason why maintenance is important. Any neglected equipment will eventually grind to a halt, most probably when it is working hardest in the Winter and leaving the occupants in the cold. Annual servicing of boilers and burners will help to make sure that parts last longer and that components that may be about to fail are replaced before they do. For any piece of equipment, prevention is far less costly than cure in the long run.
Energy efficiency is the third main reason why boilers and burners should be serviced at regular intervals. In the world of commercial heating, small changes in the way boilers run can mean potentially large overall energy savings. Ensuring that boilers are cleaned and combustion optimised are the foundations of efficient running, whilst checking that the boiler controls are still set up correctly and have not been over-ridden in the previous year remain an important consideration. Confirming that the burner’s turndown ratio has remained optimum and unimpeded is another area which regular maintenance can address.
With energy prices remaining high, it makes economic sense to be sure that all is running efficiently, as well as ensuring our CO2 reduction commitments are still being met. Keeping CO2 reductions going year after year can be tough if boilers and heating plants are not maintained properly.
A useful function of the Buderus 4000 control system is a service-reminder facility which can be set up to sound an alarm when a service is due. This function can be operated on the basis of run hours or on a set date, meaning the end-user will not be able to overlook when the next service is due.
At the design stage, service and maintenance should be prioritised when it comes to the layout of the boiler room. BS 6644 requires that there are no restrictions on the access to burners and boilers that might prevent proper maintenance. Space in a boiler room is often at a premium — with many competing priorities, but leaving a customer with a system that is difficult to maintain should be viewed as a design failure in itself.
With many of today’s condensing boilers operating at over 95% seasonal efficiency (L2B), there is scope for facilities managers to take advantage of the short payback periods offered by heating technologies. Regular servicing will ensure that a boiler is operates at its optimum performance level throughout its lifespan, which will ultimately ensure that the original investment is maximised.
Pete Mills is commercial technical operations manager with Buderus.
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