T he Cooperator’s readers follow the news. Therefore, I need not say too much about the fact that despite petroleum quotas by the Saudis and President Clinton’s attempt to build up a heating oil reserve for our region, the predictions say the cost of gas and oil will be quite high this heating season. Hence, it benefits co-op and condo boards, their managers and superintendents to operate their heating and domestic hot water systems as conservatively as possible without making building occupants uncomfortable. In 90 percent of the buildings, this is quite feasible.
The efficiency of a heating system must be approached on several levels, and the boiler may not be the most important. Below, we list the components of the heating system and the energy conservation measures that apply to each.
1. Building envelope (the roof and walls with their windows and doors and openings for air conditioners, if any). The integrity of these have more to do with your fuel bill and ability to maintain comfortable temperatures than any of your other systems! Infiltration of cold air is a major item for fuel consumption and indoor discomfort. You need to make sure that all windows are tight against infiltrating cold outdoor air. Hint: Drape a small piece of the plastic that comes with your dry cleaning over a hanger, walk around the apartments and see if the wind is blowing in. Where necessary, have caulking between the window frames and the walls and/or weatherstripping between the frames and the sashes renewed. Be particularly careful to test all outside doors, to terraces, to the lobby, to the roof and to the basement. They are most often overlooked and may need weatherstripping, too. Find out if your roof lacks adequate insulation. Investment in upgrading pays for itself rapidly.
2. The burner, where fuel is prepared for burning: Efficient combustion of gas and oil depends upon the proper proportion of fuel and air entering the boiler’s combustion chamber and thorough mixing of the two. It needs adjustment at least annually by a mechanic. If this has not been done, call for service now!
3. The boiler (making steam or hot water for heating and, probably, generating your domestic hot water): Fuel is burned in the boiler’s firing chamber, which must be in good condition. It needs to be inspected to see if there are any loose or damaged fire bricks which must be replaced.