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 step is taken and performed correctly, unnecessary problems could plague a boiler. That is why boiler service companies, as well as superintendents or other building employees charged with checking on the boiler, must be trained professionals who understand every aspect of the tasks they perform. Making an incorrect fix on a boiler or failing to fix a boiler that needs repair could cost a building’s residents a lot of cash. Think of it as heat flowing through a hole in a roof, or a faucet left running continuously—money unnecessarily spent on wasted energy costs. Boiler maintenance mistakes could amount to thousands of gallons of wasted water, and thousands of dollars needlessly spent by residents.
But keeping after this basement-dwelling, warmth-producing behemoth isn’t so complex that the average building resident can’t understand the equipment. And if they care about their housing-related finances, all residents will take the time to know a bit about their building’s heating system. Like a running faucet they all would turn off, catching problems with a boiler is time well spent, and money wisely saved.
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.
To prevent excessive soot from building up in the boiler, a building’s superintendent can open the boiler’s blow-down valve for a few seconds each day. This cleans out the sooty residue in the valve. Also as part of its routine maintenance, a boiler’s motors should be cleaned and lubricated once a month.