3  FM quick reads on boilers

1. Boilers and Water Heaters: Training Technicians


This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media, with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is ensuring effective training for technicians maintaining boilers and water heaters.

Ensuring the efficient operation of boilers and water heaters goes beyond basic maintenance. Maintenance and engineering managers also need to staff operation and maintenance programs with technicians who possess the right combination of technical and managerial skills.

Once in-house resources no longer can meet a department's training needs, managers have several options. First, they can look to local community colleges, which might offer training for boiler operators. Boiler and burner manufacturers also offer training specific to their products.

The American Boiler Manufacturers Association also offers self-study courses written specifically for boiler operators. With any of these outside options, managers need to get feedback from attendees regarding their effectiveness.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, the principal union for stationary engineers and boiler operators, also sponsors apprenticeship programs. In selecting apprentices, most local labor-management committees prefer applicants with a solid background in basic science.

An apprenticeship usually lasts four years and includes 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Each apprentice also receives 600 hours of classroom instruction in subjects that include boiler design and operation, elementary physics, pneumatics, refrigeration, air-conditioning, electricity, and electronics.

Because boilers and water heaters are increasingly complex, more stationary engineers and boiler operators are enrolling in continuing education from vocational school or community colleges. In 2006, about one-half of the stationary engineers in the United States ages 25-44 had taken college coursework.

2.  With HVAC Upgrades, Reduce Loads First to Maximize Energy Savings

Today's topic is the importance of trying to reduce loads before replacing HVAC systems..

HVAC equipment is expensive and long-lived. What's more, these systems are sometimes so large that it is difficult to get new units into place without significant construction costs. So it's no surprise that decades may elapse between the time a boiler, chiller or air handler is installed and the day it is replaced.

The demands on an HVAC system depend to a considerable extent on the performance of other building systems. A one-story building in Texas, for example, will cost considerably more to cool if it has a conventional black roof than if it has a reflective roof. The same building in Minnesota will cost more to heat in the winter if it doesn't have adequate roof insulation.

The roof isn't the only part of the building that has an effect on HVAC loads. Solar gain through windows, air infiltration, heat load from lighting systems all have some effect on HVAC loads. So does equipment from computers to coffee makers. And improvements can be made in all areas.

The time to consider building system improvements and other load reduction measures is before a major capital investment in new HVAC equipment. If the load on a system can be trimmed, it may be possible to reduce the size of the HVAC unit as well. Optimizing the performance of the air distribution system may provide an opportunity for further reductions in chiller or boiler size. And the savings provided by the smaller units can be used to help pay for the load-reducing measures, or for more efficient HVAC equipment.

More widespread use of energy modeling software makes it possible to evaluate what-if scenarios more easily than in the past. Although energy modeling adds cost, that cost may be justified by the savings available from load reduction and HVAC savings. What's more, if energy savings are great enough, the project may qualify for federal tax deductions under IRS Section 179 (D), widely known as EPAct tax deductions.

By looking at load-reduction measures in conjunction with HVAC system replacements, facility executives may find cost effective ways to lock in lower energy consumption for several decades.

3.  Understanding Why Employees Resist Change

Today's topic is BAS start/stop functions.

A basic control function is simply to schedule HVAC equipment to turn on and at given times. It's always worth checking to make sure that this capability is being used. In some cases, it may have been turned off in an attempt to meet a temporary need, then not turned back on. In other cases, the facility staff may be hesitant to shut down heating and cooling if occupants are in the building late at night. But even a very late stop time – midnight, for example – will save energy and money compared to round the clock operation.

BAS start/stop optimization programs can do far more than simply on/off scheduling based on time of day. They can analyze outdoor and indoor temperatures to determine when equipment needs to be started. They can also schedule equipment operation to ensure that wear on boilers and chillers is as evenly distributed among all units as possible.

These powerful programs can save energy and extend equipment life. That's why it's important for facility executives to ensure that start/stop optimization capabilities are being taken advantage of. It's also important to ensure that facility operations staff understands the value of start/stop optimization. Otherwise, there's a chance that they will disable it. Finally, it's important to have schedules checked periodically to ensure that they are still in synch with building occupancy.


boilers , water heaters , training , technicians , hvac

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