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Tax credits and federal funding programs have many facility managers thinking now is the time to do a boiler upgrade in their institutional and commercial facilities.
While that may be the case, if a manager doesn’t know what they’re trying to accomplish or what they want, their anticipated savings may never be realized.
Managing Editor Dave Lubach of the Facility Market sat down with ABMA President and CEO Scott Lynch at the recent AHR Expo, a trade show dedicated to the HVAC industry, to discuss the boiler industry and how it’s affecting maintenance and engineering managers.
This is the second of two articles from the interview with Lynch. Part one can be referenced here.
FacilitiesNet: What should facility managers keep in mind when looking to upgrade their boilers?
Lynch: When I talk to my members, the first thing they say to me is the facility manager has to understand their system first. They need to know what they have, what’s working and what’s not. That’s what our members want to hear. Manufacturers want to hear what their needs are. That helps them understand the goal of the facility managers. Then it’s about talking to a number of manufacturers, going right to them, or their representative in the area and having a dialogue about why this system is going to be better for me. I think a lot of times we hear that people like the system they have. They want to upgrade the system they have, but sometimes that system is not the best system for what their needs are. There are cases where an end-user may have shifted their product a little bit. It’s not a brand thing, but with the type of boiler or the system they currently have, they have to be open to the understanding that their best option may not be what they currently have.
FacilitiesNet: What are 2-3 questions that managers should ask a supplier about when embarking on a boiler project?
Lynch: The first question is why do you think your system is the right fit for us? That's one of the most important things. We don’t build widgets. We build systems that are for the end user. A great manufacturer is going to sit down with them and understand what their needs are and build a system that meets those needs. The other question to ask is what’s currently going on? Based on their analysis, what are they currently seeing in the system, and how does a new system enhance what their needs are? It might be about saving money. It might be about efficiency. It also might be about gaining more steam or hot water. That’s the other part of it, figuring out what that goal is. Is your goal that you want to reduce your carbon footprint or save money, because you think your boiler might not be as efficient, or because you think you’re going to save money on fuel? Is your goal that you want the best boiler that’s not going to impact the environment? If they don’t know what those goals are, then manufacturers can’t really help. They’re not giving you the best proposal for what your needs are.
FacilitiesNet: With all of the federal funding and tax credits available, is now a good time to address your boiler situation?
Lynch: I would say a couple of things. Yes, it is, but managers need to understand their state incentives as well. There are federal incentives and state incentives, but they are different throughout the country, and that may also influence what they purchase. If there’s an incentive somewhere, it may be more expensive but they might get something on the back end. I think if you asked me if this is a good time to upgrade, my answer would be if they have an older boiler system, the payback whenever they do it is probably good. Some of these projects take years to come through and if it’s a capital project, it has to go in the system to be approved. But if managers have the knowledge of if we do this, this is what we can see, if we talk to three manufacturers and they all say the same thing, this is our payback, then they can start doing that work. A lot of times a project touches many hands before it gets off the ground. I just think knowledge is very important, and these manufacturers are willing to put in the time and have that conversation.
FacilitiesNet: What resources do ABMA offer that can help facility managers with their boiler programs?
Lynch: We have a boiler efficiency calculator and we also have the maintenance manual. We also have a downloadable document about fire tubes and water tubes and what the differences are, and why would you invest in one versus the other. Our members do their own trainings, some are online, some are face-to-face trainings and managers can go on there and get access to that. The webinars are free and give some instances of what’s going on in the market and what’s changing.
Dave Lubach is the managing editor of the Facilities Market. He has more than eight years of experience covering facilities management and maintenance.