Boilers: Four Factors Shape Decision to Repair or Replace

  May 15, 2012

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from James Piper, contributing editor for Building Operating Management and Maintenance Solutions magazines. Four factors can help a facility manager decide to repair or replace a boiler.

As with all building components, boilers have finite service lives. Even with ideal maintenance, they eventually require replacement. While a boiler's age is a major factor in determining whether to repair or replace a unit, it is not the only factor facility managers must consider.

No hard and fast rules exist for making this decision, but facility managers need to consider several important factors:

Age. As boilers age, maintenance costs gradually rise. Unless something serious goes wrong, replacement costs will always exceed repair costs. But the trend in maintenance costs is a more important factor. If these costs remain relatively constant, then repairing the boiler most likely is the better option. Consistently and rapidly increasing costs point toward replacement, as does difficulty in obtaining replacement parts.

History. Identical boilers operating in similar facilities often have widely different operating histories. Differences in set-up, operating practices, and maintenance often cause these variations. Operators and managers need to review the boiler's history to see if factors exist that suggest replacement is the better option.

Efficiency. New-generation boilers offer major increases in annual operating efficiency compared to boilers that are only 10 years old. Facility managers should consider the annual savings from replacement when evaluating options.

Configuration. Older systems with central boilers tended to include only one or two large boilers. That set-up often made it necessary to cycle one boiler to match part-load operating conditions. New-generation, centralized systems use several smaller, modular boilers, which allows operators to better match system capacity to facility needs, thus improving operating efficiency. Facility managers should review the historical building loads to see if a cost benefit exists for replacement with modular boilers.

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.


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