Let’s talk boilers! Okay…calm down and put the party noisemakers away. At GBRI, we know and appreciate the fact that this is an exciting subject for the building owner or manager interested in the energy efficiency of their major appliances like boilers. With over 187,000 area source boilers used in the United States, that accounts for a significant amount of air pollution. According to the EPA, area source boilers are in commercial, institutional, or industrial facilities and emit less than 10 tons of hazardous air pollution each year. Major source boilers are those emitting pollution that exceeds the limit. Commercial boiler units are typically found in apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, office buildings, laundries, light industrial, and the like.
The EPA has been working on revised boiler guidelines for almost 2 years and recently issued (December 2012) finalized changes to the Clean Air Act standards for area source and major source boilers. Now, boilers are expected to meet more rigid emissions standards, but approximately 99% are unable to do so, unless replaced, tuned up, or retrofitted.
Humming and Singing Boilers
Many boilers are older models and are less than 60%-70% energy efficient. New models have a thermal efficiency of 94% or higher. Therefore, the age old and haunting question is: Retrofit or replace? Sometimes, it is easy to answer that question when the boiler is humming and singing and acting like it is ready to do a tap dance. Boilers are not meant to entertain. They are meant to work. Unfortunately, many of them are working inefficiently and producing high amounts of greenhouse gases, while using an excessive amount of natural resources. That is precisely why the EPA has issued new rules.
Therefore, one of the first factors to consider is the boiler’s actual performance (not just the rated performance) and the condition of the components. If the boiler is older, but is working efficiently per test results and can be economically upgraded to meet higher performance standards, the age of the unit becomes a distant consideration. That said, if the components are pitted, cracked, stressed, requiring frequent repairs, and wasting energy, it may be time to replace it. Another consideration is the size of the boiler for its load requirements. If the boiler unnecessarily cycles a significant amount of time during certain seasons or is no longer able to efficiently manage peak workloads, the boiler may not be sized correctly.
The cost of repairing, retrofitting or tuning up must be evaluated in terms of the cost of replacement, but that is a complex process. In response to the EPA emphasis on boiler efficiency, and the difficulties building owners and managers face in making a ‘retrofit or replace’ decision, GBRI developed a course that will discuss the factors to consider before making a decision. Calculating the ROI and payback period is a sophisticated process which takes into account financial, operational, and maintenance requirements for various types of boilers. The course is worth 2 GBCI- and AIA-approved hours and is available on-demand beginning 2/8/2013.
Does your boiler tap dance and think it is designed to entertain? Is it time to evaluate your commercial boiler for performance efficiency and potential upgrade or replacement? For your situation, what factors are most important for consideration during the boiler evaluation?
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