Maintaining your boiler is essential in keeping it running as efficiently as possible. Because most people only use a boiler system in the winter, the best time to perform maintenance is during the summer months.
Keeping your boiler running efficiently is more than just avoiding downtime if something breaks. That efficiency goes hand-in-hand with cost-saving measures for every company. Not only will you be avoiding large emergency repair bills, but you will also be saving on your monthly utility bills, as a boiler running correctly uses much less energy to function properly.
Therefore, having a schedule for regular seasonal maintenance is essential to your business and your bottom line.
One of the biggest reasons for seasonal boiler maintenance is for safety reasons. Of course, the cost-saving reasons are important, but the bottom line is running an unsafe boiler will do much more than just cost you a bit of money. This safety goes beyond just the workers who have to deal with the boilers. If something were to happen and your boiler was to explode, it could injure or kill employees. Obviously, no one wants that to happen.
In a residential setting, a boiler explosion or malfunction could cause the same kind of injuries, only chances are they won’t be to trained boiler specialists, but instead to your family. Additionally, an explosion can do serious harm to your home. There is, of course, the possibility of losing your home or extensive damage due to fire, but the possibility also exists for structural damage even if a fire does not happen.
There have been cases where the boiler cannot rid itself of built-up pressure, resulting in parts of the unit being blown through walls and floors. The right amount of pressure can send objects through virtually any surface, causing major amounts of damage.
Regular maintenance prevents accidents like that from happening. Catching issues with the machinery early is ideal for every aspect of the boiler.
Another important reason for maintaining regular maintenance on your boiler is to pass your annual inspection. This is a required test for companies and a recommendation for residential properties that ensure your equipment is working properly and is operating safely. If it fails, the company can face costly repairs, and even downtime if the inspector feels it is too dangerous to run.
While you don’t get to choose your inspection time, having inspections in the summer is much easier than in the winter. While you will have to start up the boiler for the inspection, if something is deemed unsafe, you have time to fix it before the boiler is needed again.
One easy way to prepare for your annual inspection is to make an annual checklist. In doing so, you are ensuring nothing gets missed along the way. Not only will you then be totally prepared for your inspection, but you will also be up to date on how everything functions and already be able to forecast what may need to be repaired.
Summer Tune Ups
Summer is the perfect time to get all of your boiler tune-ups completed. The warm weather allows you to easily work, and, especially in boiler rooms with air conditioning, the temperature in the boiler room is drastically lower. Implementing a summer tune-up schedule can do wonders for your boiler systems.
These tune ups may include:
- General visual inspections for corrosion and other damage
- Installing and updating any new parts that may be needed
- Cleaning the entire unit
- Checking the piping for leaks and other signs of weaknesses
- Listening to the boiler run. It should be fairly quiet so a loud boiler could indicate a problem
- Preparing your boiler log for the upcoming year
Shutting Down for the Summer
If you have a gas boiler, your best course of action is to consider turning off your boiler in the summer. This is for a variety of reasons.
- It gives you time to do the above maintenance. Servicing a boiler while it is not in use is so much better than trying to fix it while it still needs to be functioning at 100% capacity.
Additionally, it is much cheaper to fix a boiler that is not in use. Especially if those services need new parts that may take a few days to come in. During the winter months when those parts are essential, you could have a real problem on your hands if your boiler is out of commission. In the summer it is no big deal if parts take even a few weeks to come in since it is not currently in use.
- Even though it won’t kick on even if you leave it on during the summer, not completely shutting down your boiler can cost you money. A stale pilot light still takes gas to stay ignited. I am ready to go to work at any time. This may seem like an arbitrary amount of gas used, but it can really add up over time. Shutting off the gas to the unit will safely keep it turned off until you are ready to light it again as it starts to get cold. This can be easily done by turning the gas knob behind or to the side of your unit.
One overlooked issue when turning off your system for the summer is to check with your water heater. Most people don’t realize that depending on the model, they can be related. If your water heater is a stand-alone heater, you are all good to go to shut down your boiler for the summer. But if your water heater relies on the energy and heat from your boiler system, you have to leave it up and running even through the warm summer months, or you won’t have any hot water. You may not need to heat your home or business when the weather is nice, but you surely want hot water!
A thorough cleaning is an important part of your annual boiler maintenance schedule. This is the most popular time for issues being noticed as parts of the boiler are cleaned that aren’t regularly looked at. Cleaning can show problems you didn’t know existed.
While no one likes to find a problem, discovering these during the off months can save you a lot of time and money. In the event that cash flow will slow down your repairs, discovering issues while you still have ample time ahead of you will give you some time to get your finances ready to take on a costly repair.
Anyone can clean a boiler. It’s as easy as looking up a checklist of what to do on the internet, but much like a standard furnace, the best way to clean your boiler is to hire a professional. They know exactly what products can and can’t be used. They are also your first line of defense in detecting a problem. They are trained to look for corrosion and damages as they clean the unit, alerting you of any potential problems before they become major issues. Using a professional is always a good idea when you are dealing with large, expensive pieces of equipment and if you aren’t capable of servicing the boiler yourself.
Much like anything else, using the right company to clean your boiler is important. This service should be done only by trained professionals to service, clean, and inspect boilers on a regular basis. Since a good cleaning is your first line of defense when it comes to detecting issues, you want to make sure it is done properly.
We already established what to look at for an annual inspection, but what about a checklist for just the average person? Maybe you are only looking to inspect a small in-home residential boiler. This checklist is everything you need to make sure your boiler is ready to go before the cold weather hits.
Just because it isn’t providing heat to a large building doesn’t mean it doesn’t need the same amount of care and preventative measures that larger boilers require. These boilers should still be serviced and cared for the same way.
While the above checklist may be for the more skilled technician, here are some ways to ensure your residential boiler is functioning and is running as efficiently as possible.
- Check for leaking water under and around the boiler
- Listen for unusual noises coming from the system. Most are relatively quiet when running
- Keep an eye on pressure and temperature readings
- Keep the area around the boiler clean and make sure nothing is too close to the unit
- Ensure all of the vents are not covered or blocked for good airflow
Most homeowners are not prepared to cover large expenses such as you would encounter to get a replacement boiler or pay for repairs, so checking on your boiler can help ensure it is running properly and also tip you off to when repairs are going to happen, even if they are not quite yet necessary.
It is always a good idea to have your residential boiler looked at before starting it up for the season. This keeps you and your family safe and your machine running at its peak performance.
Summer Is Key
Regardless of how you handle your boiler maintenance, using the warmer months to inspect and service your boiler will save you a lot of time, hassle and money as the winter months approach.
What happens if a major problem is detected through an annual inspection? Depending on the severity of the situation, you will most likely be instructed to shut the unit down until the problem can be fixed. If you are inspecting and servicing during the summer, this is no problem, since the unit is most likely already off. During the winter, this could mean that you are without heat for a few days.
In many businesses, this would be a great inconvenience, but in some places like hospitals and nursing homes, going without heat is not an option. You are then looking at extremely high costs to get the issues fixed the same day or putting into place your emergency procedures to ensure everyone is safely taken care of.
Of course it goes without saying that needing emergency service in the middle of heating season is going to be more costly. This is considered prime peak season for boilers and the parts and service costs can be sky high.
It’s not just about pricing either. Chances are technicians are servicing units by severity, not by timing of calls. If something that may be minor but costly is occurring, there is a chance you will have to wait days or weeks to have someone come out because they are prioritizing those without heat as the first service appointments.
Even simple items like preparing your boiler checklist, a list of common problems that can arise that you should be checking at a determined interval through the winter season, are best made in the summer. This prepares you for exactly what needs to happen once the unit is turned on and functioning.
All of the planning and preparation in the world still does not mean that an emergency or down-time won’t occur in the winter. Even the best plans fail. There are always unforeseen problems that can arise or unscheduled maintenance.
Boiler companies as well as state guidelines are fluid and ever-changing regulations to help keep you safe. Staying on top of these recommendations is essential to the life of your boiler and your bottom line, but these recommendations can happen at any time.
The key is to be the most prepared that you can be. Have your boiler inspected before the start of the season, use the summer to clean and update your unit, and prepare items like your checklist before going into the winter months. As part of your checklist, have the name and number of a trusted service technician on hand if you do need to contact them as well as your boiler manual if you have one.
Seasonal maintenance will save you precious time and money and give you peace of mind as you head into the colder parts of the year where you need your unit to work its hardest.