With 40 years in this industry, we understand how difficult it can be when your boiler breaks down or a boiler outage. A defective boiler cannot provide heat or hot water and may become a safety hazard. Some worst-case scenarios are loss of life, uninhabitable residences, insurance claims, or emergency replacements.
A boiler that is not properly maintained can become over-pressurized and explode, run out of water while firing and melt or produce deadly amounts of carbon monoxide. Extreme breakdowns like these often require a boiler to be out of operation for weeks or months for repair and, in some cases, entirely replaced. How can a resident manager or superintendent plan for a boiler outage?
Minor breakdowns or a boiler outage should be expected and only require a boiler to be out of operation for hours or a day. Some minor boiler breakdowns are ignition failures, flame failures, cracks, or corrosion causing water leaks or incomplete combustion leading to carbon and soot accumulation on the fireside surfaces.
The best way to avoid extreme breakdowns and minimize minor breakdowns is by scheduling planned shutdowns for proper maintenance. Planned shutdowns are often short-lived and of minimum inconvenience to residents. If your boiler has to be out of operation for an extended length of time, some common temporary solutions to consider are:
Plan for a Boiler Outage: Vacate the Building:
Find temporary lodging for residents. Winterize the building if freezing temperatures are a possibility. Vacating the building is often the least convenient and most costly option.
Electric Space Heaters:
Easily obtained and quick to implement. However, electric space heaters don’t produce hot water, produce much less heat than a building’s heating system, cause a strain on your building’s electric grid, and can present other safety concerns.
Electric Water Heaters:
If the hot water demand isn’t too great, an electric water heater might be a good option for your domestic hot water needs.
The electric water heater will need to be correctly sized for the building’s hot water demand and available electrical grid capacity. An electric water heater will need to be plumbed into the building’s domestic hot water piping and wired into its electrical grid. Electric water heaters do not produce hot water as quickly as comparably physical sized gas or oil-fired water heaters. Permits from local agencies like the Department of Buildings may be required before installing an electric water heater, adding cost and time.
A properly sized Mobile Boiler is a great option to replicate the heat and hot water produced by a building’s boiler. A Mobile Boiler will require electricity and water from the building and piped to the building’s heat and hot water system.
Simply put, a Mobile Boiler is a boiler room on wheels. Housed in a trailer or on a flatbed, Mobile Boilers often contain all necessary controls, devices, and fuel storage to operate autonomously and safely produce heat and hot water. A Mobile Boiler must be parked outside and close enough to the building to run the necessary piping. There are some drawbacks to using a Mobile Boiler. They aren’t always readily available, can be costly to connect and disconnect, can take one to several days to deliver and connect. Permits from local agencies like the Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation may be required before placement of a Mobile Boiler, adding cost and time. Most residents consider a Mobile Boiler parked outside of the building to be an eyesore and are averse to the sounds and smell that may emanate.
Even a well-maintained boiler’s operation can be interrupted if the fuel source is not available. Problems like leaks or corrosion on Natural Gas Supply piping or a Fuel Oil Storage Tank can require lengthy repairs resulting in the building’s boiler being out of operation.
Final Thoughts for a Boiler Outage
Before considering one of the above measures, check if your boiler can burn a back-up fuel. A dual fuel boiler that can burn both gas and oil can be a lifesaver if one of the fuel sources isn’t available or the boiler has a broken part and can’t fire one of the two fuels. On most dual fuel boilers, the pilot can be modified to use natural gas, propane, or spark ignition.
Getting lousy advice during an emergency can lead to costly mistakes. Working with a qualified contractor like Controlled Combustion can make the above avoidable or as painless as possible.