May 31st was officially the last day of heating season here in NYC. But don’t let that fool you into thinking you shouldn’t worry about your boiler system until next season. This article will share 9 things you should do while your boiler is not providing heat.
So you made it through another heating season. How was it? Did your heating system perform at its best all season long, or were there some problems along the way? Hopefully, your residents or employees were comfortably warm all winter. Whether this heating season was your best one yet or the worst ever, there are several things you can do this summer to ensure your next heating season is a success.
Now that your boiler is shut off for the season, this is a great time to perform a burner overhaul. Before we highlight all the work involved in a burner overhaul, let’s first discuss why you should prioritize maintaining your boiler’s burner.
In short, your burner is responsible for managing combustion – the chemical reaction caused by mixing oxygen, fuel, and heat. This means your boiler’s burner has the important job of igniting the fuel, regulating the amount of fuel being burned, and ensure the flame is the right size. But as this chemical reaction takes place, it produces unwanted combustion bi-products that stay behind and dirty the burner.
Burner manufacturers recommend periodically checking and cleaning your burner to ensure it will reliably do its job. If your burner fails to properly and evenly burn the gas in the combustion chamber, you run the risk of unexpected downtime during heating season, all sorts of operating issues, and a decrease in your equipment’s expected life.
Then there’s the energy savings. When your burner is clean and operating properly, fuel efficiency increases and fuel consumption lowers. Who doesn’t want to spend less money on fuel and thoroughly heat their space? You’ll also be glad to know that a clean and properly tuned burner will provide the cleanest possible emissions.
Right after heating season is a perfect time to have your burner overhauled since a proper overhaul will be extensive. You’ll save yourself the extra hassle of boiler downtime when you need to heat the building.
Here’s a look into how we here at Controlled Combustion perform a burner overhaul:
- Disassemble the entire burner for proper cleaning
- Scrape all air passages free of soot
- Drain the crankcase and refill with fresh lubricant
- Remove and thoroughly inspect ignition, gas jets, nozzle assemblies, air shutters and fan
- Replace the electrode/ignitor and ignition wire
- Test remaining ignition components
- Reassemble the burner
- Fire the burner and adjust the flame
- Test the operation of limit and flame safeguard controls for reliable and safe operation
Clearly, a lot of work goes into a burner overhaul, but it’s well worth the time and effort. While every manufacturer recommends how often to service their burner, you’ll want to do so at least annually. Why not do so before the next heating season rolls around? If you put it off until just before the heating season starts, you may find yourself struggling to find a boiler service company that can squeeze you in before October 1st.
2 – Low Water Cutoff Maintenance
A low water cutoff is a safety device on steam boilers designed to shut the boiler off in the event it runs low on water. The most common low water cutoff control in NYC multifamily buildings is a float type low water cutoff. Using a float, this device determines how much water is present in the boiler. If the float drops below where it should be, the boiler will shut off.
It’s extremely important that your boiler’s low water cutoff does its job. When a steam boiler runs lows on water and does not shut off, a “dry fire” could result. A dry fire is when there is no water in the boiler to regulate the temperature. This can cause the boiler to overheat, warp, or even crack, resulting in very costly repairs or a complete boiler replacement.
You can easily prevent a dry fire by making sure your low water cutoff is in proper working order. Throughout the year, performing daily and weekly blow-down testing should be part of your routine low water cutoff maintenance plan. McDonnel Miller, the most common low water cutoff manufacturer, recommends their float controls be opened and cleaned once a year and blown down daily.
When the heating season is over it’s the perfect time to do a more in-depth cleaning and inspection of this crucial part of your boiler. At Controlled Combustion, we recommend this be done annually:
- Inspect for corrosion or wear and replace affected parts
- Properly clean and rid of any debris or sediment
- Test operation
Did you know that many insurance companies require that a low water cutoff be serviced this way annually? This is a great way to extend the life of your low water cutoff controls. So before you find yourself in hot water with your tenants and insurance company, make sure you have someone perform a thorough low water cutoff maintenance before the next heating season.
3 – Fireside Cleaning
The fireside of your boiler consists of all the passageways that heat (not water) passes through. These are the combustion chamber, tubes, and chimney. Like we mentioned earlier, the process of combustion produces combustion bi-products that build up – commonly known as soot.
You don’t want soot to build up in your boiler since this will lead to boiler inefficiency. How so? Well, soot that covers the inside of these passageways acts as an insulator, making it harder to heat the water that surrounds the passageways and produce heat. Your burner will then burn more fuel in an attempt to produce the needed heat.
At Controlled Combustion, we offer fireside cleanings with our service contracts and maintenance packages. We provide labor and equipment to perform the following:
- Disconnect and remove all access ports to heater
- Open all fireside access doors
- Brush and vacuum clean* all boiler tubes, near boiler breeching, and the chimney base free of soot
- Brush and vacuum clean* all burner ribbons and burner tray free of soot
- Visually inspect fireside interior for components that need repair or replacement, such as the refractory, gaskets, tubes, and tube sheet
- Reconnect all covers
- Close all access doors
- Test operation
*The soot that we remove from your boiler is collected in our vacuum truck’s containment unit and transported to our shop. There, our soot collecting machine is used to remove the soot from the containment unit. Each week, an environmental company comes to our shop to retrieve the soot and then safely and properly dispose of it.
While it’s a great idea to get a fireside cleaning all year round, having it done right after heating season is good way to ensure you’re ready for the next season. The same is true for the next item on our list.
4 – Waterside Cleaning
The waterside is wherever boiler water is present. Over time, calcium, magnesium, and silica—commonly found in most water supplies—react to form a layer of scale that covers the boiler tubes and surrounding steel. Here in the New York area, our water is also prone to mud and debris build up.
Just like soot build up in the fireside, scale or mud build up in the waterside is not good. This is because it also acts as an insulator and prevents the heat from transferring to the water. When the heat can’t transfer properly, you’ll run into overheating of the boiler tube metal and tube failures. It may even cause premature deterioration of these waterside surfaces. Deterioration will result in water leaks. The loss of water due to leaks will cause more fresh water to be consumed. Fresh water is corrosive, so it will lead to even more deterioration. Around and around we go.
And, of course, soot build-up will decrease energy efficiency since fuel consumption will increase to compensate for the heat not being produced.
Fortunately, a waterside cleaning can be done at any time of year. But if you haven’t had one performed on your boiler recently, take advantage of the end of heating season to free your boiler of these harmful sediments. Here’s what’s involved in a Controlled Combustion waterside cleaning:
- Open the manhole and handhole assemblies
- Flush, power wash, and clean the boiler waterside
- Close and seal the manhole and handhole assemblies with new gaskets
- Recharge the boiler with water treatment chemical
5 – Boiler Water Feed Tank Overhaul
Another important part of your boiler system is the boiler water feed tank. As steam travels through the various piping, it condenses back into water. That water is then collected and stored in the boiler water feed tank in order to be put back into the boiler when needed.
Too much sediment in the water feed tank can cause the strainer or impeller to clog. A clog will prevent the condensate from returning to the feed tank. There are also various valves and steam traps in a boiler water feed tank system. Without proper maintenance, the seals on the valves may loosen or erode and steam traps can fail. If one or more of these valves or traps become faulty, it can lead to thousands of dollars of damage to your boiler. You may also see an increase in your energy bill due to inefficiency.
At Controlled Combustion, we perform a thorough boiler water feed tank overhaul so our customers can avoid these problems. Here’s what it looks like:
- Check pump motor for amperages
- Check pump seals and gaskets for leaks
- Check and replace gauges as necessary
- Check and clean y-strainers if applicable
- Flush sediment from tank
6 – Valve Exercising
All boiler-connected piping contains one or more valves. And there’s a variety of boiler room valves, depending on the pipe it is attached to – drainpipe, fuel pipe, heat supply, or water supply. For most valves, exercising is performing several repetitions of fully opening and fully closing the valve. The purpose of this simple exercise is to dislodge corrosion or sediment that will ultimately cause the valve to seize.
Neglecting to regularly exercise a valve can cause it to seize in position or even pass or leak from the stem. If this happens, the valve may be serviceable with a gasket or packing kit. But the worst-case scenario is the valve will have to be replaced during the next planned boiler room maintenance shut down.
Regular exercising should be part of your boiler room maintenance plan to ensure the valves will last longer and be operational when needed. Replacing valves in your boiler room is not only very expensive, but it also usually presents considerable inconveniences for you and tenants.
During these summer months keep your boiler system in mind and regularly exercise your valves. It’s a simple procedure that can save you a lot of time, energy, and resources in the future.
7 – Clean Hot Water Coil
The domestic hot water coil in your steam or hot water boiler is designed to provide potable hot water to your tenants. The process uses heat transfer to rapidly increase the temperature of the cold-water supply entering the coil that is submerged in the waterside of the boiler. The water temperature reaches around 180 degrees Fahrenheit before exiting the coil and making its way to your potable water temperature mixing valve or controller.
Most tap water contains traces of minerals or other agents that can build-up and solidify in your domestic hot water coil. When this happens, the solidified mineral build-up can create a barrier between the potable water and the coil surfaces. This barrier can cause insufficient heat transfer—meaning your water will not get hot enough—and/or discoloration of your tenants’ water. No one likes to see brown water spew out of their faucet! In extreme cases, the mineral deposits can become so severe that it may lead to deterioration of the copper coil and the inevitable need to replace it entirely.
It’s possible to avoid these problems by periodically performing domestic hot water coil cleanings. This is an inexpensive service that uses a colorless, odorless, and biodegradable cleaning agent to loosen and breakdown the mineral build-up inside the coil. Here’s how Controlled Combustion performs this preventative service:
- -Isolate the coil by closing the inlet and outlet side of the coil piping
- -Drain the coil of its current water supply
- -Connect our high-powered coil cleaning machine to the coil via available drains on each side
- -Circulate our cleaning agent through the coil for 40 minutes to 1 hour
- -Drain solution from coil and machine
- -Circulate freshwater through the coil for 15 minutes before disconnecting machine, opening isolated valves, and returning coil to service
As with every procedure we’ve listed so far, your domestic hot water coil can be cleaned at any time of year. But if you haven’t had one done in a while or you want to get prepared for next heating season, this is the perfect time to schedule your coil cleaning. The next item on our list, though, is best done after May 31st.
8 – Code 152 Gas Pipe Inspection
When you own or maintain a building here in New York City, you have to ensure your property is up to code in many areas. Just one of those areas is Local Law 152: Periodic Gas Piping System Inspections. We’ll give you a brief overview here, but you should check out the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) official website for all the information you need regarding this law and others.
Did you know that Local Law 152 requires gas piping systems to be inspected at least once every 4 years? Here at Controlled Combustion, we try to perform this inspection once heating season is over because it’s more convenient for you and your tenants. If you’re using natural gas as your sole heating source, we wouldn’t want to interrupt service during the harsh winter months. But once June rolls around, we can easily inspect your gas pipes to make sure your building is compliant.
To make it easy, we’ve summed up the 5 W’s of Local Law 152.
Who can perform an inspection? Inspections must be performed by a Licensed Master Plumber (LMP), OR a qualified individual under direct and continuing supervision of an LMP. You should always check your LMP’s license status. You can use this License Search tool to do so.
What will be inspected? Your LMP or qualified individual will inspect all exposed gas lines from the point of entry (POE) of gas piping into a building and up to individual tenant spaces. They will also inspect the gas meter.
Inspectors are trying to identify atmospheric corrosion, which can lead to problems such as gas leaks. They’re also looking for POE wall penetrations that are not sealed. Finally, the inspector will make sure your building does not have illegal connections or non-code-compliant installations.
Where do they need to inspect? Your LMP must inspect exposed piping. Additionally, a portable gas detector must be used to inspect public spaces, hallways, corridors, mechanical rooms, and boiler rooms.
When do I need to have my building inspected? The DOB determines when your building’s gas pipe inspection is due based on a 4-year schedule by Community Districts. You can find the latest schedule on the DOB’s Periodic Gas Piping System Inspections page. Find out your building’s district by visiting the NYC Community District Profiles page.
If you own or manage a new building, the DOB website will also contain the alternate schedule that pertains to your property.
Once you determine the year that your inspection is due, make sure your inspection is completed by December 31st. Here’s info on requesting an extension from the DOB. Extensions are only granted once per cycle. To avoid costly penalties, make sure you have your inspection completed on time.
Why are these inspections performed? These inspections are designed to identify Abnormal Operating Conditions, or AOC’s. AOC’s are potentially unsafe conditions such as a gas leak, illegal connections, and atmospheric corrosion. When checking for atmospheric corrosion, your LMP will also take note of the severity of the corrosion. There are 4 levels of corrosion, and you are required to report Levels 3 and 4 to the DOB.
If you have questions about the Gas Piping System Inspections, check out this Local Law 152 of 2016 Frequently Asked Questions document provide by the DOB.
Controlled Combustion performs Periodic Gas Piping Inspections to ensure your building is compliant. Book your inspection with us today for the best rates and to meet the December deadline.
9 – Secure a Boiler System Service Contract Before Next Heating Season
We’ve saved our best piece of advice for last. If you’re not already under a boiler system service contract, we highly suggest you start looking for the one that’s right for your property. Of course, every service contract will be different, based on the company you choose and what you need.
At Controlled Combustion, all of our Service Contract Clients benefit from the following:
- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year Emergency Service with priority same-day scheduling
- Access to on call supervisors after hours to address any issue or question
- No labor charges on all equipment covered under contract
- Monthly heating system check and efficiency adjustment
- Discounted rates on all manufacturer required preventative maintenance
- Discounted rates on all city agency annual compliance
In addition to these standard benefits, your service contract can be customized to include what your property needs. Here are just a few of Controlled Combustion’s additional offerings:
- Low-water cutoff maintenance
- Fireside boiler cleanings
- Waterside boiler cleanings
- Boiler water chemical treatment
- DEP annual tune-ups
- DOB annual boiler inspections
- Elevated gas under pressure annual inspections
Our service contracts are designed to keep your boiler running at its best all heating season long. Everything we’ve outlined in this article can be done at least yearly with our service contract, so you’ll always be ready for the next heating season.
Controlled Combustion proudly serves over 2500 buildings in and around the New York City area. Here’s what one building manager, George Alderdice, said about our services: “As a property manager here in NYC, we need all the help we can get. I can’t thank the team at Controlled Combustion enough for always being there when needed, whether it’s an emergency or non-emergency situation. In a tough business such as property management, they provide an invaluable service.”
When it comes to boiler maintenance, it’s crucial to work with a heating contractor that understands the entire heating system. Controlled Combustion specializes in all areas of your steam heating system and hydronic heating system. Our range of services fall into five categories: 1. Compliance; 2. Maintenance; 3. Service; 4. Replacements; 5. Upgrades. We provide these services to the entire New York City area as well as Bergen County, Rockland County, Westchester, and Yonkers. Controlled Combustion’s trustworthy Emergency Boiler Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 356 days a year. Call us today to find out how we can help you run an efficient boiler system and get ready for next heating season.