This month’s tip is provided by Doug Kelley, of Avista Utilities.

Key Points

  • Regular maintenance and inspection is key to maximizing heating system performance.
  • For boiler systems, energy upgrades such as economizers and burners can increase efficiency.
  • Facility energy-efficiency measures, such as weatherization, insulation and controls, can maximize heating system performance.

Your heating system keeps your building comfortable during the cold winter months. Facility managers also find comfort in the lower energy and maintenance costs that a heating system can provide when operating at peak performance. It is a good idea to prepare ahead of time for the heating season. By waiting until the last minute, facilities can face higher energy bills, system failure and unnecessary costs. A regular program of maintenance and inspection, combined with efficiency measures throughout your facility, can help you get the most out of your heating system.


Increasing heating system efficiency

Some general maintenance strategies can help to maximize energy efficiency and ensure optimal system performance, including the following:

  • Tune up. Have your heating system inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician at the beginning of each heating season. This will help to identify any problems and ensure that your system is running at peak performance.
  • Filters. Change filters every month during the heating season. New filters are relatively inexpensive and worth the cost. Dirty filters reduce heating system efficiency and result in lower indoor air quality.
  • Seal Leaks. Leaky ductwork reduces heating system efficiency and occupant comfort. Inspect your ductwork for leaks and seal with mastic tape.
  • Insulate Ducts. Heat radiating through ductwork can result in a significant amount of energy loss. Ductwork insulation can keep heat from escaping, increasing heating system efficiency.
  • Clean. Ductwork and registers should be cleaned regularly to improve building comfort and indoor air quality. To ensure proper heat distribution, keep areas around registers unobstructed by furniture or equipment.

Boiler maintenance and operational strategies

Facilities that use boilers for space heating will have to address their unique operational requirements to maximize building comfort and overall energy efficiency. While regular maintenance and annual cleaning and inspection are important, the following are some additional practices that will help to keep boilers operating at peak performance.

  • Excess oxygen levels in your boiler will result in wasted heat and efficiency and should not exceed 6 percent. Use inexpensive flue gas analyzers and oxygen trim systems to monitor flue gas levels and adjust excess air levels as needed.
  • Monitor flue gas temperature. A rise in temperature is an indication of scale or deposit formation on boiler tubes.
  • Clean scale buildup off boiler tubes regularly. Scale buildup inhibits heat transfer, forcing the boiler to burn additional fuel to meet hot water and steam requirements.
  • Make sure excess carbon monoxide levels are within acceptable limits of 200 parts per million. Excess carbon monoxide levels are a sign that combustion is incomplete, and fuel is being wasted.
  • Inspect boiler insulation on a regular basis and repair or replace any damaged or missing insulation.
  • Periodically check steam traps for leaks, which can waste significant amounts of energy. Excessive steam emanating from the feed water tank vent may be the indication  of a leak.

Efficiency upgrades can increase boiler efficiency and reduce your energy costs. For example, boiler economizers preheat feed water and can increase efficiency by as much as 3 percent. Burners maintain the proper air-to-fuel mixture to maximize combustion efficiency. Replacing an older burner with a new, energy-efficient model can result in energy savings and a quick payback.


Around your facility

Efforts to optimize heating system efficiency should not stop at your boiler or furnace. There are a number of measures you can take throughout your facility to minimize heat loss, increase building comfort and reduce overall energy costs.

Weatherize. The most efficient heating system can be rendered less effective if a significant amount of heat escapes through cracks or leaks in your building envelope. Weatherize windows and doors by filling cracks and putting weather-stripping around gaps where climate-controlled air can escape.

Install controls. Programmable thermostats or timers save energy by regulating temperatures according to building occupancy schedules. You can save up to 2 percent on heating costs for each degree the temperature is lowered. Larger facilities should consider the installation of an integrated energy management system.

Add insulation. Poor insulation will reduce heating system performance and occupant comfort. Additional insulation in the walls and ceiling is an effective way to save on heating costs and keep building occupants comfortable all winter long. The level of insulation will depend on the facility type and climate. TheInternational Energy Conservation Code (IECC), published by the International Code Council and ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers provide recommended insulation levels for commercial buildings.

This article previously appeared in the Avista Utilities Energy Solutions newsletter, and is used with permission.

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