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Teaching staff about boiler efficiency.

There are several important steps that a building's staff must take to prepare a boiler for winter and keep it running at peak efficiency all winter, and Elm Management believes it is the managing agent's job to provide the instruction.

The first step a manager should take is to familiarize staff members with boiler operations and potential problems. When a fire- tube boiler operates, for example, the burner shoots a flame into a chamber or "fire-box." The heat rises to heat a series of steel tubes. The heat is then transferred into the boiler's water, creating steam. Over time, however, soot and resin from burnt fuel build up inside the tubes, inhibiting the transfer of heat, making the boiler work several times as hard, and wasting fuel.

In the best of all worlds, the super would open up the boiler hatch and look inside. If the tubes or chamber appeared to be heavily coated with black soot, a cleaning would be in order.

This operation, however, is difficult and time consuming, particularly on newer boilers, which have many bolts around the hatch. So it becomes more practical to use a combination of the following methods: 1. Perform an efficiency test. If your boiler is operating at peak efficiency, it should be converting 85 percent of the fuel it burns into heat. If not, you are wasting fuel.

To determine if your boiler's tubes are dirty and if other parts are working properly, the super should arrange for a qualified service company to conduct an efficiency test. Costing about $125, the test uncovers the types of problems that reduce boiler performance. Often, a few adjustments and a cleaning can reduce your fuel bill by as much as one-third. 2. Install a thermometer in the exhaust stack. If a boiler is running at peak efficiency, the temperature of the exhaust leaving the burning chamber should be about 350 degrees. If the tubes are dirty, the burner will work harder and the exhaust temperature will reach 450 degrees or higher.

As part of the efficiency test, your service company should install a high-temperature thermometer into the exhaust stack. This involves drilling a hole into the metal stack and putting the stem of the thermometer inside.

Your super or handyman can also install this item. Heating supply houses sell special stack thermometers for about $90. The super should check the thermometer daily to keep track of soot build-up.

Tube cleaning should be done by a qualified boiler service company. Tubes on boilers using number six oil should be cleaned as often as four times a year to ensure top performance. Those operating on gas or lighter grades of oil (numbers two and four) require less - frequent cleanings.

Cleaning cost depends on the size of the boiler and how dirty the tubes are. One Brooklyn co-op, for instance, spent $600 apiece to clean the tubes on its huge boilers. Cleaning smaller units might cost about half that amount. Like every maintenance item, the longer you let it go, the more expensive it is to correct. So it makes the most sense to stay on top of it.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Occhipinti, Vincent
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 19, 1992
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