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Boilers: the question is repair or replace.

Boilers: The question is repair or replace

The decision on whether to repair or replace a failing boiler system varies depending upon the job. Since the cost to fully repair a malfunctioning boiler will, in most cases, be lower than the cost for replacement, repair is currently the more popular option. And, provided the boiler is large, modern and stable enough to service the building for many years to come, it may also be the wisest.

Owners should beware, though. They must make certain to consider exactly what it is they are replacing. The normal period of useful life of a boiler is about 25 to 30 years. Therefore, while repairs are often the most timely and cost-effective solution, it is vital to evaluate how much time you are really buying.

The most important factors to consider when deciding between repair and replacement are the age and condition of the boiler and the boiler size.

Age/Condition of Boiler

Up until 20-25 years ago, many boiler companies were still installing old rotary burners with fire box boilers. Since then, air atomizing burners and newer, more efficient boilers have been developed which can effect anywhere from a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction in fuel costs once installed.

About one year ago, for example, we at Atlas were contracted to perform comprehensive work at Windsor Park Apartments, a 20-building, 1,800-unit complex located in Bayside, New York. While several of the buildings with ailing boiler systems opted for boiler repair, one building in particular chose a full-scale replacement.

We agreed with this decision for a variety of reasons. For starters, this building's boiler had originally been installed in 1955. To repair it, therefore, would not only require a good deal of time and money, but would only serve to restore its original level of fuel efficiency. By replacing it, we were able to take advantage of over 35 years worth of technology. In addition, the boiler system was in a severe state of decay.

As anticipated, the decision to replace was clearly the best option in this case. A recent survey, conducted independently by Windsor Park complex manger, Ronald Janis, revealed that over a one year period, the 90-unit housing unit which had undergone an Atlas boiler replacement had saved $8,000 more in No. 6 fuel costs than those buildings which had opted for repair work -- achieving a 26 percent reduction overall. As a result, other buildings, in the complex with boiler trouble have begun plans for similar replacements.

Boiler Size

The larger a boiler system, the more fuel it burns. And, naturally, any fuel savings or loss will grow in direct proportion. Owners should weigh this heavily when deciding whether to replace an old system for optimal efficiency or repair it to its original level of efficiency. They should consider just how much money they stand to lose or gain by replacement. This will help attach a tangible dollars and cents figure to their decision.

Another element to consider when evaluating fuel savings is the type of fuel being burned. An owner who is currently using a light oil such as No. 2 oil may be able to cut costs by switching to a heavier, say No. 6, which can be purchased more cheaply. This may require replacing the burner. Again, the size of the boiler system and total amount of fuel being burned will greatly affect the decision to replace.

At this point, I should mention that not every burner replacement requires a boiler replacement as well. In some instances, a new, air atomized burner can be attached to an older. Whether or not the burner and boiler will be suitable, though, must be decided on a case by case basis. Be sure though, that full guarantees are offered in either case.

Finally, it is essential to remember that any burner -- new or old, repaired or replaced -- will require regular service and cleaning. So too will the boiler. At Atlas, our service department recommends boiler cleanings at least twice per year and at least one burner overhaul annually. This will keep your heating system running at optimal efficiency, prevent fuel waste and prolong the life of the system.

Richard Blaser President Atlas Welding & Boiler Repair
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Renovation & Rehabilitation Supplement
Author:Blaser, Richard
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jul 24, 1991
Words:707
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