In many ways, a building’s boiler is like the heart is to the body: it provides heat and circulation; it works unseen; and if it is not functioning, it won’t take long for life to go away. Maintaining this heat source of the community is as essential as it is for a person with a heart problem to avoid the conditions that lead to a heart attack. And when the weather gets colder and a building’s boiler is exercised vigorously, it is crucial for the machine to be in top shape. Failing to keep the boiler “healthy,” so to speak, so could lead to one of the worst building emergencies—a no-heat attack.
Keeping the boiler system operational is a combination of off-season maintenance and routine checkups that must be performed correctly, or unnecessary problems will plague a boiler and shorten its life span. So boiler service companies, chief engineers and superintendents, or other building employees charged with checking on the boiler, must be trained professionals who fully understand the tasks they perform. Making an incorrect fix on a boiler or failing to fix a boiler which needs repair isn’t always just a matter of slightly lowering the efficiency of the system through inaction. It could be a question of needlessly costing a building’s residents more money than they’d care to consider, and more than they need to spend.
You needn’t be a boilermaker or a building’s chief engineer or super to understand how a boiler works because the machinery is actually fairly simple. It’s practically as simple as making tea.
“A boiler is a teapot, that’s all it is,” says Scott Golz, a manager for Spannuth Boiler, in Oak Park. “The biggest problem you have with a boiler is [fresh] water—if your system has a leak. That water has to be replaced and that adds oxygen, which speeds up the corrosion process.”
Like any equipment, boilers sometimes will have problems. But regular maintenance can prevent many of those problems such as excessive residue buildup. To prevent excessive residue accumulating in the boiler, a building’s chief engineer or superintendent can open the boiler’s blow-down valve for a few seconds each day, which cleans out the residue. A boiler’s motors also should be cleaned and lubricated once a month and the unit should be checked regularly for leaks. A building’s chief engineer or the superintendent can find leaks in the boiler by walking around it and inspecting it.