A boiler can run for many, many years without issue. In fact, it’s not uncommon to get 30 good years out of a boiler if it’s properly maintained. But as we know, all good things must come to an end, and eventually, the time will come when your boiler needs to be replaced. So how do you know when it’s time to take the old boiler out back behind the barn? There are a few things to look for.
If your boiler is 15 to 20 years old, advances in modern boiler technology make replacement a worthwhile investment. So much so, that it may take only a few years to recoup the cost of a new boiler in fuel savings. But there’s more to it, as well. The 21-year-old boiler in your basement may run like a top and purr like a kitten, but eventually, you’re going to be spending more and more on replacement parts as the boiler simply wears out.
A good boiler room always has a supply of emergency and replacement parts standing by. If you start to realize that you’re going through them at a faster pace than you used to, it could mean your boiler needs to go to the great steam trap in the sky. Moreover, even the toughest boiler will experience some metal fatigue and corrosion over time that can loosen tolerances, creating opportunities for leaks to develop. Any extra steam, water, or heat lost to the environment through those leaks is just wasted money.
The biggest factor affecting your decision to replace or repair your boiler is probably its efficiency. The older the boiler, the less efficient it tends to be. Modern boilers can operate at up to 85% efficiency, meaning they convert 85% of their fuel into usable, steam-generating heat.
Depending on how much usage your boiler gets and how much steam you need to generate, even a few lost percentage points in efficiency can add up to a noticeable difference in your fuel costs. Eventually, there will be a point where the efficiency of a new boiler can justify investing in one, because you’ll be saving enough on fuel to justify the cost. If that’s the case, your new boiler will pay for itself pretty quickly.
As your boiler operates, there are a lot of things going on inside the tank in terms of microscopic chemical reactions and heat. Even the best-maintained boiler with the best-treated water will slowly lose metal to corrosion over time. If the boiler shell gets too thin, it becomes a major safety hazard. If that happens, replacement is a priority.
The heat inside a boiler can also cause metal fatigue in the tube sheets over time, causing cracks. Many times, those cracks can be repaired. However, when they get too big or if they happen in a crucial area, there may be no way to repair them. Then it’s time for a replacement.
As time works its evil magic on your aging boiler, you may notice that it just can’t keep up like it used to. Maybe it takes longer to start up, maybe you’re getting less work done, maybe some of the offices on the upper floors are colder than they’re supposed to be – however this lost performance makes itself known, it’s a sign that your facility might be better served by some fresh steam in the form of a new boiler.
You know what your boiler’s supposed to sound like. If it doesn’t sound like that anymore, or if you notice more strange sounds happening with greater frequency, it may be a sign that your boiler’s internals are losing the spring in their step. This can mean lost efficiency, of course, but it can also mean that something worse is happening inside, i.e., a crack or leak. That can be dangerous.
Sometimes your boiler will just come out and show you it needs to go. If you can see a leak, or hear one, it might be something that’s easily repaired. Maybe it’s just a gasket that needs replacement or a crack that can be welded by an expert. But it could also mean that your aging boiler is starting to give out. In this case, it’s time for a new one.
KEEPING YOUR BOILER IN THE GAME
If your boiler is older but not too old, you can still get more life out of it by modernizing it with new burners. New burners with automatic controls will burn fuel more efficiently, giving you more energy – and more steam – for every fuel dollar. Of course, the experts at WARE can help you with that.
Keeping your boiler healthy also involves proper water softening and treatment. The better the quality of your water, the longer your boiler will last. Regular tune-ups and inspections will also get more life out of your boiler, of course.
If you’re ready for a new boiler, WARE has a full inventory standing by made by the best in the business. If you need a rental boiler while your current boiler’s being repaired, we have you covered for that, too. Just let us know how we can help.