Boilers, generally speaking, are among the must-not-fail equipment in your operation. That’s why a rigorous preventive maintenance program is important. But even with thorough preventive maintenance you will eventually find yourself asking whether it’s time to repair or replace.
Depending on several factors, including boiler type, manufacture quality, application and fuel type, the life expectancy of a boiler is 20-25 years, according to the American Boiler Manufacturers Association. With proper maintenance we’ve seen some in operation for more than 50 years. A well-maintained boiler will last longer than those that are not serviced regularly, but eventually you should consider replacement.
Here are 4 things to consider when evaluating repair or replace of a boiler:
- Do you have a boiler expert assessing the overall health of the boiler? Beware of the “Yes, we do boilers too” service contractor who specializes in other areas, such as HVAC. Their boiler expertise is typically narrow and may not include boilers used in processing or manufacturing. They may not look for red flags such as flue gas temperature, radiation/convection losses, turndown (the boiler’s ability to achieve a wide range of output), and what trends were spotted in past inspections. Work with an established company that has a history in a variety of boiler types and applications.
- Is it maintaining efficiency levels adequate for your needs? Worn out burners and/or excessive scale and deposit buildup on the water side will greatly affect the boiler’s energy efficiency. As will other, such as combustion efficiency, seasonal efficiency, thermal efficiency and fuel-to-steam efficiency. Such issues may be repairable and may get you back to the historical mean levels of efficiency. But if your company is like many others today, with “green” initiatives across the organization, a new boiler will deliver higher, trackable energy efficiency from Day 1.
- How old is the boiler and what’s been done to it? If the boiler has reached the 25-year mark or so, and it’s already gone through a number of repairs and upgrades, is it still worth sinking money into? A history of extensive weld repairs, factory repairs, burner upgrades and changes in the controls might signal it is time for something new. On the other hand, if old reliable is still reliable, a rigorous preventive maintenance schedule may keep it in service for another 5-10 years.
- Has the boiler’s initial purpose changed? A boiler may have been purchased and installed a decade or two ago for a specific purpose with specific output loads. If the application and the output loads have changed – up or down – it may be best to consider a larger or smaller boiler that is right sized for the job and can deliver better performance and efficiencies.
Ultimately, it’s best to get an expert’s opinion on repair or replace through an on-site inspection. An American Boiler & Mechanical technician can help you with that, as well as issues or questions regarding process piping. Schedule a visit by calling 800-235-5377 or through our website at www.americanboilermech.com.