It is finally summer. It is warm outside, people are out on the street and the boiler room is cool and quiet, without the water hammer, the clanking of the leaky steam traps and the roar of those big ancient burners guzzling fuel. Why does it get so noisy down there? It is like that Classic convertible that hasn’t been driven since last summer. There are alarming new noises from worn out parts, and the engine starts hard and is using a lot of gas. Maybe this summer is the time to finally get some of those things fixed and make it run like it used to.
Old cars aren’t the only worn-out fuel guzzlers out there. Buildings with outdated heating systems are fuel guzzlers too. Maybe this summer is time to fix a few things in the boiler room to get some peace and quiet.
A steam system survey is the first step to improving system performance
A car making strange noises usually means a trip to the mechanic to figure out what is wrong. Fortunately, mechanics today have computerized diagnostics to help find the problem quickly. Heating systems are similar. Steam heat has been around forever, but over the last 10 years HVAC engineers have been able to use new computer aided analysis tools to understand and optimize these old steam systems.
One thing these engineers have learned is that the main air vents in one-pipe steam heating systems are typically undersized when they are controlled with a modern boiler controller like a Heat-Timer® Platinum controller. Most steam systems were designed for a different era, when boilers fired almost continually, and air purges every cycle weren’t necessary. Upgrading a steam system with properly sized main vents can improve response to calls for heat and reduce overheating and under-heating.
Property managers can find out if their main vents are properly sized and correctly located with a steam system survey.
Follow the noise – Steam traps and air vents
Even in well balanced systems, one typical survey recommendation is to upgrade older steam traps and main air vents. Although a survey really isn’t needed to know that the clanking and hissing are probably not the sounds of a finely tuned heating system. Traps and main air vents that are over 20 years old are probably due for a replacement. Design improvements and new materials have improved these components by reducing steam leakage and increasing reliability. New, efficient steam traps, and main air vents, when correctly sized and placed, can pay for themselves in just a few years through reduced leakage. Payback is even faster with the rebates being offered by the local utilities so there may be no better time than this summer to get rid of the water hammer and clanking steam traps for good.
A modern car is more fuel efficient, and so is a modern burner
The other place that has seen major improvements are burners and burner controls. Like new fuel efficient cars, these new digitally controlled gas and oil burners burn more efficiently, capturing more energy from the fuel and reducing carbon and other emissions. These burners also have a higher turndown ratio than older electromechanical systems. Replacing an old burner with a digital modulating burner can reduce fuel usage by 5 to 10 percent.
If the new digital modulating burner is coupled with a variable speed blower, the burner controller can reduce the combustion air fan speed as the burner is turned down, reducing the fan motor speed and electricity usage. For property managers not ready for the capital outlay and installation disruption of a new condensing boiler, a burner and combustion fan upgrade may be the right choice this summer to increase boiler efficiency. If the replacement is a gas burner, there may be rebates available from gas utilities to share the cost of the upgrade.
Heat-Timer® controllers can get the most out of any hot water heating system
While a new digital modulated burner can make the boiler 5% to 10% more efficient by itself, the real savings come when it is paired with a boiler controller like the Heat-Timer® Multi-MOD Platinum Series controller. The Multi-MOD has control algorithms that can get the most savings out of the higher turn down ratios of these new burners. The controller is designed specifically to control from one to four modulating boilers. Even better, it can combine outdoor air temperature and space feedback from the units to constantly modulate the exact boiler temperature or steam pressure necessary to maintain comfortable temperatures in the units while saving up to 20% – 30% in fuel costs. Why wait another summer to save that kind of money?
An old car can become a classic. An old heating system is just inefficient.
If you have let too many summers go by without upgrading your heating systems and heating system controllers maybe it is time to take advantage of the rapid advances in heating system design and control this summer. Start with a system survey, get the upgrades, get the rebates, then ask Heat-Timer® how the Platinum series controllers can get the most out of your upgraded steam heating system.
For more information, give us a call or visit our website at: https://www.heat-timer.com/