If you’re considering replacing your commercial boiler, it’s important to look beyond the cost of a new unit. Considering energy usage, maintenance costs, and potential improvements will maximize your return on investment. An ROI-focused approach might mean upgrading your existing industrial boiler system. This post will lay out important factors to consider, so you can make informed decisions when working with your boiler consultant that’ll save you money.
The Costs of an Industrial Boiler Replacement Project
When looking at the costs of a commercial boiler replacement, you may want to consider the following factors:
- Your Boiler’s Size and Age: Before making any decisions, check the age of your boiler. Older boilers tend to be more challenging to maintain and repair than newer models since they may have fewer replacement parts available (some boilers and burners are no longer in production, for example). Limited parts availability may increase downtime while sourcing parts. If the boiler vessel is in good condition, but the burner is out of production, a burner upgrade can make the most sense. Furthermore, how large is your boiler? Larger industrial boilers, not surprisingly, cost more than smaller ones, both from the equipment costs and an installation standpoint. Fortunately, this is not a linear relationship – a 300HP Boiler is not double the cost of a 150HP, for example.
- Boiler/ Boiler Room Location: Is your boiler room accessible? Is there a clear path to remove the existing boiler and install a new unit? A boiler in the middle of a plant can increase the complexity and cost of demolition and installation. If other boiler room or plant equipment needs to be moved for access, such as temporary boilers or other rental equipment, additional plant downtime needs to be considered in the overall replacement costs.
- Are There Other Boiler Room Projects You Want to Tackle?: A boiler replacement is a good time to address other boiler room needs, so when your plant is brought back online, it meets your expectations. This might include control upgrades, additional monitoring devices such as flow meters, or improved efficiency with economizers. Changing the layout of the room to accommodate economizers or make future maintenance or upgrades easier. Adding piping for temporary steam (to accommodate a rental boiler) or a redundant boiler can minimize downtime in case of future emergencies.
- How Long Can Your Plant Be Down During Installation?: Tying into the above two bullet points, downtime is a key consideration in an ROI-focused approach. In an accessible boiler room with a redundant boiler, a single boiler replacement may have minimal downtime and impact on production – without the need for rental equipment or overtime installation work. Plants where downtime is limited or not an option require careful planning. You have options like rental equipment or strategic use of overtime installation work, so installation can continue during normal hours with the plant online.
- Have Your Plant’s Needs Changed?: Since your boiler room was originally designed, have your steam or hot water demands changed? Does your current plant’s design take redundancy into consideration? A review of the size of existing Boiler Room Equipment should be performed; it’s not always best to replace like-for-like.
How Do I Know That I Need to Replace My Commercial Boiler?
It’s important to have your boiler inspected by a professional at least once a year. Regular maintenance will ensure your boiler’s continued efficiency and longevity. In some cases, you may need to consider and plan for replacing your commercial boiler if:
- You have an older boiler. Boilers typically last for about 20 years, according to the NFPA. The average lifespan of modern industrial boilers can be as long as 30 years or more. If yours is nearing, at, or over the 30-year mark, it is wise to begin the planning process for an eventual replacement. If your boiler or its burner is no longer in production and parts are harder to obtain, upgrade options should be considered sooner than “end of service life”.
- You’re dissatisfied with your current unit’s efficiency. Modern boilers are more efficient than older boilers. Some of this is due to boiler design, some is due to advancements in controls. If your boiler vessel still has life in it, burner, controls, and other efficiency-boosting upgrades should be considered and compared to boiler replacement options.
- Your system needs significant repairs to the pressure vessel. Leaks that require extensive retubing or welding repairs can be costly. Depending on the age, condition, and efficiency of your boiler, earlier replacement may make the most sense.
If you need to replace your current commercial boiler, you should consider not only the price of the replacement but also the energy usage and maintenance costs, so that you can find a unit that will pay for itself over time.
How to Find the Right Industrial Boiler?
If you have come to the conclusion that a boiler replacement may be the best path forward, the first step will be gathering information about your current boiler and your process/facility’s needs. This information will be used by your boiler consultant to help you select the right boiler for your application. The consultant should also schedule a site visit to gather information and ask additional questions to better define the complete scope of supply. There are innumerable ways to trim a larger commercial boiler. Some of these options will make sense to your operation, while others may not. Some of the information needed will be:
- Is your plant hot water or steam-based? High or Low-Pressure Steam?
- Do you have an estimate of your peak steam or hot water needs? What are the minimum and average loads? How frequently are you at the peak load? Is this load consistent throughout the week/months, or will the boiler spend significant time off or at the minimal load?
- What are your typical operating hours?
- Can you ever be without steam or hot water? For how long?
- What fuel(s) are available at your facility?
- Is the layout of the boiler space taking into consideration not only the initial fit but also maintenance access?
- Are there corporate-wide efficiency or green initiatives that need to be considered?
- Are there any special control systems used at the plant? This could be used to source controls that can communicate with your existing building management system, for example.
Some items you will want to consider when reviewing boiler offerings are:
- What is the boiler manufacturer’s warranty and history? How long is the warranty, are there any special restrictions? How long has the manufacturer been building boilers?
- Are the controls used readily available or proprietary to the manufacturer?
- Are there multiple local service sources, or will you be forced to sole source maintenance and repair work through the original supplier?
- Are the offerings apples-to-apples when it comes to controls and trim? It bears repeating, there are many, many ways to trim a larger industrial/commercial boiler. Seemingly inconsequential items may shave money off of the purchase price, but could cost you more in maintenance down the road. Missing options in the control scope can limit the system’s function. These limits might require additional hardware in the future.
- Does the manufacturer list strict requirements for items like water quality or maintenance intervals? How does this compare to other manufacturers?
- Is the boiler design serviceable? Over a long service life, all boilers will need maintenance and repairs. Some designs are more maintenance friendly than others. For example, most high-quality industrial boilers are re-tubable, but some designs may require complete replacement of the heat exchanger in the event of a leak.
When to Rent a Commercial Boiler for Your Building
Renting a commercial boiler can be an excellent alternative for your building if you’re in need of a replacement, especially short term (if you are planning on moving to a new location in the future, for example). If you’re considering renting instead of buying, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Although you are renting the equipment, all boiler rental agreements stipulate that the renter is responsible for all repairs, parts, and supplies necessary for the operation and maintenance of the equipment. The rental equipment must be maintained in good condition, just as if it was your own boiler.
- Depending on the model and size of the boiler you choose, renting can save you money in the short run compared to buying one outright. It’s also convenient because it doesn’t require a long-term commitment. Most rentals have a 3-month minimum (can be negotiable), then go month to month.
- If your current plant is short of steam or hot water output to meet your seasonal peak load, a rental can be a good way to meet this seasonal demand. Boiler rental companies typically offer flexible terms, which makes them ideal for short-term or seasonal applications.
At the end of the day, it’s important to consider all of these factors when replacing, maintaining, or renting a commercial boiler. If you need help with this decision please get in touch with us today! We have decades of experience in this industry and can provide expert advice on any aspect related to boilers.