Commercial furnace heating in a Calgary Business

Questions to Consider with a New Commercial Boiler

Are you considering installing a new commercial boiler?

Perhaps your existing boiler is past its best and not running as efficiently as in years gone by and you need an upgrade?

Or maybe you are considering changing from one type of boiler system to another to heat your building?

A new boiler can bring major efficiencies and cost savings, as well as a more effective heating system that keeps occupants or residents in a commercial building more comfortable in the harsh climate we have in Calgary.

Before selecting and installing a new commercial boiler, you are bound to have a few questions. The following should answer your main ones…

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Considering A new commercial boiler installation or replacement?

If you’re moving from another type of heating system to a commercial boiler system, understand that boilers are pressurized systems that use combustible fuel or electricity to heat water with their internal heat exchanger systems.

Depending on your boiler type, your system will create either hot water or steam that is circulated via pipes or radiators to heat your building.

However, you may know this already. You may already have a boiler and simply want to upgrade an outdated and inefficient system or change from one type of commercial boiler to another.

If you want to change from a steam-based boiler system to a water-based one, it’s important to get the balance right between installation costs and efficiency.

Most hot-water boilers for heating are more efficient than steam-based systems, as they have lower combustion temperatures and therefore use less fuel.

For some commercial premises like hospitals and aged care facilities, where boilers may be used for processes other than just heating, the steam may be required for sterilization purposes.

In most cases, a replacement steam-based boiler is much simpler than a new installation or a conversion from water to steam - and therefore comes at a considerably lower cost.

However, steam-based systems do require specialist maintenance knowledge so if your building has your own engineer or maintenance crew, make sure that they are familiar with maintaining these boilers or you may run into performance, efficiency, and running-cost issues.

There are also practical issues to consider like space in your building for the system to be accommodated.

Access in the mechanical room is important and you should consider the dimensions of the boiler you want to fit.

Which type of fuel will your commercial boiler use?

There are three types of combustible fuel that a commercial will use, in general.

These are:

  1. Natural gas
  2. Propane
  3. Oil

Natural gas is the most cost-effective option but if your building is in a more remote area, supply may be problematic.

Oil is attractive when the oil price is low but propane may be a better option if and when the oil price starts to rise again.

You may want to use a primary fuel source (like natural gas) and keep a backup source (like oil or propane) because heating failures in commercial properties are more serious than in residential properties.

High-efficiency boilers these days can generally be easily converted from natural gas to propane and you also have the option of a dual fuel burner that can use gas or oil.

Which is most important with a commercial boiler: Installation cost, durability, operating costs or efficiency?

Your choice of commercial boiler will need to balance several factors. It is a major long-term investment so it’s important to get the balance right between installation cost, durability, operating costs, and efficiency.

A good mid-range choice is the standard-efficiency cast-iron boilers. These can be installed relatively cheaply and you can expect yours to operate efficiently and last well with relatively little maintenance. They are suitable for most commercial purposes.

Condensing boilers provide higher efficiency (they use less fuel and exceed recommended fuel efficiency levels) but you will pay more for the model and installation costs may be higher.

Over the life of the boiler, the return on investment may be higher on a condensing boiler but you will have to meet the higher upfront costs and the actual ROI will depend on usage.

Before making a firm choice, seek independent advice from the professionals at Alpha Plumbing. We’re happy to steer you in the right direction for your needs.

My system has worked fine for 30 years - why change?

Good question.

Many building owners only change their boiler systems when they absolutely must – when there are a series of breakdowns or other problems. This may be after 30, 40, or even 50 years in some cases.

Depending on the engineer that you consult, you may also prefer to keep the same boiler configuration because “that’s what we’ve always done”. So you opt for a simple “replacement” system, switch like-for-like.

However, commercial boiler technology has likely advanced considerably since yours was installed, especially in its energy-efficiency.

Like-for-like systems may appear to be more cost-effective initially (model cost and installation) but if you are expecting your new system to last another 30-50 years, it may be worthwhile considering a more expensive boiler that provides significant running-cost savings over the longer term.

If you are able to select the right boiler AND install it properly (with the right insulation) AND maintain it properly to keep it running at optimal levels, you may just strike gold.

For example, in an apartment complex, even a small saving in energy unit per person per square foot can translate to major savings over the course of a year.

So, before you opt for a simple boiler replacement, talk to a professional about your other options and make a truly informed decision.

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