High-Efficiency Boilers: The New Tech Challenge

The commercial boiler industry has changed significantly in the past few years, not only in terms of equipment, but also when it comes to installation, maintenance, support, and the roles sales reps, manufacturers, and contractors play in this scenario.

What does this have to do with you? In the past, installing a boiler was as simple as “flip and switch, turn it on, and leave it,” but with the growing demand for higher efficiency, new technologies emerged. As a result, manufacturers started to design more refined products.

The modern high-efficiency boilers are complex and sophisticated pieces of equipment that now allow modulation, which gives them an advantage when in comparison to other heating options such as electric heat (seen in VAV boxes and rooftop units), and gas forced air (seen in heat exchangers).

Modulating boilers allow matching the fire rate to the exact load, while the other two options are “all or nothing.” This particular feature is undoubtedly a huge benefit for end-users. At the same time, it still represents a challenge to manufacturers, sales reps, and contractors.

The reason – engineers and technicians are trying to tweak, tune, and adjust equipment for an application “on the go.”  On top of that, the overall lack of high-efficiency boiler knowledge (due to its cutting-edge technology) puts everybody in a position of “trial by fire.”

Even though manufacturers have been investing time in developing very thorough O&M manuals, the reality is that in the field things can become tricky, as many factors make a big difference on boiler operation: piping size, regulators, vents, clearance, the larger span of temperatures that you can operate through, the air and flow variation and differences in pressure.

Therefore, reading the O&M is critical. The problem is, they are usually focused on the sequence of operation, and on what NOT to do (for liability purposes).

Contractors and end-users still need to rely heavily on their sales reps for best practices. Simply put, they have easier access to manufacturer data and “street knowledge”.

boiler pre startup guide

This means that sales reps need to embrace the responsibility of becoming experts in boilers, and a source of knowledge and comfort to their customers.

The equipment today requires more precision, less margin for error and has critical requirements in the design phase. It is important that contractors understand that they can count on the sales reps to participate in the entire process.

That is why support is absolutely essential when dealing with boilers – because it is not a matter of “IF you have an issue”, but “WHEN you have an issue.” CamusRBILAARS, Lochinvar, AERCO, Fulton, and Cleaver-Brooks are all main players in the industry and produce high-quality pieces of equipment. However, the support behind the product might be even more important when making a decision about which manufacturer you will purchase your equipment from.

A job site is very organic, and constant changes are expected. If an architect decides to change the way something looks on a plant, piping, gas lines, everything else needs to be reviewed, especially the boiler layout and sizing.

Listen to the second episode of our Engineering Tomorrow podcast in which we discuss the main technical changes and challenges that came along with high-efficiency boilers and what to do about it.