This month’s editorial calendar features boilers and building automation, so I’m going to touch on the design, installation, commissioning, and operation of both in this column. You might want to pick up your handy 2020 ASHRAE Handbook, “HVAC Systems and Equipment,” to refresh your knowledge by reading Chapters 31 and 32.

Based on my experience with boilers, let me share with you my “things to do” when designing a boiler installation project.

1. What is the optimum type of boiler for the job, beginning with hot water, high-temperature hot water, or steam (low, medium, and/or high pressure)? This determination will also need to include a decision of the source of energy: fuel oil, natural gas, propane gas, cogeneration, electricity, and/or heat recovery.

2. Is this a new construction site or an existing facility? If it is an existing facility, will this job be a straight replacement size for size, an expansion to the existing boiler plant, or a replacement based on an energy assessment with an acceptable return on investment?

3. Is the optimum type of boiler cast iron, copper, stainless steel, or aluminum? Is it a condensing or noncondensing type of boiler? Boiler manufacturers offer a wide variety of boilers, and each has its appropriate application, depending on the design intent.

4. Coordinate with the other trades. Architects will want to know the physical impact on the building, since most boilers are going to require an equipment room, whether it’s located inside the building or remotely. Chimney stacks, fire-rated room enclosures, floor trenches to avoid pipes being placed on the floor, and access to outdoor combustion air and ventilation air must also be considered. Depending on which consultant you’re dealing with, there is the need to know the equipment’s specific structural weight and dimensions; plumbing and water information; normal and emergency electrical and power data; boiler manufacturer equipment specifications; pump manufacturer and boiler feed, deaerator, and hot water applications; delivery time and rigging information; commissioning and design intent document, functional performance tests, and environmental impact application; maintenance and access to service equipment, OSHA safety, and relief discharge location(s); and a planned maintenance work order system. 

5. Operation tasks include air pollution controls, automatic controls, energy management program, and chemical treatment (automatic or manual) feed. Will this system operate only in the heating season? Does the operator require special license(s)? Will the boiler work in sync with waste heat? How much redundancy has been engineered into this boiler plant application? Are the controls limited to manufacturer-furnished equipment only or will they interface with the entire campus-wide building automation system?