When you’re looking at a commercial boiler to heat the building your business is in, the first thing that usually comes to mind first is cost. That’s a reasonable instinct, especially if you’re buying a new boiler to replace an old one. Upfront cost, however, is not the most important cost associated with boilers, and if you plan on using the same building for many years to come, it pays to keep some other factors in mind.
Ongoing energy costs
Most of the businesses reading this article will be in Manitoba – your heating bill is going to be your most important energy cost barring very few exceptions. This is true in the rest of Canada, as well. Conventional boilers have much higher costs over their life cycle compared to high-efficiency boilers. There are a number of features that can make your boiler more energy efficient:
- Condensing boilers can achieve annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings in the high 90s. Conventional boilers generally cap out near the 70s. This means you can reduce your heating bill by 20% or more each year.
- Modulating boilers automatically adjust how much fuel is being consumed based on your heating needs. They do this by monitoring the heat of water as it leaves the boiler and as it returns. This can reduce both fuel consumption, and wear and tear.
There is, then, a cost-benefit analysis you’ll have to run – how much you’ll be able to save on maintenance and energy costs versus the added upfront cost of a more sophisticated boiler. Fortunately, these calculations are relatively simple, especially if you already have data about energy costs in your building. This data can vary based on the building’s occupation, but by noting the AFUE of your last boiler/furnace and the AFUE of a new proposed solution, a “discount” rate can be applied to your fuel bill to calculate how much you’ll save each year. From there, you can calculate how many years it would take to offset the difference in costs between boilers.
Keep in mind, as well, that governments (both provincial and federal) often offer rebates or other incentives for installing fuel efficient fixtures and appliances.
The size of your building (and its occupancy)
Depending on the size of your building, there are a variety of different potential heating solutions. It’s important not to oversize your boiler, as this leads to a drastic reduction in fuel efficiency and boiler lifespan – modulating boilers can decrease this, to an extent.
While considering the size of your building, you’ll also want to consider its occupancy. When you’re trying to keep a number of customers warm, there are a lot of factors to consider, from the impact their body heat will have on your building’s temperature to how their numbers fluctuate at different times of day.
Some buildings are so large, and experience such drastic fluctuations in occupancy, that having a single boiler isn’t the most effective option. In these cases, it can be useful to employ a technique known as “heat cascading”, in which multiple boilers are installed so they can respond to fluctuations in heating needs. This allows business owners to tightly control how much heat is being produced by the boilers – while all of the boilers might be running on the coldest day in January, only one or two might run on a mild October evening.
There are a number of other things you might consider when buying a boiler. Which ones have the longest lifespan? Which are the easiest to repair? Our boiler services in Winnipeg include a full breakdown of these questions – when you’re shopping for a boiler, give us a call. We’ll help you find the best solution for your business.