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Heating System Upgrade? Maximize Your Investment

Key Points
  • Perform an energy audit to identify opportunities to improve heating system performance.
  • When installing a new heating system, make sure it is sized correctly to fit your needs.
  • Preventive maintenance and controls can save money and improve heating system efficiency. 

condensing boiler
Space heating is likely to be the biggest energy user in your facility. It accounts for 36 percent of overall energy consumption in commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If your boiler or furnace is older, or in need of repair, upgrading to a new, energy-efficient system can have a significant impact on your operating costs. Installing a new heating system is an expensive upgrade, however. The following actions will help you make the most of your investment. 

Do the math

Not sure if a high-efficiency heating system is right for your facility? A life-cycle cost analysis (LCC) can help you make that decision by estimating the total financial impact of an upgrade. Costs include the initial purchase and installation, financing, operation, maintenance, as well as disposal. An analysis involves adding these costs and discounting them to their present day value. These estimates can help you choose between different energy investment options.

State and local rebates and incentives can help reduce initial costs and shorten your payback period. Search the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for financial incentives in your area.

Turn up the heat on energy loss

The most efficient heating system will be rendered less effective through poor insulation or heat loss through your building envelope. Before you invest in a new heating system, hire a qualified professional to perform an energy audit of your facility. The auditor will inspect your facility to ensure that wall and ceiling insulation meets recommended levels for energy efficiency. An audit will also identify gaps and cracks where heat can escape. By implementing the energy-saving recommendations of your audit, you can optimize the performance of your new heating system, save money, and increase building comfort.

Get the right fit

You've decided to upgrade; now is the time to make sure your new system matches your heating requirements. Oversizing is one of the most common mistakes when installing new heating equipment. Oversized systems are more expensive to install, less efficient, and more costly to operate.

When installing a new system, contractors often check the nameplate of the existing unit and size accordingly. While this may serve as an initial estimate, it should not be the sole sizing method used. For example, it does not take into account any changes in facility use or occupancy levels since the last installation, or any energy-efficiency upgrades that have been made. To size your heating system correctly, consider the following factors:

  • Your local climate conditions
  • Building size and orientation
  • Facility type, as well as primary processes and activities
  • Number of occupants and their comfort preferences

Proper sizing requires good communication with your system installer; asking questions will help to ensure that your new heating system matches your needs.

boiler inspection
Optimize heating system performance

Once your new heating unit is in place, the following measures will help improve system performance and save energy:

Establish a preventive maintenance program. Implement a regular schedule of heating system cleaning and maintenance by a qualified professional. No matter what type of heating system you use—furnace, boiler or rooftop unit—a checkup will ensure more efficient operation and reduce maintenance costs.

Install programmable thermostats. Programmable thermostats can reduce heating costs by adjusting building temperatures based on occupancy or operating schedules.

Inspect and repair steam traps. If you use boilers for space heating, failed steam traps reduce efficiency by allowing live steam to escape. A regular steam trap maintenance program can save a significant amount energy and money. 

Implement boiler reset controls. Boiler reset controls save energy by matching the supply of steam or hot water with the demand for heat. The boiler water temperature reset is based on the outdoor temperature.

Looking for more money-saving opportunities? Check out the commercial or industrial energy efficiency recommendations for industry-specific advice on how your organization can reduce costs and save energy.