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Althoff Industries, Inc. Blog

Should You Replace Your Boiler Pipes Along With Your Commercial Boiler?

Are you wondering if it’s time to replace your commercial boiler and thinking about replacing your boiler pipes along with the unit? Building owners and facility managers often choose boilers because they are extremely energy efficient when compared to other types of heating, and the boilers can be multi-functional, also providing reliable hot water to the residents and employees of your building. Of course, there’s a good chance that your boiler’s plumbing pipes were installed at the same time as your current boiler system. The good news is that you can determine if it’s time to replace the entire system, including the pipes, or just the boiler unit.

Signs You Need to Replace Your Commercial Boiler in Chicago

According to ASHRAE’s equipment life expectancy chart, commercial boilers are estimated to last between 24 and 30 years, but this depends on the type and style of your boiler and how well you’ve maintained it over the years.

Life Expectancy for Hot Water and Steam Boilers

If you had your current boiler installed between 1985 and 2005, there’s a good chance it’s time to replace it.

  • Cast Iron Boilers – Between 30 and 35 years
  • Electric Boilers – 15 years
  • Steel Fire-Tube Boilers – 25 years
  • Steel Water-Tube Boilers – Between 24 and 30 years

Additionally, the burners on commercial gas and electric-fired boilers are only rated to last 21 years. This means that even if your boiler is in good working order, you may need to have your burners inspected and repaired or replaced in order to ensure smooth, reliable operation.

Additional Signs Its Time To Replace Your Boiler

  • It’s RustingRusting is less common in closed-loop boilers that continuously reheat the same water repeatedly. However, if your boiler continuously heats new water due to its design or the fact that you also use your boiler to provide hot water to your residents, it will rust faster. A good way to determine if your boiler is rusting from the inside out is to have it regularly inspected. If the inside is heavily rusted, it’s time for a replacement.
  • You Needed Several Boiler Repairs Over the Last 12 to 24 months – An increase in the frequency of repairs and having to perform increasingly expensive repairs to keep your boiler functioning are a sure sign that you need to replace it.
  • Your Boiler is Losing Efficiency – In this instance, you’ve noticed that your boiler isn’t an energy or water-efficient as it was a few years ago. This could be due to leaks in the boiler itself or leaks in the plumbing pipes as well as a failure to maintain the correct water temperature in order to heat your radiators to the appropriate temperatures. If you’ve noticed an increase in your gas, electric and/or water bills, it’s time to start planning for a boiler replacement.

Signs You Should Also Replace the Piping System Connected to Your Boiler

If you’ve determined it is a good time to replace your boiler, it may also be a good time to replace the plumbing pipes that connect your boilers to the radiators in your tenant units and public spaces. Boiler plumbing pipes are rated to last between 20 and 80 years with proper maintenance. However, if you have a steam boiler, you may have trouble with the plumbing pipes slightly sooner. This is because over-pressuring can put an excess force on the pipes, causing them to wear out faster. If the pipes have experienced numerous leaks, oxygen can get into the system can cause steel or iron pipes to rust faster than expected, and depending on your water quality, copper pipes can start to corrode, resulting in blocked pipes and pinhole leaks.

Boiler Piping Considerations When Installing a New Boiler in Your Chicago Building

When installing a new energy-efficient boiler, it’s important to understand the current pipes and the piping system needed for the new boiler, even if your current pipes are within their expected useful lives and not experiencing any extreme corrosion or leaks. Common boiler piping systems include one pipe series loops, two-pipe direct return and two-pipe reverse return.

One-Pipe Loop

A one-pipe loop consists of a single piping network that loops from the boiler to the radiators in the building and back to the boiler. This is the simplest type of piping system for boilers, but it can result in uneven heating. This is because the radiators near the front of the loop receive the most heat, and as the hot water travels through the piping system, the water loses heat. For this reason, a properly designed one-pipe system contains larger radiators than other types of systems. It’s also important to note that single-pipe systems are often designed for steam boilers rather than hot water boilers.

Two-Pipe Direct Return

If you have a one-pipe system and are installing an energy-efficient hot water boiler, it may be a good idea to upgrade your piping system to a two-pipe direct return. This type of system contains two sets of pipes that run from the boiler to the radiators. In this system, hot water from the boiler is transferred to the radiator, but the used water is not sent to the next radiator. Instead, each radiator returns the used water to the boiler. This helps ensure that all the boilers receive the same water temperature, which results in more even heating across your building.

Two-Pipe Reverse Return

If you are installing a new boiler and plan to use zoning to help control your building’s heat and to reduce costs, you’ll want to install a two-pipe reverse return system. Like the two-pipe direct return, used water is not cycled through each boiler. Instead, it’s returned to the boiler, which helps ensure all boilers receive the same temperature water.

Getting Help From Althoff to Replace Your Boiler and the Pipes in a Timely Manner

Here at Althoff, our heating technicians and plumbers can help you decide what type of boiler to install in your commercial or multi-unit family building in Chicago and whether or not your boiler pipes need replaced or upgraded to a new system in order to provide your building with even heat and/or zoned heat. It all starts with an inspection of your current system, including the boiler and plumbing pipes leading to your radiator. Next, we’ll recommend several boiler systems, according to your min and max budgets and energy-efficiency requirements. Once you decide on a new boiler system, we will order it and schedule a date for the installation.

To learn more about replacing and/or upgrading your boiler or to request an emergency repair of your boiler, give us a call at 800-225-2443.

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