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Avert a boiler breakdown disaster

Russ Baker, director, UK&I Hire, at ICS Cool Energy, explains his ten-step boiler hire contingency plan

Russ Baker of ICS Cool Energy

Packaged boiler plant rooms are becoming an increasingly common solution to businesses’ short, medium and long-term heating supply requirements. The sensible facilities manager will already have in mind how they will rapidly source the right packaged boiler in the case of an emergency. 

In reality, come the hour of need, most managers start by searching the internet or phoning around their contacts to find a solution. If they get lucky and they find a capable supplier, they will then need to carry out a survey and specify the equipment, as well as deal with the administration and approvals from head office. A credit account will need to be opened, consuming more valuable time in a high pressure situation where customers are potentially being let down and possibly incurring an upfront fee. 

A good contingency plan will prepare businesses for a boiler breakdown:

1. Capacity

Do you need the full capacity of the installed heating plant in the event of a failure or can you cope with less? Think about your most critical need as well as seasonal changes in heat and hot water consumption.

2. Location

It is vital that any temporary boiler plant is positioned appropriately. The most important factor is to ensure the safe dispersal of products of combustion (POC), ensuring they cannot cause harm or inconvenience to the occupants of nearby buildings. The boiler must be located a safe distance away from any building according to its heat output and a flue extension may be necessary. 

3. Vehicle access

The location must also offer safe and hassle-free access for the plant’s delivery and collection vehicles. Check whether route planning, to avoid narrow streets and low bridges, is required.

4. Fuel 

Most rental boilers are capable of running on diesel or natural gas. Short-term solutions often end up being on site longer than anticipated, so don’t overlook fuel efficiency. ICS Cool Energy commonly specifies the Viessmann Vitoplex SX2A unit, with heating outputs from 90 to 2MW, which we choose to run on diesel (condensing gas and oil boilers are available). This model is unusual for a contemporary boiler in being high water content, yet capable of working at the high temperatures other light-weight models cannot cope with.

If using diesel then consider access for the delivery tanker as well as adhering to local fire regulations.

5. Mechanical connections

Know the best place at which to break into the building’s hot water system(s). Decide if existing expansion, pressurisation, top up, heat exchangers and other ancillary equipment would be required as part of the hire package. Is there a natural access point into the system or are modifications required to allow an interface?

6. Electrical connection

Ascertain if there is a suitable power supply. The incumbent heating plant’s power supply may be needed for repairs and test running at the same time as the rental equipment is in use. The hire plant may need a different electrical supply.

7. Safety

In addition to the POC, issue and fuel tank siting, plan a safe route from the plant laydown area to the system interface to avoid unnecessary trip hazards. Leaving a plant room door open for hoses could allow unauthorised access.

8. Enabling works

Carrying out enabling works to ensure a fast, safe and secure connection of hire boiler to your building may save you a great deal of time and stress in the event of an equipment failure. Simple measures like fitting an electrical isolator, bringing hard pipework to the plant area, or creating a safe route for hoses by fitting purpose-built hatches, can increase safety and reduce fitting time.

9. Administration

Choose a supplier that has relevant experience and open an account with them in advance to avoid cumbersome “red tape”. Document your plan thoroughly and ensure everyone understands their responsibilities in the event of a catastrophic boiler failure. The plan should provide clear instructions regarding equipment locations, routes for running hoses and cables and access requirements for delivery vehicles, including safe access for HGVs. Include drawings and photographs.

10. Regular review

Things change in the real world. Extensions are built, walls are knocked down and rebuilt. What was once a good location for the hire equipment can become unsuitable. Carry out regular reviews with your rental partner to ensure your plan is up-to-date and effective.

The devil is in the detail. If you are a facilities manager, demonstrate your leadership and make creating a boiler breakdown contingency plan a priority. You never know, you could be your company’s hero one day.

2 December 2020

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