New Owner Of An Old Apartment Building? 3 Tips To Keep The Old Heating System Functioning Properly Until You Replace It

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If you are a real estate investor or an entrepreneur, you may not have been able to resist that older apartment building that was being sold for a rock-bottom price. With that good price, the building likely came with a less than up-to-date heating system that you plan to replace soon. However, in the meantime, you need to know how to keep the old system working efficiently until you replace it, and it is especially important to learn how to keep the low winter temperatures from causing plumbing disasters. Here are some tips on how to keep your heating system running as safely and efficiently as it can this winter, so come spring, you can focus on replacing the system instead of cleaning up the messes that burst pipes and other plumbing mishaps caused. 

1. Inspect the Building Boiler and Make Emergency Repairs

Even if you plan to replace that old boiler and the rest of the old heating system soon, it is important to inspect all components currently in place to avoid a disaster this winter. Your boiler could be considered the "heart" of your entire system, and if it is not working properly, no area of your building will receive sufficient, if any, heat.

First, check the boiler itself for cracks or rusted areas that could soon turn into holes. Next, check the boiler ventilation components, which typically include a pipe that then runs to a chimney, for cracks or holes. Then, make sure all seals and connections are tight, and make sure the heat exchanger is not leaking. 

Next, ask the original owner of the building, if you haven't already, whether a forced air, hot water, or steam boiler and heating system is currently in place. Depending on the type of boiler and system, the following additional inspection tips are useful:

  • If it is a forced-air system, you also have to make sure the blower is in good shape (no cracks or holes) and blowing properly.
  • If it is a hot water system, check the pressure relief valve and the pressure tank, which should be filled with air and not water.
  • A steam system is a bit more complex, so you must first drain water from the float chamber and boiler to help keep it running efficiently. Then, test all safety controls (if it has any -- many boilers over 25-years old do not) and the heat exchanger to make sure they are working properly and clean all of their valves.

If you notice any boiler problems or damage during this inspection, then call a 24 hour plumber immediately to perform needed repairs or part replacements. Ill-functioning or damaged boilers pose huge safety hazards to your tenants, including carbon monoxide poisoning, and can quickly damage your building, especially when cold temperatures strike. All boilers are highly pressurized, so do not attempt repairs yourself. This pressure is needed to force hot air through the heating pipes in the building to the radiators that then heat apartment units and common areas. 

2. Make Sure the Boiler is Heating All Units and Common Areas

Once you know your boiler is at least functioning properly and any damage is repaired, it is then time to ensure the rest of the heating system is working properly to heat all apartment units and common areas. The first way to test it is easy -- alert tenants in writing that you will be entering the units in 24-hours to ensure they are receiving proper heat. In the meantime, make sure all common areas are heating properly, especially laundry rooms and any other rooms with plumbing fixtures. While it may at first seem wasteful to heat common areas, one deep freeze in your laundry room could cause water pipes to burst and cause extensive flooding and damage to the room, adjacent units, and even units below if the water seeps through the floor. 

If you notice during this inspection that any unit or area is not receiving heat that should be, then check to ensure any valves and controls on the baseboards or radiators are fully set to the "on" position. If the room is still then not receiving heat, then there is likely a problem with the specific radiator or baseboard, or in the specific heating pipes that run to the unit. Call a plumber to determine whether the radiator or baseboard heating unit is at fault or the heating pipes leading to the unit, and have the problems repaired. Another option, if you are replacing the entire heating system very soon, is to heat the area in an alternate way that does not pose a safety hazard to your tenants. A  fire-safe space heater is an option for smaller areas temporarily, but be sure to check your local building codes to ensure you choose one that is compliant. 

3. Inspect the System Regularly All Winter and Have Repairs Made as Needed

It is very important to keep an eye on your boiler all winter long to ensure it is working properly and heating your units. Inspect it as often as possible, but at least every month. Make sure it, and the rest of your heating system, is working well to properly heat all units and common areas. Keeping your units warm and your common areas at least 50-degrees Fahrenheit will help prevent frozen pipes that burst and flood apartments and common areas, which will keep you from having to pay for extensive additional building repairs before you replace the system. 

If you got a great deal on an already occupied apartment building with an old heating system that needs to be replaced, then don't neglect keeping the current system in good working order until you replace it. Inspect all components, repair any damage, and maintain it properly until you replace it to ward off any disasters that could displace tenants and lead to extensive building damage that could have been avoided. 

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27 January 2016

Improving Your Home Heating System

Last winter, I became frustrated with how often our home was chilly and uncomfortable. It was really devastating to deal with the prospect of trying to stay warm at night and during the chilly days, but I realized that it might have something to do with our HVAC system. Instead of ignoring the issue, I decided that it might be best to contact a professional to check our system out. When the expert came out, he went through our machinery and found several issues. When it was fixed, the difference was amazing. Read more on this blog to find out how to improve your home heating system.