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Tips to get your heating system ready for the cold weather ahead

When fall and winter come, your heating system becomes an important part of your business. It keeps your employees, customers, plants, and stock warm during the cold months.

Heaters can be the cause of a variety of problems including fires, explosions, and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Below, you’ll find some general checklists to follow when dealing with heating appliances like wood burners, fuel and electric heaters, and boilers.

General safety checklist:

  • Are all heating devices inspected annually by a licensed HVAC company or other qualified person?
  • Are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors present and functioning properly?
  • Have all heaters and exhaust pipes been inspected to ensure they’re clean (no bird or rodent nests) and are in safe operating condition?
  • Do you have the proper clearances around your heating equipment?
    • No flammable liquids in the area
    • Combustible items are kept three feet away, unless the manufacturer states something different
  • Are all guards and covers installed properly?
  • Can you see or smell any signs of fuel or gas leaks?
  • Are there properly charged fire extinguishers nearby?
  • Have equipment manuals been reviewed and safety requirements followed?

Wood burning stove and fireplace checklist:

  • Is the flue working properly?
  • Has the chimney been inspected and cleaned within the past year?
  • Do you prohibit using gasoline or other accelerants to start a fire?
  • Is there a screen in front of the fireplace or wood stove?

Portable fuel heater checklist:

  • Is the heater equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor?
  • Have you explained to employees that if they smell natural gas or propane to:
    • Not use the heater
    • Shut off all valves
    • Leave the area immediately
    • Open windows and doors—only if it’s safe to do so
  • Are employees trained to handle fuel safely?
  • Do you have all portable heaters kept out of high-traffic areas and doorways to prevent tripping hazards?

Portable electric heater checklist:

  • Are the heaters plugged directly into an outlet (no extension cords or power strips)?
  • Have you made sure there are no other devices plugged into the same outlet?
  • Are the heaters UL listed and have tip-over and overheat protection?
  • Have the heaters been inspected for cracked or broken plugs, loose connections, and frayed cords before using them?
  • Do you require the heaters be shut off when not used?
  • Are the heaters kept away from water sources?
  • Have you approved all of the portable heating devices being used?

Boiler safety checklist
Boilers are one of the most common heating devices within greenhouses and shops. It’s important to remember boilers do carry a risk of exploding—especially during startup or shutdown. Automatic combustion safety devices reduce the likelihood of a fire or explosion and can minimize damage if a problem occurs.

Here are some suggestions to help ensure your boilers and heaters start and run properly:

  • Test fuel safety shut-off valves (SSOV)
  • Check air flow or pressure switches, and damper high/low fire interlocks
  • Inspect flame scanners and all safety controls that interlock with the SSOV through the combustion safeguard controller
  • Examine piping, hoses, wiring, and electrical connections of all interlocks and shut-off valves for problems

During startup, do the following:

  • Check all automatic and manual controls regulating feed water, draft, dampers, and interlocks
  • Ensure all stack dampers are open
  • Verify boiler water level
  • Check furnace and flue passes for fuel accumulation and remove any unburned fuel
  • Test flame detection devices
  • Purge furnace for at least 3–5 minutes to clear gas passages. If the burner fails to ignite within five seconds:
    • Shut off fuel supply
    • Re-purge furnace
  • Stay with an auto-fired boiler after starting until it’s completed several firing cycles and all controls are functioning properly

Each month, be sure to check or test:

  • Flame failure detection system
  • Fan and airflow interlocks
  • Low fire start interlock
  • High steam pressure or temperature interlock
  • Fuel pressure and temperature interlocks (oil boilers)
  • Gas cleaner and drip leg (gas boilers)
  • High and low fuel pressure interlocks (gas boiler

In addition, never store flammable liquids or gases in the boiler room. And if you have water lines exposed to freezing temperatures, be sure to insulate them to prevent freeze-up. You should also insulate steam condensate return lines to prevent heat loss.

Remember, if your boiler coverage is with Hortica, boiler inspection costs and associated fees are covered. In addition, boiler and pressure vessel certificate fees are covered in the following jurisdictions: California, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Nebraska. 

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