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Ready, set, winter!

Whether we want to accept it or not, the reality is that winter is right around the corner and despite the much milder than normal temperatures we experienced last season, there are many indicators that suggest we may be in for a long cold winter this coming season.


August 16, 2016
By Gary Webb

Topics
Getting your heaters ready for winter use is mostly a matter of checking key components for wear and corrosion and making sure nothing is obstructing fuel flows. These checks are critical to prevent potentially catastrophic failures.

In our industry is it everyone’s responsibility to ensure the safest working environment possible and proper maintenance, cleaning and inspection of your equipment fleet ensures you are doing your part.

Many of your customers may have already reached out to you to start preparing for their winter heating needs, but in many cases we know that it is not uncommon for many to wait until the last minute and of course request delivery yesterday. Don’t leave them out in the cold. Make sure your portable heater fleet has been inspected, is in safe operating condition and is ready to rent at your customers’ request. Your ability to respond quickly will not only satisfy your customers, but will keep your rental revenue coming in the door.

With that in mind, below are just a few pointers for you to consider when inspecting and maintaining your small portable forced-air heater fleet for this coming winter season. Be safe, and be ready to rent!

Propane and natural gas heaters
1.Clean the equipment. Make sure your equipment is free and clear of dirt and dust buildup. This can be done by using compressed air or a soft brush or rag on the heater case and internal components. Not only will this make your fleet more attractive to rent, but it may also prevent overheating of the motor, early corrosion on controls and switches, blocked orifices and other contamination that may contribute to faulty controls and operation.

2. Check the gas hose. Inspect your fuel supply hose for any leaks, cracks or splits. Some hose material can dry out and crack over time, or may receive a nick or cut and should be attended to immediately. The smallest split can burst under pressure causing fires or explosions. Never attempt to repair a split hose but rather replace it immediately.

3. Beware of spider webs. Spiders are notorious for nesting and building webs in or around gas fuel lines and burner chambers. After months of storage, Charlotte has had a lot of time to spin her web. Inspect fuel lines that may have had open ends exposed to the environment and ensure venture tubes (if present) and other burner areas are clear and free, allowing for proper gas flow and preventing fuel buildup.

4. Inspect regulators. Inspect all fuel regulators as well to ensure there are no cracks or missing parts and that the vents are not blocked. Insects can also build nests inside these vents causing excess pressure to build up at the heater. Inspect the threads of the POL fitting (the brass fitting that connects your heater to the propane cylinder) to ensure they are all clean and straight. These can be damaged easily should the fitting be dropped or banged during storage. Regulators also have date codes that should be checked regularly.

5. Check out the O-rings. There are O-rings on the end of many POL fittings that also need to be inspected and often replaced. Once again, the material can crack easily and should not be used if there are any signs of splitting or cracking. This will ensure there are no leaks in the connection preventing any unwanted fires or explosions.

6. Test threaded fittings. Beyond the POL, there are many other threaded fittings ensuring tight fuel supply to your heaters that require inspection. These include the connections between the gas hose and regulator, as well as between the gas hose and the heater itself. All connections should be leak tested before and after every rental and after summer storage.

7. Beat back carbon build-up. Inspect all igniters, thermocouples and other exposed parts within the combustion chamber for carbon build-up and ensure proper sparking. This is a standard maintenance item that will ensure your heaters will start up promptly, stay running and shut-down properly should they be required to do so.

8. Ensure proper gas flow. Gas valves used inside your heaters should be tested with a proper manometer to ensure adequate gas flow (per the manufacturer’s specification) at both the input and output ports. Proper input pressure will ensure the regulator is operating as it should and good output pressure will ensure that any dirt and sediment that may have entered the valve hasn’t settled or built up.

9. Mind the electrical connections.Inspect all wiring, associated terminals and electrical components within the heater for corrosion or rust buildup. Repair or replace as needed. Using a wire brush to clean the surfaces may work as a temporary fix, but remember you cannot clean inside the connector where the electrical flow is most important.

10. High-limit switches are critical. These temperature sensing switches are an absolute requirement in many types of heaters and must be in proper working order to ensure safe operation of the heater. It is very possible that while being stored over the summer months dirt can build up in the switches if they are not protected, preventing them from working properly. These can be tested by removing the switch and applying heat (from a lighter or portable torch) to the sensing pad itself. The switch should have memory thresholds, but they do deteriorate over time. Ensure all are testing properly by removing and applying heat to test.

Kerosene and oil-fired heaters

  1. Take care of the fuel tank. If your oil-fired equipment has on-board fuel tanks, these should have been emptied and cleaned at the end of last season prior to storage. Do not store units with fuel. Leaving fuel in the tanks for long periods of time can assist in deteriorating fuel lines and filter systems. As well, it is very common for water to build up over the hot summer months caused by humidity and condensation, which will eventually aide in the forming of rust on the inside of your tanks which will cause further fuel contamination and clogged filters.
  2. Wash air intake filters. Essential for adequate air supply to allow for proper fuel flow, these should be regularly washed with soapy water and dried at least every 500 hours of operation and at the beginning of each season
  3. Replace air output filters. This filter should be replaced at the start of every season and then again after every 500 hours of operation.
  4. Stay on top of fuel filters. The fuel filter should be replaced at the beginning of the heating season and then again half way through the season, or as needed.
  5. Take a look at the pump rotor and housing assembly.Visually inspect this assembly for any cracks, worn or missing parts and replace as needed. A properly operating rotor pump is essential for safe and adequate flow of fuel to the combustion chamber.
  6. Watch for fuel and air line deterioration. Visually inspect all fuel and air lines inside the heater for any splits, cracks or worn-down surfaces. Many types of hose materials break down over time and even the slightest of cracks could cause catastrophic damages. Never attempt to repair or “get by” with a split or cracked fuel line – replace it immediately.
  7. Clean the fan blades. – Blade surfaces should be cleaned every season and again as needed ensuring that adequate air is being moved across the combustion chamber. Make sure the fan turns freely.
  8. Clear those fuel nozzles. Clean nozzles at the beginning of every season to ensure there has been no nesting or buildup of dirt and debris.

As with any piece of equipment, proper maintenance and cleaning of equipment will ensure safe and reliable operation and the above suggestions are just a few to ensure your portable heating products are ready to go and able to keep your customers warm this winter. As well, manufacturers will vary in the types of added safety devices they choose in their products. Although the above are general suggestions and may not apply to all pieces of equipment, always refer to the manufacturer’s owner’s manual for maintenance tips and suggestions specific the models you are currently renting in your fleets.

I hope you all had a safe, enjoyable and hot summer. Let the winter begin!


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