What Questions Should You Be Asking Potential Combustion System Partners?

Every hour lost due to production line shutdown is lost revenue, lost profits, and lost market share. An inefficient combustion system could lead to additional waste in your operations that should be avoided through proper proactive measures. For example, you could have an improper air/fuel ratio or an improperly-sized burner, both of which waste your resources and money.

Problems like these can be avoided and the impacts minimized by effective system design and maintenance. However, many businesses don’t have the in-house expertise to optimize every single link of their production chain. They rely on external partners to support individual components of their business, especially for critical elements like combustion systems.

Having the right external partner for your combustion system design and maintenance can help you avoid such productivity-losing shutdowns and inefficient operations. Choosing the right partner requires evaluating dimensions of expertise, quality, readiness, and proactivity. 

How to Measure Expertise and Experience

Potential partners should be able to document their years of service, any qualifications or certifications they hold, and how this improves their level of service. Third-party certifications ensure that your partner has passed a rigorous level of training and complies with ongoing education requirements. Membership in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratories 508A Certified are good examples.

A respected, vetted partner should have expertise in designing and maintaining combustion systems for many different industries as well as both commercial and residential facilities and structures. Municipalities are concerned about the performance of heating and cooling systems for residential or commercial buildings, while agricultural installations may be more concerned with design and operation of feed drying and storage processes. Firms that know how to optimize for various intended uses will reduce inefficiencies during design and installation.

Beware of vendors who are unaware of local regulations and procedures. Even if the price is right, that level of inexperience could lead to costly delays or accidents, potentially leading to inspection failure, rework, and, at worst, serious injuries.

Consider asking leading questions like: 

  • What experience does your team equip to perform ongoing maintenance on our combustion system? 
  • What standards do you follow? Are you a member of any national professional organizations? 
  • Are you knowledgeable about local regulations requirements that might affect my business differently from others? 
  • What specific industry practices or codes might affect my business differently from others? 

Understand Limits and Review Comparable Work 

Your ideal partner will have a comprehensive view of the needs of your combustion system, not just one component. An ideal partner would offer support for a full array of combustion system elements, from burners, valves, and meters to flame supervision controls and switches.

For example, if standardized pressure regulators or control valves don’t fit properly that could lead to greater leaks and waste throughout the entire production process. A  customized approach is ideal in most situations.

Leading questions that help you extract this information include:

  • Do you support just the combustion elements or the control devices, or both? 
  • Do you use only standard parts or offer customization?
  • Can you demonstrate successful applications of your process? Do you have examples of similar projects in my industry or application?
  • Potential partners should also provide case studies or social proof examples

Verify Capacity, Scalability, and Responsiveness

Because combustion systems cannot be taken to a repair shop, your maintenance and inspection needs must be completed on-site. High-quality partners will have multiple vehicles stocked with necessary parts for any job ready to service you whenever you need.

Your vendor should also boast enough capacity to support the complete combustion system lifecycle, from sizing and design to on-site installation to ongoing maintenance. Internally, we have over $1,000,000 of stock on hand to cover both preventive maintenance needs and emergency situations so that any delays are minimized.

Make sure to bring up these issues in your discussions:

  • Do you keep parts on hand or order? If you’re ordering, how long is the average delay between order and installation at our location?
  • How big is your service team? Can they get to me quickly in an emergency? 

How Are You Positioned to “Future Proof” Your Business?

Partners that facilitate both design and maintenance throughout your combustion system’s life cycle will be more valuable as they will know your unique use case. 

Proper equipment inspections know the tell-tale signs of embrittlement, debris accumulation, or improper valve fit before they become problems. If those early warning signs are missed or ignored, catastrophic failures could result, leading to significant costs both economic and emotional. Testing and inspections should be performed at least annually, according to NFPA standards.

Not all inspections are necessary for all systems, and some aspects may need to be checked more frequently than others. For example, some flues and sensors may need a monthly inspection to ensure residue does not build up to dangerous levels.

To narrow this area down, inquire about: 

  • Do you support systems after the sale? Do you offer any design or maintenance services in addition to parts supply? 
  • What types of inspections are necessary to satisfy minimal regulations? How frequently should they happen? Who would be performing them?
  • What additional inspections might be valuable to my specific installation, industry, or process?

The Right Combustion Partner Protects Your Business, Reputation, and Your Staff’s Safety

Addressing many of these issues directly with a potential vendor can give you a solid basis for comparing critical qualities between providers. BDC is able to offer our partners efficiencies of scale and continuity of operations as we design, supply, and maintain safe, cost-effective combustion systems. To learn more about how our team can help protect your staff’s overall safety and improve the efficiency and longevity of your equipment, reach out for a quote or a conversation today.

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