Many commercial buildings rely on boilers to provide heat to the building. Boilers don’t work in the same way that forced air systems do, and understanding how a boiler works is key to keeping it working properly. Cates Heating and Cooling wants you to know all the important information about operating a boiler so that you can ensure safe operation.

How Do Boilers Work?

Unlike forced air systems that heat up air, boilers heat water to heat buildings. Once the water is heated, it turns into steam or hot water. The steam heat moves through pipes and is dispersed through radiators. Hot water versions will move that water through baseboard radiators or radiant floor systems. Water versions can also heat air via a coil.

Commercial boilers can be powered by various energy sources. Natural gas, oil, electricity, and wood are all options for running a boiler. Typically, natural gas is the cheapest source of fuel for a boiler, but not all places will have access.

Parts of Commercial Boilers

  • Burner: The burner provides the consistent, efficient flame that heats the water inside the boiler.
  • Combustion Chamber: This is the area where fuel is burned to heat the water in the boiler. It contains the burners as well. Typically, the combustion chamber is made of cast iron, steel, or other heavy-duty metal that provides a safe space for high-temperature combustion of fuels.
  • Heat Exchanger: The heat exchanger transfers the heat produced by the burners to the water. They are often made of cast iron, copper, or bundles of steel tubes.
  • Controls: The controls allow users to set the ignition, water temperature, air and fuel supply mixtures, and internal pressure, as well as when and how often the burner runs.
  • Exhaust Stack: The exhaust stack, also referred to as the flue, is a series of pipes that transfer exhaust gases out of the building.

Boiler Safety

Since commercial boilers often burn natural gas or fuel, they can become very dangerous if the pressure becomes too high inside the boiler. To safely operate a boiler, you should get the system cleaned and maintenanced regularly. Water or steam leaks can cause a lot of property damage and injuries, so boilers should be checked for leaks often. Remember, the pressure inside the boiler can cause it to explode, which could seriously injure or kill anyone in a close proximity. An explosion could also cause catastrophic damage to the build.

Preventative maintenance should be performed on boiler systems at least once a year—preferably before the weather gets cold. This maintenance not only ensures that the system is safe to use, but it also makes sure that the system is working as efficiently as possible.

Why Do Some Buildings Use Boilers Instead of Forced Air Systems?

Forced air is a very popular heating choice for both commercial and residential buildings, but boilers are another good option for commercial properties for a number of reasons. First, boilers are more efficient than forced air heating systems, which isn’t only more practical but sometimes imperative for large buildings.

Since forced air systems tend to lose a lot of heat as the air passes through the building, it is better for larger buildings to use boilers, which tend to lose very little heat. Boilers can also be used in combination with radiant heat systems.

Getting a Boiler Serviced

Cates Heating and Cooling provides a number of commercial boiler services to our customers. Our services include preventative maintenance, installation, and repair.

Preventative Maintenance

At Cates, we want you to be able to operate your boiler safely all winter, so during our preventative maintenance service, we will:

  • Clean both fireside and waterside surfaces
  • Clean and inspect breaching of the boiler
  • Check gauge glass assembly
  • Check refractory and make minor repairs
  • Check fuel valves, fuel, and air linkages
  • Check operating and safety controls
  • Check water level controls
  • Check state of values
  • Replace gaskets


When you need a new commercial boiler installed, give Cates Heating and Cooling a call. Our services not only include installation and start-up, but we also follow-up to see how the system is working. If there are problems, we offer follow-up services to fix any issues.

If you need a new boiler, we can help source one for you within your budget.


With over 40 years of experience in the heating and cooling repair industry, Cates Heating and Cooling is equipped to repair almost any make and model of commercial boiler. Our repair services include:

  • Tune-ups
  • Combustion testing and adjustments
  • Annual maintenance
  • Efficiency testing
  • Boiler retubing
  • Piping repairs or replacements
  • Boiler section replacements
  • Energy management control installations
  • Boiler or burner control upgrades or replacements
  • Inspections
  • Pilot light repairs and replacements
  • Thermostat repairs and replacements

If you notice any issues with your commercial boiler, call Cates today for a consultation. We don’t want you to risk further damage or injury when we know that we can help you right away.

At Cates Heating and Cooling, we do our best to work around your schedule to get your equipment serviced as quickly as possible. During emergency situations, call Cates Heating and Cooling for help, as we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week just for these troublesome situations. Our technicians are ready to help solve all your commercial boiler problems today, so give us a call at 913-888-4470.