Asbestos insulation on heating boilers:
Here we illustrate and discuss the handling of asbestos coatings used to insulate hot water (hydronic) or steam heating boilers.
We use the term "hardcast" asbestos to refer to an asbestos paste or "plaster" that was typically applied in a layer of about 1" or greater, used to completely or partially coat old hot water or steam boilers and used on heat distribution piping at elbows or valves. Our page top photo shows original asbestos insulation coating a coal fired heating boiler that was later converted to oil fuel.
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This asbestos-insulated boiler, a second view of the page top heater, is covered with hardcast asbestos insulation in good condition.
But work on the boiler may require disturbing the insulating material, presenting a risk of asbestos exposure. In our experience (DF) the cost of employing a professional asbestos abatement firm to remove the asbestos insulation from this heater, considering the added costs for containment and asbestos waste disposal may be so high that the building owner should instead consider a complete boiler replacement.
The boiler replacement strategy still involves asbestos removal and disposal costs, but because the entire boiler can usually be removed intact, the amount of asbestos distrubance, the asbestos contamintion risk to the building, and the total project costs are likely to be much less than the cost to remove, clean, and re-seal the old boiler.
After adding consideration of the operating efficiency and cost of a coal-burning heaing boiler converted to oil fuel in comparison with the operating efficiency of a new oil or gas fired heater the prospect of a boiler swap-out may be still more appealing.
At above left our photograph shows another antique (and converted fuel) oil fired heating boiler covered with asbestos insulation. Even opening and closing the upper fire door for annual boiler cleaning risks disturbing the asbestos insulation.
At above right the photograph shows a similar boiler that has had its asbestos jacket removed. Notice that this boiler is fired by an older low-speed (1725 rpm) oil burner - a system likely to be operating at a lower efficiency than a new modern boiler with a high speed (3450 rpm) burner.
The two heating boilers shown above also have had their insulation removed. But at left we are not sure that the job was performed by a professional. An expert asbestos remediator will set up dust containment and negative air pressure in the work area to protect the building from cross-contamination by asbestos dust. Workers, wearing appropriate protective gear wet and remove the asbestos insulating material, properly bagging it for disposal by an approved asbestos waste hauler.
When asbestos has been removed from the boiler as well as any piping or other asbestos applications in the building, the exposed surfaces are cleaned and sealed, typically with a spray paint coating suitable for high temperature applications.
Watch out: If we find scraps of asbestos paste or lagging remaining in place on the boiler or heating piping we suspect that an amateur asbestos abatement job has been performed.
See ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Amateur
The risk is that inexpert workers caused asbestos dust cross-contamination in the building. In such cases, additional inspection, testing, and possibly further professional cleaning (typically by damp wiping and HEPA vacuuming of the affected areas and surfaces) are likely to be needed.
We discuss this insulating material separately
at ASBESTOS PIPE-INSULATION
see ASBESTOS DUCTS, HVAC a field identification guide to visual detection of asbestos in and on heating and cooling system ducts and flue vents.
Asbestos pipe insulation materials like the insulation shown at page top should have been removed during asbestos abatement, and so form an indication of amateur workmanship, raising the question of asbestos particle contamination in other building areas.
Continue reading about asbestos material removal in buildings in these articles:
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Questions & answers or comments about removal of asbestos-containing pipe insulation and asbestos pipe insulation removal and disposal procedures and costs
I have about 30' of old hot water radiator heat piping with asbestos insulation like that shown at the top of this page. Need to remove insulation and then piping. Insulation appears to be wrapped in a cloth wrapping (more asbestos?). Is the insulation very friable? Besides using all proper PPE, isolation and clean-up described in your other sections, what is best method for removal of this asbestos insulation? - Tom
Tom, the corrugated-paper like asbestos pipe insulation we show at page top is quite soft and friable; the cloth wrapping its exterior is usually cotton or linen that has been painted and is not itself an asbestos material. I'd call a licensed asbestos removal company for this project.
In many jurisdictions you may be legally permitted to remove asbestos but the disposal of the asbestos containing material (ACM) waste must comply with local or state hazardous waste disposal regulations. See our page left article link: ASBESTOS MATERIAL REGULATIONS
The difference between an amateur asbestos removal and a professional job is also that the pros can be expected to take the the steps we list below. You could follow these and the more detailed procedures for asbestos cleanup in the US EPA regulations and documents in our references, but the risks are: ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Amateur, Incomplete health hazards for the worker(s) and a risk of contaminating the building with asbestos, leading to a still more-costly cleanup. Here is a general description of a professional asbestos cleanup procedure:
Because we are past the peak of consumer fear about asbestos contamination and because the procedures, regulations, licensing have become well known, removal prices for a job like the one you describe should be manageable.
Current (2011) costs per foot to remove asbestos pipe insulation range from around $12. to $25. per foot on larger jobs, and $40. to $65. per foot on a small job. Those per foot costs tend to be less on a larger asbestos abatement project than on a smaller one because of the overhead of coming to the job, setting up containment, etc.
If the asbestos pipe insulation is in good condition (not falling off, damaged, making a mess) and especially if it's not in an area where it is likely to be disturbed, you have the option of leaving it in place, perhaps coating it with an encapsulant. The cost of this approach is less than asbestos pipe insulation removal, and the total release of asbestos particles in the building is also less.
Of course plumbing and heating repairs or changes may make it necessary to disturb asbestos-insulated piping, in which case the material needs to be removed and disposed-of.
Typically you'll get a quote based on the number of linear feet of asbestos-insulated pipe to be cleaned, possibly such a quote can be obtained just by telephone, with of course the proviso that on seeing the site and a need for other measures that quote is "subject to site inspection" . If an onsite survey is required to plan the asbestos cleanup, some contractors charge around $300. for that service, and may for give that fee if they are then hired to conduct the cleanup.
We find this cost varies widely from being included in the cleanup per foot cost, to low fees for in-ground burial where permitted, to a cost per bag or pound to have the asbestos containing waste material double bagged and hauled to an approved dumping site by a licensed hazmat waste hauler.
Other costs on larger asbestos abatement jobs typically include fees to run an air scrubber - figure $100./day - and the fees paid to a qualified expert for asbestos tests performed at the site before, during, and after the cleanup. For small residential asbestos cleanup jobs such as yours, onsite airborne asbestos monitoring is not performed.
Keep in mind that an amateur asbestos removal that contaminates the building is likely to result in a far greater subsequent cost to inspect, test, and clean the building of scattered asbestos dust and debris. During the peak asbestos scare I inspected a home for a buyer and observed extensive asbestos-insulated heating piping in the basement.
The owner decided he'd do the abatement himself. His wife later told me that "... he had white powdery stuff tracked literally all through the first floor of our home and even upstairs at times ...". In short, he made a horrible mess. The real estate sale stopped dead while the owners had to hire experts to then come and clean the entire home by wiping and HEPA vacuuming everything. It would have been less costly to have done the cleanup right the first time.
Questions & answers or comments about what building materials may contain asbestos, visual identification of asbestos-containing materials in buildings, and possible asbestos material identification by testing, use, age, appearance.
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