If you're running a factory or processing plant that relies on a boiler system, maintenance is critical for many reasons. A boiler breakdown could result in decreased productivity or even a complete shutdown, which could cost thousands in lost working hours while you wait for repairs. Even more importantly, a malfunctioning boiler can be incredibly dangerous, and it could threaten the health and even the lives of all of your workers. Boiler accidents can be devastating. According to the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors, boiler and pressure vessel accidents accounted for more than 10 deaths and over 20 injuries in 2009, the most recent year analyzed. For these reasons, it's important to make sure that you're taking steps to properly maintain any industrial boilers in your building. Here are the most important things you should be doing.
Without proper water treatment, the tubes and pipes inside your boiler can accumulate a buildup of scales and sludge. This can be dangerous as it can lead to increased pressure buildup. It will also decrease the temperature of the water flowing through the boiler. The buildup within the boiler's internal tubing reduces the machine's heat transfer ability.
Using a deaerator in the feedwater that goes into the boiler can help reduce the amount of particulates and increase the overall temperature of the water in the boiler. There are two basic types of deaerator devices. One is a domed piece mounted above the feedwater storage device, called a cascade deaerator. The other is called a spray deaerator, and it's designed to store and deaerate the feedwater at the same time.
Check the Flue Passages
Checking the flue passages is a very important part of ensuring that your boiler system is running the way that it should. Look for soot in the flue passage. Soot is an indication that the system has insufficient combustion air. On the other hand, if you notice moisture instead of soot, the system is running too cool. Condensation inside the passages can actually eat through the material that the vent pipe is made of, so you want to make sure that you avoid this.
You should also keep an eye on the stack temperature gauges. These gauges monitor the temperature of the gas leaving the boiler through the flue. Irregular temperatures can alert you as to whether the system is running too hot or too cold, and can be an early indicator of trouble.
Maintain the Fuel System
Check all of the fuel lines periodically for leaks or blockages. The person designated to maintain the boiler should understand how to replace fuel filters and strainers when needed, and the fuel lines should be examined before and after these procedures.
The burner should also be removed, cleaned, and replaced regularly. It's the fuel system that's most likely to eventually cause a boiler explosion if it isn't well-maintained, so this is paramount. Furthermore, a fuel system that's not in good working order can contribute to higher fuel costs and reduced heat.
Update the Boiler Log
The boiler log may be the most important part of maintaining the boiler. Any maintenance or testing should be logged at the time that it's performed. Boilers have a tendency to deteriorate gradually, so having a record of operations, test results, and maintenance is necessary to provide a clear picture of how healthy the boiler is.
While the changes from day to day might be minor and not immediately obvious, a pattern can be observed in a well-kept log that will let you know that it's time to repair or replace the boiler.
Of course, in-house maintenance by itself is not enough. You should also have your boiler system regularly inspected by a professional boiler and pressure vessel technician. If you're not sure how often your specific system needs to be inspected, the company that sold you the boiler should be able to provide you with the manufacturer's inspection and maintenance recommendations.