When was the last time your boiler was checked? If you can’t remember, it’s probably time to schedule some routine boiler maintenance. Just like cars, boilers also need a tuneup every so often. In addition to making sure everything is functioning, scheduling boiler maintenance is the best way to prevent future malfunctions, increasing the longevity of your heating system.
So, how often should you get boiler maintenance, and what exactly needs to be checked during routine maintenance? The following boiler maintenance checklist will provide all of the information you need to ensure your heating system is running at its peak for years to come.
What Requires Regular Maintenance on a Boiler?
Every boiler system has various parts and devices that are essential to maintaining the system’s safety and efficiency. To ensure the safe operation of your boiler, all fittings must be checked and maintained properly. In addition, electrical components, combustion ability and safety sensors should also be checked often. There are a lot of elements of a boiler that should be checked, and below is a list of a few of the most important boiler checklist items:
- Pressure gauges: To ensure the safety of those in proximity to a boiler, pressure gauges must give accurate readings. When they don’t, they need to be replaced immediately. The observation of gauges should be done frequently — ideally daily or weekly — and can be tested easily using special equipment.
- Steam traps: These function to remove excess water, air and condensation without removing steam from a steam boiler. When broken, steam traps will either close completely and not remove any condensation, causing erosion and damage to the system, or open completely, allowing for the free flow of steam, wasting energy. These systems should be checked at least several times a year, as they’re integral to the efficiency of boilers.
- Insulation: A significant amount of energy can be saved by periodically checking the boiler system pipe insulation. Improper insulation can unnecessarily cost thousands of extra dollars in energy. Periodically check the insulation using proper technology.
- Valves: There are many valves that control various aspects of a boiler room system, from steam to hot water. Malfunctioning valves can rack up high energy costs, so you should check them weekly using a thermal imager.
- Pumps: A boiler operates through the function of several pumps. These systems should function properly, as a leak or failure of just one pump can shut down the entire boiler system. Different pumps can be tested using a variety of methods and technologies. These tests and checks should be done at least monthly.
How Often Should You Perform Maintenance on a Boiler?
There are various maintenance checks you should perform on a boiler system on a regular basis. These checks range from simply looking at a physical component visibly to taking apart the majority of the system and using equipment to clean and test for more serious issues.
In short, there isn’t a simple answer for how often boiler maintenance should be performed. However, if we dive deeper into what goes into routine maintenance, we can better understand frequency requirements.
What and How Often to Check When Performing Boiler Maintenance
In order to know what to check and how often to do so, it’s important to categorize elements of the boiler system by maintenance importance. While you don’t need to check everything daily, you do have to perform some daily inspections. To more easily understand the various types of maintenance, the components of boiler operation you should check and the frequency of boiler maintenance, let’s break it down by prevalence:
1. General/Daily Maintenance
While you can perform more thorough maintenance on a less frequent basis, there are daily boiler operation checks you should do to ensure the safety and functionality of the boiler system. These checks can be as simple as looking to see that the pressure and temperature are within normal range and checking for any strange noises, smells or leaks, and reporting them if any are found.
2. Weekly Maintenance
On a weekly basis, you can also perform certain preventative maintenance checks. These checks can include checking the burner and draft controls, the air damper on the burner, valve operation and the igniter. Additionally, you can perform tests to make sure the system has an appropriate response to flame failure, shutdowns and other situations.
3. Monthly Maintenance
If you’re already performing daily and weekly maintenance checks, your monthly boiler maintenance can be more detail-oriented. When doing monthly maintenance, test limit and flame detection controls, check blowdown and observe floor drains and air inlet screens to rule out any issues with obstruction.
4. Yearly Maintenance
If you can’t perform routine maintenance for your boiler room more frequently, you must complete annual boiler maintenance. During this maintenance, a licensed professional should inspect the heating system, performing several rigorous tests to verify the functionality and safety of the boiler.
The LWCO and ALWCO should be disassembled and checked for blockages, corrosion and defects. Additionally, settings should be checked for accuracy — if not reset — and the fire side should be checked for soot and damage and the water side should be checked for corrosion. Clean the entire boiler inside and out, as well.
Why Follow Maintenance Best Practices
If your boiler is working correctly, you may be wondering why it’s recommended to perform maintenance so frequently. When thinking about boiler and heating system maintenance, it’s important to remember the main purpose of boilers. This is heavy equipment, often responsible for heating the entirety of large buildings. These systems operate under extreme temperatures and working conditions.
Therefore, it’s necessary to ensure your boiler is subject to routine maintenance to guarantee reliability and safety. There are many reasons for and benefits to frequent boiler operation maintenance, including:
- Reliability: Depending on the facility where a boiler is housed, it may be in charge of heating a building full of people, such as a school, or responsible for the operation of machinery for an industrial processing operation. No matter what purpose a boiler has, it’s necessary to have a reliable source of heat and power at all times to maintain regular operations. Routine boiler maintenance can ensure all systems operate correctly, preventing any downtime or other issues.
- Efficiency: All machines are subject to wear and tear, and although it may not seem like a problem, minor issues like leaks or corrosion can lead to more fuel usage, costing you more money than necessary and causing larger problems. The more frequently your boiler is checked, the less often these problems will occur.
- Longevity: Small problems build up over time and can eventually lead to premature wear or breakage of the heating system. Breaks can also occur in individual parts, causing you to purchase a new system or replace an expensive part. Frequent boiler system checks can prevent these decisions from being made in the first place — routine maintenance is the best way to increase the longevity of your heating system.
- Safety: While longevity and efficiency are important, the biggest concern when it comes to boiler failures is the safety of others. There are usually a significant number of people in buildings with boiler systems, so any breakdowns could potentially endanger the lives of hundreds of people. By inspecting your boiler operation routinely, you can ensure that the system meets legal requirements and keeps your workers safe.
It’s essential to all aspects of your operation that your heating system is functioning properly. The proven way to optimize all of these important elements is through routine boiler maintenance. Performing regular inspections of equipment can ensure you can continue operations as normal while making sure workers are safe for years to come.
Contact McNeil Today for Boiler Maintenance Services
At McNeil, we provide high-quality materials and customer service for all radiant heat system management needs. Whether you need new refractory shapes or an entirely new boiler room operation, we’re ready and willing to help whenever you need it. Keep your operation up and running with McNeil’s maintenance services — whether it’s monthly or yearly tuneups, we’ll do what it takes to preserve your steam boilers or gas boilers.
Contact us today to learn more about our boiler maintenance and installation services and how they can help you.
Maintenance In Progress: Our Team at Work
One of the essential parts of maintaining industrial steam boilers is the annual steam boiler open. You can schedule maintenance checks every one to two years, depending on the kind of steam boiler you have.
High-pressure steam boilers — those above 15 psi — need inspections at least once a year to maintain their function. Low-pressure systems can perform well with assessments every two years. Your steam boiler technician will address a few standard issues during the maintenance check and ensure that your system is ready to work until the next inspection.
Steam Boiler Maintenance Inspection
You should open your boiler before the inspection so that the technician has easy access to the system’s interior. Remove the front and rear doors on the fire side. On the water side, remove the oblong plates covering the hand holes, which are only used for inspection purposes. The technician will perform two sets of inspections on each side.
Be sure to remove all caps from the low water cut-off and the manway hole on top of the boiler before the technician arrives. Your technician should easily access all parts of the boiler, including the main water line and tubing. After the boiler is open, the technician will check both components.
Water Side Inspection
Scale, sediment and other buildup are common on the water side. Your technician will look for signs of buildup within the boiler and on the connecting lines. This buildup can:
- Increase fuel demand for the same output.
- Hinder valve movement.
- Create incorrect readings on sight glasses.
Your technician will also check for pitting in the tubes. Pitting occurs from oxidation or chemical interactions and results in small depressions in the tubing. If left untreated, pitting can lead to leaking, and you may need to replace the tubes in your boiler.
Fire Side Inspection
On the fire side, the technician will check for soot buildup. Soot buildup impacts heat transfer, much like sediment buildup on the water side. A 1/8 inch buildup of soot can cause a 47% heat loss in a standard boiler. Your boiler will have to work harder to produce the same amount of heat, which leads to more energy use and higher costs.
The technician will also check the refractory material and the tube sheet. They will look for cracks and other signs of damage that could lead to leaks. If there are signs of wear, they’ll perform a magnetic particles test to make sure the internals are safe and detect any potential leaks.
After the inspection, you can put your boiler back together. We recommend using new gaskets after every inspection to ensure optimal performance throughout the following year.
Contact McNeil for More Information
McNeil provides high-quality construction materials and heat management solutions. We’ve provided superior service and supplies for furnaces, boilers and incinerators since 1937. If you need an expert’s advice to find suitable materials for your equipment, we can help.
Contact us online today to find out more about our services and learn how to care for your boiler throughout the year.
Boiler tubes are the primary sources of heat transfer in any boiler system. The type of system you have changes the layout, but all boilers must transfer heat from the fire side to the water side. The tubes handle that transfer and steam release for the entire system.
Regardless of your industry, boiler tube maintenance and repair are crucial for consistent outputs. Repairing your boiler tubes can increase the overall life of your boiler system. Plus, finding a solid maintenance and repair routine will keep your equipment in premium condition.
2 Types of Tube Boilers
The two different types of boilers are:
1. Water Tube Boiler
In water tube boilers, exhaust travels through narrow tubes to transfer heat circulating through tubes between two larger drums. The advantages of using water tube boilers include higher steam release capabilities, a smaller energy footprint and a higher operating pressure range.
2. Fire Tube Boiler
Fire tube boilers are pressure vessel boilers that pass gas or exhaust through tubes to heat the surrounding water with a simple design and larger tubes than water tube boilers. The benefits of fire tube boilers include lower upfront costs, ease of maintenance and higher water volume.
Consequences of Poor Maintenance
Maintaining your boiler system can improve its overall health. Without proper maintenance checks, minor issues quickly develop into expensive repairs.
Common consequences include:
- Boiler tube failure
- Personnel risks
- Inefficient outputs
- Increased downtime
The more regularly you inspect your boiler system, the less likely it is that you will experience these issues.
What Causes Boiler Tube Failure?
Many different factors can cause boiler tube failure, but a few reasons apply to both fire and water tube boilers. Some common reasons for boiler tube failure are:
- Poor water quality and treatment.
- Tubes extending beyond code allowances.
- Excessive water side scale or fire side soot.
Addressing these causes with regular maintenance checks can prevent future retubing procedures.
Boiler Tube Repair Process
A certified technician should perform all boiler tube repairs. When a technician completes the boiler tube replacement, they can tell you what caused the issue.
The basic steps for a boiler tube repair are:
- Assess the failure and determine the best course of action.
- Remove the broken tube and determine the failure cause to prevent further repairs.
- Review the tube’s condition and the connection spots to check for any other signs of wear.
- Connect the new boiler tube following code requirements.
- Perform a pressure test that addresses code levels to make sure the tube is installed correctly.
- Complete any repair forms and reinstall the boilerplate.
Save your boiler from unnecessary boiler retubing and schedule maintenance with a reliable repair company.
More Information From McNeil, Your Heat Solutions Repair Company
McNeil provides high-quality heat solutions and materials. We have helped our customers improve their boiler systems since 1937, so we can offer expert advice and help you find the appropriate solutions and products for your needs.
For more information about boiler repair and maintenance, contact the McNeil team online.
Refractories are vital components in boilers and furnaces. These linings of brick and fiberglass act as a protective lining against the ongoing processes within a boiler’s combustion chamber, including destructive heat, abrasion and corrosion. Installing refractories correctly is essential for ensuring efficient and safe operation in both industrial and commercial boilers. However, just as important as proper installation is proper maintenance, which includes knowing when to replace key refractory materials.
What Causes Refractory Lining Wear?
Like the tires of a car, refractories wear out over time due to the damaging environment in which they operate. While wear can be minimized by following proper heat up and cool down procedures and performing simple maintenance, the refractory lining can crack, erode or otherwise get damaged for many reasons. Some of the most common causes of refractory lining wear include the following:
- Abrasion: Abrasive products like fuel, ash and other particles are often used in boiler systems. Like a sandblaster, these products will wear away at the refractory lining over time.
- Thermal cycling: Boilers and furnaces cycle in their heat production, generating massive amounts of heat up to 3,000°F before cooling off. Refractory linings, therefore, undergo the same thermal cycling, causing the refractory materials to expand and contract continuously. This results in materials such as firebricks, gaskets and fiberglass insulation degrading over time. In some cases where there is a sudden massive change in temperature called thermal shock, the rapid expansion or contraction of the material will cause more drastic and immediate damage to the refractory lining.
- Corrosion: The lining of a refractory can chemically react with materials and byproducts from the boiler. These chemical reactions can cause the refractory materials to soften or glass over, eventually resulting in surface failure.
- Erosion: Moving liquids like slag and molten metal in a boiler create a washing action against the refractory lining. Over time, this movement of liquid can erode the refractory lining, leaving the materials more prone to destruction from other causes like abrasion and corrosion.
- Mechanical wear: Moving equipment and parts in the boiler can place stress on the refractory lining, resulting in wear. Continuous mechanical wear can damage the structural integrity of the refractory lining.
- Improper materials: Sometimes, refractory materials wear down more quickly because the wrong materials were used to build the refractory. The material may not be suitable for the type of fuel being burned or the environment needed for the boiler and fuel combustion process.
- Improper installation: In some instances, a refractory owner or their hired installation team will rush the refractory installation or repair process, resulting in an improper installation. Missed or shortened steps in laying refractory bricks, choosing materials or letting the setup cure can all result in significant structural problems for the refractory.
- Improper maintenance: Another cause of refractory failure is human error in the form of improper maintenance. For example, refractories will often form “good cracks” as part of the natural cool-down process, which disappear during the heat-up process. Filling in these cracks unnecessarily can result in shell bulge and material wear since the materials will naturally expand again.
Refractory failure is one of the leading causes of boiler failures and inefficiencies, and refractory lining wear can also result in damage to other components of the boiler, such as the boiler tubes, burners and other systems. This extensive potential damage is the reason why boiler owners need to be aware of the causes of wear and implement a maintenance procedure to identify and handle wear as soon as it happens.
How to Find Refractory Lining Failure
Discovering the cause of a refractory material failure is a complex process that requires expert repair and installation personnel working in tandem with your internal team. While the process itself will look different depending on the specific qualities of your boiler plant, the process generally follows the steps below:
- Data collection: To start, have your repair crew work with your internal team to collect as much information about the refractory as possible, including details about performance changes, chemical compositions of boiler fuel being burned and material samples of slag and ash. In addition to this information, provide as much detailed information about the installation of the refractory, such as the composition and manufacturer for the materials used, the condition of the material during installation and all installation procedures and timelines used.
- Examination and testing: After collecting samples and data, a repair crew can analyze the information to determine the likely cause of wear and how to handle it. Experts will typically look for evidence of the above-listed causes of refractory lining wear to determine the primary culprits. The team will also likely run samples through various tests to verify the strength of refractory materials and the type of environment the refractory operates with.
- Boiler history review: The repair crew will also take a look at the details of a boiler refractory’s history to glean clues as to the types of repairs and replacements needed. This often involves analyzing the details of the refractory installation to determine if any errors could have compromised the refractory’s integrity. They will also take a look at the recent boiler and refractory services to determine if any changing boiler conditions or faulty repair operations may have affected the refractory.
Once the repair team has completed these steps, they will typically know the cause of the wear. From here, the team should be able to make a recommendation for the repair, whether it is replacing an insulation board or redoing the installation completely.
Maintenance Schedule for Refractory Lining
Like any essential equipment, refractory linings should undergo regular maintenance to ensure optimal operation and longevity — without proper maintenance, refractory lifespans can be reduced by 50% or more. This means that your company needs to create a thorough maintenance schedule for your refractory lining. But when should you schedule maintenance for refractory components?
The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to scheduling maintenance for refractory lining. Different types of materials and equipment require different maintenance schedules — when to replace ceramic fiber will differ from how long a gasket will last in the same environment. Depending on what materials and components are used in the refractory lining, maintenance schedules will vary widely from boiler to boiler.
The best way to set a maintenance schedule is to have a refractory engineer perform an inspection similar to the process outlined in the previous section. Using the information gathered, they can then create a custom maintenance plan for your equipment.