The boiler inside your business needs to be in working order. Pressurized equipment should be monitored to ensure work environments are safe for employees and liquids can be heated accordingly.
If you’re a facility manager, you’ll need to act on commercial boiler maintenance and repairs. Is it better to restore or replace an industrial boiler? The answer will depend on several factors.
Consider the Age of the Boiler
Industrial boilers consume a great deal of energy — the technology runs around the clock to keep your operations moving. It’s important to understand boilers will require replacement at some point. An industrial boiler can last upward of 20-30 years when facility managers schedule regular maintenance.
This estimate is not a guarantee. Expect an increase in maintenance and repair needs for a boiler once the installation approaches or surpasses the manufacturer’s rated service life.
Recurring Repair Needs
Frequent repairs add up. Your business may benefit from a complete boiler replacement when the same issue presents itself repeatedly and your old boiler declines in efficiency. Review maintenance records for your boiler assembly to see whether complications derive from the same components or are widespread.
You may find your industrial boiler starts leaking or grows louder toward the end of its life expectancy. Facility managers can do their part by looking out for buildups and clogs within pipes. How long boiler pipes last will depend on how often they are serviced and environmental conditions. Some areas of a boiler you could see deteriorate are the burner, heat exchanger, combustion chamber and system controls.
Review Boiler Fuel and Energy Costs
Looking at energy use and fuel demands from the time a boiler is installed to the present day is useful for figuring out if you should repair or replace technology. Keep track of facility fuel consumption rates and energy bills to see if there is room for improvement.
Fuel Type Matters
The type of fuel your system needs and how much your plant uses will make it easier to see if repairing or replacing your technology is productive.
Most industrial boilers are powered by coal, oil or natural gas. Coal is becoming less common in the industrial field due to environmental factors. Some businesses choose to integrate boilers that run on biomass, like corn husks and wood chips, to minimize their carbon footprints.
When your industrial boiler runs on a more expensive fuel variety and breaks down often, it’s worth exploring your options for a replacement assembly. Estimating the amount of fuel you’ll use in the future is effective in making the right decision for your plant.
Options for Retrofitting
Maybe your industrial boiler is a few years old but fuel costs are increasing for your build. Facility managers might think about retrofitting their units. This involves changing boiler parts to support a fuel type different than what was intended by the manufacturer.
You could potentially save money by modernizing an industrial boiler with updated parts. Make the transition from solid, liquid or natural fuel to another variety that makes sense for your budget.
Evaluate Facility Safety Concerns
Look out for your employees when deciding to repair or replace an industrial boiler. Pressurized vessels are dangerous when maintenance intervals are missed. Most boilers feature a pressure relief valve, but there is a chance an unchecked assembly could wear out to the point where superheated steam causes an explosion.
Only authorized personnel should make changes to an industrial boiler. A qualified professional should check for leaks, verify gauges work and monitor performance. Attending to a cracked boiler or rusting surfaces with an experienced technician is essential for creating a safe workplace. The technician you rely on for system inspections should inform you when adding a new unit to your plant is the best course of action.
Boiler Problems to Address Quickly
The following details describe situations when an industrial boiler may fall short of compliance standards:
- Surges and pulsations: There is a chance the burner or combustion fan is disrupting the flow of fuel and air throughout the boiler assembly.
- Boiler stops suddenly: This indicates safety controls have kicked on due to faulty operation controls. Safety features stop the boiler from running to reduce the chances of an accident.
- Temperatures skyrocket: A qualified technician may find a boiler’s operating conditions unsafe because of decreased water levels or poor water quality.
Investigate Boiler Configuration and Efficiency Issues
A popular boiler setup involves having two units in a facility. One boiler is the primary assembly and carries the heating load while the opposite boiler is for emergencies. This configuration works well for heating and power, but it is far from the most efficient.
Boiler technology is capable of changing its firing rate to accommodate different loads. Once a load plummets below an assembly’s minimum rate, it’s common for the unit to power down. The cycling process puts additional stress on boiler parts when temperatures fluctuate. A facility manager might think about adding several small boilers in a plant and configuring them to turn on with increasing loads.
This setup keeps professionals ready for emergencies and eliminates the need for cycling. Improve efficiency and system reliability, as the shutdown of one boiler will not influence heating capacity.
Update Your Boiler for Maximum Productivity
A boiler’s efficiency level is typically lowered the longer the unit is in use. Scale inevitably builds up on burner surfaces, and repairs become more of a short-term fix. Just because a boiler is in working condition does not mean you’re getting the highest level of performance out of the installation. Think about replacing an industrial boiler when there is evidence performance levels are not what they used to be.
Choose McNeil Company for Boiler Installation and Repair Services
The experts at McNeil have been serving customers in the metal, petroleum and chemical industries for over 80 years. Whether you’re interested in upgrading from your existing boiler or you could use assistance with a repair, know we’re here for you with locations in New Jersey, Florida and Virginia.
We work on industrial boilers of all sizes and varieties. There’s a reason why industrial organizations trust us to come up with solutions for facilities — our customers are our top priority, and we won’t rest until you’re satisfied with our services. Ask the McNeil team for a quote to hear more about pricing details.
Recently, the technology magazine Energy Tech Review announced their Top 10 Waste to Energy Solutions Providing Companies of 2023, and McNeil USA was one of them! Energy Tech Review wrote a spotlight article highlighting McNeil’s unique approach, complete with quotes from our president, Jim Schuhl Sr. Read the complete article here: https://www.energytechreview.com/mcneil-usa
Any industry that utilizes boilers can experience issues that lead to boiler problems, bringing operations to a standstill. All boilers are likely to run into issues from time to time. Knowing what common problems can occur, how to troubleshoot them and what your next steps are can help keep your boiler in good condition.
Common Boiler Problems
While boilers are durable industrial machines, they can still break down if a problem occurs. Responding to boiler problems quickly is essential to minimize damage and save money on repairs. Below are a few of the most common boiler problems you could encounter.
1. Leaking Water
Water leaking from the boiler tank is a sign that the interior of the tank is severely eroded. If your boiler tank has corroded, the only solution is to replace the entire tank. While it’s not the most cost effective solution, it lets you prevent further leaking and additional damage.
Some leaks may be from less severe sources, such as a broken expansion tank or pressure relief valve. These problems are usually easy to fix without eating away at your budget.
You may also encounter water leaks from the pipes or other locations. If you’re using a closed system, you can usually identify the source of the leak with a water meter. A water meter will show dropping water levels, which could drop low enough to shut down the system.
2. Blockages or Scale Buildups
Blockages and buildups are other common boiler problems. Poor water quality can lead to calcium and other minerals accumulating as deposits within the pipes and pressure vessels. These deposits can cause interruptions in the water pathway or, in more extreme circumstances, cause complete blockages.
These blockages can cause you to use more fuel than necessary to run the system and can be expensive to repair if they get severe enough. You can prevent them by using a water treatment system to ensure your water maintains its quality.
3. Weak or Slow-Building Pressure
Weak or slow-building water pressure is a sign of a leak somewhere in the boiler system. Leaks in the system can create a buildup of internal force, creating inconsistencies in the heat distribution and water pressure system. You can check for leaks by looking at the valves or pressure vessels.
Low or no pressure can also indicate an issue with the steam trap or feed pump. You should check these components regularly to ensure they work correctly and provide consistent pressure throughout your boiler system.
4. Strange Noises
Boilers that make strange noises — like whistling or pounding — could indicate significant problems. Strange noises can signal that the water pressure is too low or that there’s excessive buildup on the boiler’s heat exchange.
These problems can cause your boiler to work harder than necessary, leading to backed-up internal pressure. You can prevent this issue by ensuring the air intake, exhaust, gas piping and gas pressure are working correctly.
5. Random Shut Offs
Some of the reasons your boiler could shut off by itself include a broken thermostat, a damaged pump, loss of air pressure or blockages. If your boiler is shutting off or won’t turn on, you should schedule an appointment with a professional heating system expert. They’ll identify the source of the problem and have it repaired as soon as possible.
Troubleshooting Boiler Issues
While a boiler technician will know how to troubleshoot an industrial boiler, you may be able to find the source of some boiler problems yourself. Some ways you can troubleshoot boiler issues include:
- Check the pressure: Some boiler issues only require minor adjustments to the temperature or pressure. However, high pressure can lead to significant problems. The proper setting depends on the boiler’s system and usage. You’ll want to check the requirements for your specific boiler before making any adjustments.
- Check water treatment: You should check the boiler water daily to prevent premature leaks and vessel damage. Catching potential leaks or poor water quality early can help prevent significant issues that can damage your boiler.
- Check the gauge: A faulty gauge can sometimes cause issues in your boiler experience. If your boiler is still reaching the appropriate heat and your building is getting heat as usual, you may only need to replace the gauge. However, you’ll want to ensure you get the appropriate gauge for your building or industrial site’s system and boiler.
- Perform regular maintenance: Regular maintenance is one of the best ways to troubleshoot boiler issues. Keeping up with scheduled inspections and regular tuneups can help you catch problems early, saving you time and money. Periodic maintenance also optimizes your boiler’s performance so it can continue to run smoothly for years to come.
- Use a boiler interface or monitoring system: Some boilers have user-friendly interfaces that keep track of boiler conditions and notify boiler operators if any readings are irregular. The interface will also provide solutions to some problems so you can fix them as soon as possible. A monitoring system can also report on specific information to help you troubleshoot specific issues, allowing you to fix them before they worsen.
Once you identify the problem, the next essential step is to fix the issue and preserve the health of your boiler. If you’ve found a problem with your boiler, you should contact an expert as soon as possible. A professional can help confirm the issue and provide the proper solutions, optimizing your boiler’s performance while preventing expensive repairs. They can also perform boiler repair quickly and efficiently, ensuring that your boiler will continue to serve for as long as possible.
While a professional is vital for essential repairs, performing regular preventive maintenance can reduce how much you need them. Once your boiler problems are resolved, regular maintenance is crucial to prevent additional issues from occurring. While industrial boilers should follow an annual maintenance schedule, you may need additional maintenance depending on your usage.
Contact McNeil for Boiler Repair
If you’re experiencing trouble with your boiler, McNeil can help. We offer boiler repair services to reduce disruptions and improve your boiler’s efficiency. We can help keep your boiler performing its best, whether it’s electric or gas-powered.
Some of our boiler repair services include refractory repair, maintenance and inspections, boiler cleaning, component and vessel repair or boiler replacement. We can even install a new boiler if it’s time for an upgrade or if the damage has made it impossible to use your current boiler. Contact us today to get started with a free quote!
A commercial boiler contains water and transfers heat from a fuel source, such as gas, oil or coal, into steam. The steam is piped to a specific location, allowing it to run equipment, sterilize, steam-clean or provide heat. These boilers are essential to transfer heat energy from one place in your business to another, allowing everything to operate efficiently.
Some commercial boilers use an open system, which allows the steam to return to water form and be reused for different functions. Other boilers run on a closed system, meaning they don’t return the steam to water where it can be reused.
Below, you’ll learn more about how industrial boilers work, the types of boilers and other high-pressure steam boiler basics to help you operate your building’s equipment effectively.
Parts of a Commercial Boiler
Generally, commercial boilers contain the same parts and components essential for effective heating. Some of the standard components of a commercial boiler include:
- Burner: The burner is responsible for providing the flames that heat the water in the vessel. The burner helps create a mixture of fuel and oxygen, allowing the fire to burn efficiently and consistently.
- Combustion chamber: This is the area in the boiler where fuel burns to assist with heating the water. The combustion chamber is where the burners are located and is designed as a secure and safe location for the combustion of volatile fuel at high temperatures. Typically, combustion chambers are made from steel, cast iron or other heavy-duty metals.
- Heat exchanger: This vital component transfers the burners’ heat to the water, allowing it to create steam. Heat exchangers are usually made of copper, steel, cast iron or heavy-duty metal.
- Exhaust stack: This component is also called the flue. It consists of a series of pipes that carry exhaust fumes away from your facility’s interior and outside. An exhaust stack must be carefully constructed to ensure toxic fumes, such as carbon monoxide, are safely removed from your facility’s interior.
- Controls: System controls are an essential part of a commercial boiler, allowing you to set the water temperature, internal pressure, ignition, and fuel and air supply mixtures. You can control how often your burner fires, the rate at which your fuel is used and the quality of the fuel and oxygen mixture. The controls have safety features, allowing you to ensure your system stays operational.
All of these components are essential to a boiler, allowing it to operate safely and efficiently within your business. Without one of these components, your boiler couldn’t provide heating or other essential functions to your commercial enterprise.
How a Commercial Boiler Operates
There are different commercial boilers you can use. However, most boilers work similarly, using burning fuel or electricity to create heat and provide a hot water supply to a building. Depending on the type of system, the boiler may produce steam or hot water, which is then circulated in the pipes within a commercial facility.
Electric coils or fuel burners create heat in a boiler, which is transferred to the water from the heat exchanger. The hot water or steam travels through pipes within the building to the designated area. The water or steam enters the radiators of other heating systems in the building to disperse the warmth, allowing you to keep a space at your desired temperature.
The end goal of a commercial boiler is to produce consistent heat within a commercial building, whether it’s an office, medical facility, apartment complex or school.
Commercial Boiler Maintenance and Safety Tips
Remember that boilers contain steam or hot water under high pressure, so boiler maintenance is essential to sustain your boiler’s life span. You must take the proper steps to ensure your boiler stays clean and works correctly.
Hot water or steam leaks can cause significant damage or injuries. In some cases, boilers can explode when not adequately maintained, creating the potential for severe injuries or death.
You can follow some of the tips below to keep your boiler properly maintained:
- Ensure operators are aware of boiler regulations: Boiler operation regulations vary by state. For example, most states require your boiler to be inspected yearly, but some don’t. You should make any rules or regulations available to anyone who comes in contact with the boiler to ensure they follow protocol.
- Train everyone on boiler safety: While boiler explosions are rare, they can still happen. It’s essential to train operators on boiler safety, so they know what to look for, including temperature and water or pressure levels. They should also be able to spot signs of corrosion to ensure it’s handled correctly and quickly.
- Keep the boiler room clean: An unorganized or dirty boiler room can create a hazard. You also don’t want to store any flammable materials in a boiler room for the same reason. You should also consider restricting access to the boiler room to technicians and operators who have training in basic boiler safety so you don’t risk injuries and the area stays clean.
- Schedule time to make repairs or upgrades: A boiler requires repairs and upgrades throughout its lifetime. You may need to schedule some downtime for these repairs or upgrades, which means you can use rental boilers while yours is being repaired or upgraded. Even with a rental boiler, you’ll still need to inspect it regularly to ensure everything is working.
- Hire a professional: You should hire a professional to conduct your maintenance and repairs to ensure your boiler is taken care of properly. Professionals have the experience and knowledge to perform high-quality maintenance and repairs when necessary efficiently.
Schedule Boiler Installation or Repair With McNeil
If you need professional help with boiler installation or repairs, McNeil is here to help. We offer high-quality boiler installation services to help you install complex equipment that’s efficient and safe for your commercial processes.
We also offer boiler repair services when your boiler needs maintenance or repairs for specific components. We can work on all commercial boilers, whether you use electricity, gas, hot water or steam.
You can utilize our repair and installation services from any of our Florida, Virginia, or New Jersey facilities. When you choose us, you can rest assured we’ll exceed your expectations and help you keep your commercial operations functional.
Contact us today to learn more about our boiler services or get a quote!
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 high-temperature cements 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.