Water Treatment Tips You Should Consider During Spring Boiler Maintenance

Steam boilers normally work their hardest during the cold winter months supplying comfort heat to buildings. As the snow melts away and the warmer weather approaches, the loads on steam boilers are often greatly reduced. Facilities that use boilers exclusively for heat begin to ramp down their boilers in the Springtime and, in some cases, shut them down until the Fall. This presents the ideal opportunity for facilities to start the yearly maintenance required to keep these vital systems operational and running efficiently.

So, where do you start? As a water treatment company that has treated and serviced thousands of steam boilers, we wanted to share some tips to help as you put together a Spring maintenance plan for your boiler.

IMPORTANT:  Never attempt to fix a mechanical or chemical issue unless you are trained and certified to do so. Safety should always come first. Consult a specialist before starting any mechanical or chemical related projects if you are not trained and certified to perform the work.

Shutting Down Your Boiler Before Performing Your Spring Boiler Maintenance

For some, taking the boiler offline for maintenance may only be for a few days. However, if your facility takes your steam boiler offline for the entire warm weather season, you’ll need to consider laying up the boiler. There are two primary methods of laying up a boiler: wet lay-up and dry lay-up.

We have informative articles that provide tips on both methods, including how to decide which one is appropriate for your facility:

Perform the Necessary Mechanical Steps Specific to Your Boiler and Location

Oftentimes, when facility engineers begin to think about their annual boiler maintenance and inspection, the mechanical operations of the boiler are top of mind. This is a great way to start. Along with standard maintenance and required inspections, there are a number of checks that should be done to identify potential issues and areas that require attention.

While boilers must be inspected each year, each state’s requirements vary so we will not cover that here.  Make sure you are familiar with your state’s boiler inspection requirements. 

When performing routine checks, cleanings, and repairs on your boiler, keep in mind that every boiler is different.  Refer to recommendations from the manufacturer of your specific boiler.  You should incorporate these recommendations into your Spring boiler maintenance plan so that you have your own specific checklist of mechanical tasks.  Here are some general steps to consider.  Keep in mind that this is NOT a comprehensive list. 

  • Perform routine checks, cleanings, and repairs:  Check safeties and general controls.  Check the refractory for any cracks.  Clean the internal fireside and water side tubes and shell (if your tubes don’t look this, THEN CALL US!).  Repair and replace seals, gaskets and valves. 

Include Water Treatment in Your Spring Plan

Spring is also an ideal time for you to investigate the performance of the chemical treatment program for your boiler. Some people defer to the approach of “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” with regards to their boiler chemistry. However, with rising utility costs and major advancements in the science of treating steam boilers, it would be wise to give some thought to your boiler water treatment. Plus, with steam loads and requirements at their lowest, it provides the opportunity to make the necessary improvements/enhancements without an interruption to your facility’s needs. If possible, involve your water treatment consultant in this assessment, as they will have the expertise to properly assess your program.

6 Areas to Address During Spring Boiler Maintenance

We highly recommend including a host of checks during your Spring boiler maintenance to determine if your steam system is running as efficiently as it can be. Since we are water treatment experts, we will focus on aspects of your steam system related to boiler water. So, what are some of these items that should be examined during this time? Let’s take a look at 6 areas you should address every Spring.

  1. Analyze the makeup water source for the boiler.  Has anything changed from last year (dissolved solids level, water quality, hardness, alkalinity)? Does the municipality utilize monochloromine as its disinfection technology?

  2. Investigate the performance of your pretreatment systems.  Has the throughput changed?  Has the hardness of your makeup source changed?  How old is the resin in your softener or dealkalizer vessels?  Is this the time to send your resin out for analysis to see how much life is left?  Are other pretreatment technologies now required due to changes in steam usage or makeup quality?  Do you have a water meter on your softener?

  3. Assess your feedwater tank or deaerator.  When was the last time you conducted a dissolved oxygen study on it? When was the last time it was opened for inspection? Is it operating at designed temperatures and pressures?

  4. Inspect the condensate system.  Do you have a steam trap maintenance program? Have you had to (or do you need to) replace return piping?  If so, why? Are you tabulating your condensate return percentage? Note: you should. Now is the time to examine and make repairs to return to optimal efficiency.

  5. Evaluate the boilers.  Are automated surface blowdown controls savings (water, fuel and chemistry) worth the investment?  What does the deposit look like on the boiler?  What is the site glass condition?  Have loads on the boiler gone up or down?  What was your fuel consumption this year compared to previous years

  6. Consider your overall water treatment process.  Are you still using day tanks (is it still 1973?)?  Are operators still hand mixing chemistry?  Are you feeding chemistry into the proper locations?  Are you still using 30-40 year-old technology?  What would the benefits be for new technology?

If you cannot safely and effectively perform the steps above, or you cannot answer the questions posed, you should contact a boiler and/or water treatment specialist.  They will be able to perform the required maintenance and help you determine if your boiler system may have issues that need to be addressed.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the checkpoints one should go through when maintaining their steam system and examining their boiler water treatment.  However, being able to positively determine the answers to these questions can help you make the proper adjustments to get your steam systems running at peak efficiency.  Rest assured that the money you can save will make it well worth it!

Download Our Handy Spring Boiler Treatment Checklist

To help you with your Spring maintenance, we’ve pulled information from this article into a printable Spring Boiler Treatment Checklist. The checklist focuses on the aspects of your steam system that are related to boiler water treatment. It does not include the required inspections and routine maintenance checks, cleanings, and repairs since those tasks will differ based on your specific boiler system and the state where you’re located.

You can fill out this handy checklist as you plan for and perform your Spring boiler tasks. Plus, you can record notes to help when you do it all again next Spring.

Click here to download the PDF.

How Clarity Can Help

Proper water treatment, along with regular inspections and maintenance, can ensure your entire steam system operates at peak efficiency. Additionally, it will reduce unplanned downtime and maintenance costs and will extend the life of your equipment.

Clarity’s water treatment experts have extensive experience with steam boilers. If you have any questions as you plan and perform your Springtime boiler maintenance, or if you need any help, please contact us! We’ll be happy to come out and conduct a free evaluation of your facility and look for ways to save you money!

Download Our FREE eBook Today:

Ten Huge Mistakes Facilities Make in Boiler Operation and How to Avoid Them

Springtime Boiler Maintenance: Dry Boiler Lay Up

In the springtime, facility management teams start to prepare their cooling systems to come back online; you operate a facility with a commercial steam boiler that runs for 6 months out of the year and then sits idle for 6 months. When a boiler is not required to produce heat for those extended periods of time, most facilities will take that boiler “offline” and prepare it for a time of “safe inactivity.” The process is known as “laying up the boiler,” and it is performed to not only extend the overall life of the boiler, but also to reduce downtime and maintenance costs. In some cases, proper seasonal lay-up of your boiler can mean the difference between a boiler lasting for only 10 years or lasting for more than 30. This post will cover the features and benefits of performing a DRY lay-up.

We recently covered this same topic with regard to the reasons and best ways to perform a WET boiler lay-up here in a previous post.

As we did in that post, we will again assume that you have the best water treatment company in the area and, during heating season, your water treatment company maintains your boiler water treatment levels within optimal operating ranges to effectively inhibit corrosion and prevent scale within the boiler. For seasonal boilers even the best boiler water treatment program must be supplemented to prevent corrosion during the boiler’s non-operating months.

Why do I need to lay-up my boiler anyway?

Having the best boiler water treatment program on the planet may keep dissolved oxygen out of your boiler during normal operation, but it will not do you any good when your boiler is sitting idle offline. When a boiler is taken offline and allowed to cool down for extended periods of time, a boiler lay-up program is highly recommended to offset the increased levels of oxygen in the boiler. Oxygen can quickly produce pitting in steel tube sheets and boiler tubes. Once oxygen pitting starts, it can easily corrode through a boiler tube in a very short period of time. When it is time to start your boiler back up in the fall, you could first have to make a call to a mechanical contractor to plug or replace the corroded tubes. This is often a very expensive endeavor.

What do I need to do when my boiler is taken offline?

When a boiler is taken out of service, the boiler should be cooled until the water is below the atmospheric boiling point, but not below 180°F, and then the boiler should be emptied and flushed out. An inspection should be made to determine what repair work is necessary and what cleaning should be done. A decision should then be made on whether to employ dry or wet storage techniques.

Should I perform a wet lay-up or a dry lay-up?

There are two primary methods of laying up a boiler –  wet lay-up and dry lay-up. As you can imagine there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Aspects that you will need to consider in the selecting your choice of lay-up procedure are as follows:

  1. the size of the boiler
  2. the type of boiler
  3. the length of time the boiler will be offline
  4. the temperatures that the boiler will be subjected to while offline
  5. the resources that will be required to refill the boiler with treated water
  6. the resources that will be required to monitor the boiler while offline

Choosing the best lay-up method for your boiler is not always so apparent and it sometimes makes sense for you to consult with an experienced water treatment service provider.

A dry boiler lay-up protocol should be used if boiler will be shut down for an extended period or when there will be no foreseeable urgency to restart the boiler. This method is also preferable where the idle boiler may be exposed to subfreezing temperatures. Unlike a wet lay-up method, the dry lay-up also has a “set and forget it” component; it does not require constant monitoring, testing or circulation of the water.

DRY LAY UP PROCEDURES

This procedure is preferable for boilers out of service for extended periods of time or in locations where freezing temperatures may be expected during standby. It is generally preferable for reheaters.

  1. The cleaned boiler should be thoroughly dried, since any moisture left on the metal surface would cause corrosion. Precautions should be taken to preclude entry of moisture in any form from steam lines, feed lines or air.
  2. A moisture absorbing material, such as quicklime (2 lb. per 30 cu. ft.) or silica gel (5 lb. per 30 cu. ft. of boiler volume) may be placed on trays inside the drums to absorb moisture from the air. The manhole should be then closed and all connections on the boiler should be tightly blanked. The effectiveness of the materials for such purposes and the need for their renewal may be determined through regular boiler inspections. This should be done every three months. If there is high humidity, this should be done more frequently. If quick lime or a non-indicating silica gel is used, desiccant plates with indicating dye should be placed on each tray with the absorbing material as a quick indicator. These plates will change from cobalt blue color to pale pink if the absorbing material is exhausted and loses its effectiveness.
  3. Alternatively, air dried externally to the boiler may be circulated through it. The distribution should be carefully checked to be sure the air flows over all surfaces.
  4. In the case of a high humidity area or a boiler that has been prone to off season corrosion in the past, there is another method of dry lay-up that utilizes an oil-based boiler treatment product to coat the inside surfaces of the boiler. This dry lay-up method is a little more substantial and it does add some extra steps, however the results are usually worth it. If this method is used the oil-based corrosion inhibitor must be removed before the boiler is brought back online. This is accomplished by filling the boiler, adding caustic and performing a high alkalinity boil out to remove the oil-based lay-up product.

Once the boiler is flushed out and refilled with properly treated make-up water it can be slowly brought back up to working temperature and operated as normal.

When is appropriate to use a WET lay-up procedure?

So glad you asked! You can read all about that in the first part of this two-part series: Boiler 101: Why a Wet Seasonal Boiler Lay-Up May Be Right for You

I want to learn more about other important boiler water treatment services. What can I do?

Kudos to you! Learning more about what potential issues your steam boilers could face is always a good idea. There is a abundance of informational resources regarding steam boiler operation and boiler water treatment available all over the internet. A great place to start is our free boiler operation eBook that is available for instant download: “10 HUGE Mistakes Facilities Make in Boiler Operation and How to Avoid Them!” which you can download for free at the link below.

Lastly, if you have any specific questions or concerns regarding your facilities water treatment program, or if you have an emergency situation that needs attention right away, please feel free to contact one of our water treatment experts.

Thanks for reading!

Springtime Boiler Maintenance: Wet Boiler Lay Up

When Spring arrives, it is time to consider how your boiler system will spend the next few months while it sits dormant offline. If you own and/or operate a facility with a commercial steam boiler that only gets seasonal use, then this topic is for you.

When a boiler is not required to produce heat for extended periods of time, it often makes sense to take that boiler “offline” and prepare for a time of “safe inactivity.” The process is known as “laying up the boiler.”  The main reason for doing this is to extend the overall life of the boiler and reduce maintenance costs and downtime. In some cases, proper end of season lay-up can mean the difference between a boiler lasting 10 years or lasting for more than 30. This post covers the features and benefits of performing a WET lay-up. (The next post in this series will cover a DRY boiler lay-up procedure.) The wet lay-up protocol is the one that you want to use if you have a boiler that is sitting idle, but that may need to be ready to go online in a hurry. This is also known as a standby boiler.

For the purposes of this post we will assume that you have the best water treatment company in your area and, during heating season, your boiler water treatment levels are maintained within specific optimal operating ranges to effectively inhibit corrosion and prevent scale. However, for seasonal boilers, during the non-operating months, even the best boiler water treatment program must be supplemented to prevent corrosion.

There are two primary methods of laying up a boiler –  wet lay-up and dry lay-up. As you can guess there are benefits and potential downfalls to each. Choosing the correct method is not always obvious and so it may make sense for you to get some guidance from an experience water treatment service provider. Some factors in the selection of lay-up include the size and type of boiler, the length of time the boiler will be offline, the temperatures that the boiler will be subjected to while offline and the resources needed to refill and monitor the boiler with treated water.

Why do I need to lay-up my boiler anyway?

When a boiler is taken off-line and allowed to cool down for extended periods of time, a boiler lay-up program is highly recommended, to offset the increased levels of oxygen in the boiler. Oxygen can quickly produce pits in tube sheets and boiler tubes. Once oxygen pitting starts, it can easily corrode through a boiler tube in a very short period of time. When it is time to start your boiler back up in the fall, you first have to make a call to a mechanical contractor to plug or replace tubes. Not good for your boiler and very expensive.

What do I need to do when my boiler is taken offline?

When a boiler is taken out of service, the boiler should be cooled until the water is below the atmospheric boiling point, but not below 180°F, and then the boiler should be emptied and flushed out. An inspection should be made to determine what repair work is necessary and what cleaning should be done. A decision should then be made on whether to employ dry or wet storage techniques.

WET LAY UP PROCEDURES

A wet procedure may be used for a boiler that is taken offline completely or for one that has been placed in a “standby” condition. Wet storage is particularly useful if the standby boiler may be required to go back online at short notice or if it is impractical to employ a dry storage procedure. The method is not generally employed for reheaters or for boilers which may be subjected to freezing or sub-freezing temperatures.

There are a few alternative procedures that may be employed in a wet lay-up. The following is the most typical:

The clean empty boiler should be closed and filled to the top with water that has been conditioned chemically to minimize corrosion during standby. It is important that water pressure greater than atmospheric pressure should be maintained within the boiler during the storage period. A head tank may be connected to the highest vent of the boiler to help maintain pressure above that of the atmosphere.

  1. For short storage periods, caustic soda and sulfite should be added until their levels in the boiler water reach 450 ppm total alkalinity and 200 ppm sulfite. If the superheater is of the drainable type, it can also be filled with the same treated water by over flowing from the boiler.
  2. If the superheater is non-drainable, it should be filled only with condensate or demineralized water containing a minimum of dissolved solids, not more than 1 ppm. Before introducing the water into the superheater, mix in uniformly about 200 ppm of hydrazine and sufficient volatile alkali, such as ammonia, cyclohexylamine or morpholine to produce a pH of 10. The treated water may be introduced into the superheater through an outlet headed drain until the water over-flows into the boiler. When the superheater is filled, close the drains and vents. The boiler can now be filled through the feedwater or other filling line with condensate, feedwater or clean service water treated as described, with hydrazine and additional volatile alkali. If the storage period is expected to exceed three months, the concentration of hydrazine should be doubled.
  3. If preferred, the boiler may be filled using feedwater or condensate treated with caustic soda and sodium sulfite after first filling the superheater with condensate treated with hydrazine and additional volatile alkali.

During the Time That Boiler is Offline

The boiler water should be circulated periodically to prevent the chemicals from stratifying or falling out of solution. The burner may be used to warm the water in the pressure vessel to stimulate natural circulation.

It is important to routinely test the water while the boiler offline to monitor the chemical concentrations. If there are any leaks in the system it can cause make-up water to be introduced to the boiler. Untreated make up water will be high in oxygen and carbon dioxide and will aid in corrosion.

Before Boiler Comes Back Online

Before starting a steam boiler that has been in wet lay-up, perform a bottom blow off to reduce the alkalinity. This reduces the chance of carryover. Confirm that all tags and locks are removed, and closely monitor the system cycles for a minimum of three to five cycles to ensure proper functioning of the boiler before allowing it to run automatically.

When is appropriate to use a dry lay-up procedure?

Great question! You can read all about that in the second part of this series: Springtime Boiler Maintenance: Dry Boiler Lay Up.

I want to learn more about other important boiler water treatment services. What can I do?

Well you’re in luck! The first step in efficient and safe boiler operation is knowledge. Learning more about what potential issues your steam boilers could face is always a good idea. There is a treasure-trove of informational resources regarding steam boiler operation and water treatment available online. Another great resource is our free boiler operation eBook that is available for instant download: “10 HUGE Mistakes Facilities Make in Boiler Operation and How to Avoid Them!” which you can download for free at the link below.

As always, if you have any specific questions or concerns regarding your facilities water treatment program, please feel free to contact one of our water treatment experts.

Thanks for reading and please check out our free eBook!

Steam Trap Maintenance is a Key to Boiler Efficiency

Would the owners of your company be happy if you took $50,000 of their money and set it on fire? I know it seems like a silly question –  because of course they wouldn’t! Yet every day, in thousands of facilities across the United States, failing steam traps go unchecked and the dollars in lost energy just pile up. Failing steam traps are a major cause of energy loss in a steam system and can easily equate to serious dollars going right down the drain. Think about it this way: Let’s assume, for the purpose of this example, that it costs $5 to produce every 1000 pounds of steam at 100 psi (depending on your system’s efficiency it could be much more) and that, at 100 psi, just one failed steam trap could potentially allow over 800,000 pounds of steam to escape your system every month. That means that every month your facility could be losing over $4000 in energy! One failed steam trap could quickly equate to over $50k per year right out the window.

So what makes a steam trap so important?

Spirax Sarco Steam Trap

Well first, let’s quickly review the purpose and function of a steam trap. When steam condenses in a pipe the resulting pure water produced is called condensate. Condensate acts as a heat transfer barrier to the remaining steam in the system and so it must be removed to maintain maximum efficiency. To do this most steam systems have multiple steam traps plumbed in throughout the piping system. These steam traps were installed to remove the liquid condensate and air from the pipe so that pipe stays filled with “dry” steam. As the trap allows the dry steam to pass, it redirects the hot liquid condensate to a condensate receiver where it can be reused in the boiler. This also helps maintain the steam system’s overall efficiency by recapturing the resulting heated water to make new steam with less energy and with less boiler water treatment chemicals than would be required if the water was straight make up from cool city supply.

There are many different types of steam traps, and they are often chosen because they fit a very specific function in the overall steam system design. The four most common steam trap designs are:

  1. Mechanical –  In these traps a volume of condensate will move a float to open the trap and allow the condensate to move out of the main pipe.
  2. Fixed –  These traps are also called fixed orifice traps because they have a preset hole in the orifice plate that allows condensate to drain from the main pipe whenever it is present. These When condensate is not present, these types of traps will usually have a small amount of dry steam escaping from them.
  3. Thermostatic –  The difference between the temperature of the condensate and the temperature of the steam is what actuates this type of trap to open and allow the condensate to drain from the main pipe.
  4. Thermodynamic –  These traps operate by pressure. The pressure difference between the cooler condensate and the hot steam cause a disc to open to allow condensate to drain from the main pipe. When there is less condensate, the pressure changes and the disc moves to the closed position allowing dry steam to move through the main without escaping.

Every steam system is different and some steam trap designs fit certain applications better than others. Choosing the correct type of steam trap can make a big difference to your overall steam system efficiency, and therefore, it is always recommended to seek the advice of a mechanical engineering professional when making changes to your steam system piping.

So what can you do to avoid steam trap failure?

Traps can fail for all types of reasons. Corrosion from poor water treatment, damage from water hammer, and metallurgical issues from extreme temper changes can all affect a steam traps performance. Sometimes it is easy to determine that a trap has failed. There could be steam blowing in to the condensate receiver; there could be steam flashing issues, or severe pump cavitation –  which could all be indicators of a failed steam trap. Smart facilities avoid these things altogether by having a proactive steam trap maintenance program in place. Depending on the size of your facility’s steam system, hiring a professional steam trap maintenance firm could literally be worth its weight in gold. These companies specialize in yearly steam trap maintenance and trouble shooting and their cost is usually far outweighed by their benefits.

Just remember: Choosing the right steam trap maintenance firm is like anything else; do your homework and get referrals! Ask your industrial water treatment service provider for help if you need it and stop senseless steam loss today! Also, if you would like learn more about the common operational issues that happen with steam boiler water treatment, please download our eBook “10 HUGE Mistakes Facilities Make in Boiler Operation and How to Avoid Them!” It’s FREE at the link below.

Thanks for reading!

Your Water Treatment Chemicals Are Right, but is the Feed Location Correct?

One of the most common problems that we see in water treatment when we survey a new customer’s facility is improper chemical feed location.  Our water treatment professionals evaluate dozens of chemical feed stations in many different types of facilities every month, and we are always concerned when we see the same type of problem over and over again.  Water treatment chemicals being fed in the incorrect location is one of those problems.  This issue is even more peculiar because many times we will find that the actual water treatment chemical program and methodology is very appropriate for the system being treated, however, because of how that program is being fed into the system, the results are less than desirable.

One great example of where we normally witness this type of mistake is in applications where a dual biocide water treatment program is being fed into a large open condenser cooling system.  Check out this video:

A typical dual biocide program usually consists of a corrosion inhibitor, an oxidizing biocide and a non-oxidizing biocide.  Most of the time we will find that all that the chemicals being pumped into the open condenser system are correct, and in many cases, even ideal, to properly treat it.  Based on the data that we collect, we also find that dosage amounts are within optimal ranges.  However, when we look at the cooling tower it is obvious that there is a problem, and if you have any water treatment experience, you know this simple fact: if you are seeing problems in the tower, you are also going to have problems in the chillers.

Upon further investigation, we usually discover that there is some kind of mechanical issue that is causing insufficient chemical treatment, which leads to problems in the cooling tower and throughout the system.  Incorrect chemical feed location is, by far, the mechanical issue that we encounter the most.   The video in this post is shows a great example of where NOT to feed your cooling water chemicals.  In the video you will see three different chemicals being used to properly treat the open condenser system, however, all three chemical metering pumps are pumping their chemicals into one common ¾” PVC pipe, which then carries the chemicals up to the common header.  Very often we will find that this small feed pipe is either clogged or is not getting enough flow to begin with.  Also, we often discover that the chemicals are being fed too closely together and that the counteraction between them is destroying the chemicals’ efficacy.

In a perfect world, the chemical metering pumps should have their individual feed tubs directly injected through chemical stingers into the common header.  The location of the stingers on the header should be at some point after the chillers and before entering the cooling tower.  This ensures proper and full chemical dispersal into the entire cooling system and guarantees that all system components will be sufficiently protected.

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