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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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!