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Boiler Basics 101: Importance of Proper Water Treatment

Learning and performing proper water treatment will protect your boiler system from tube damage and corrosion, and can also contribute to maximizing boiler efficiency. In this edition of Boiler Basics 101, we will discuss the consequences of improper water treatment and how to implement a proper water treatment plan.

If feedwater is not treated properly before entering the boiler, a chemical imbalance can initiate the formation of scale. Scale is the accumulation of mineral deposits, primarily calcium and magnesium, on the internal surfaces of the boiler.  These minerals have the potential to precipitate from the water and bond to surfaces, creating a layer that may result in harm to boiler tubes, reduced boiler efficiency, and potential for ruptures. Proper water treatment methods, such as the use of water softeners and deaerators, reverse osmosis, and chemical additives to condition the water, must be employed to prevent scale formation.

  1. A water softener will remove the calcium and magnesium content in the boiler’s water supply. This effectively “softens” the water before it enters a boiler and removes the minerals that are often the cause of scale in a boiler.
  2. A deaerator should be utilized to mechanically remove oxygen from the water before it enters the boiler. This will prevent boiler tube failure.
  3. Reverse osmosis can also be used to aid your boiler. Reverse osmosis is a process that can be used in boiler water treatment to purify and condition the water by using pressure to filter out any hardness and impurities.
  4. Chemical treatment is also necessary to ensure proper water conditioning alongside the mechanical treatments listed above. Typically, the chemicals used for treatment purposes are an oxygen scavenger, scale inhibitor, and an amine to treat the steam system piping.

It is important to note that from a rental perspective, it is the customer’s responsibility to maintain the water treatment conditions of their rental boiler to avoid equipment damage and additional repair charges that can result from improper water treatment procedures. It is recommended that the services of a reputable boiler chemical consultant are retained in order to supervise the water treatment conditions on a regular basis. Weekly tasks should include maintaining daily boiler logs, conducting chemical treatment tests, providing a report from the chemical treatment consultant, and sharing maintenance records with your rental boiler supplier.

All boilers are subject to damage if proper water treatment procedures are not followed. This is an important consideration both during operation and when the boiler is idle. Maintaining a water treatment plan will not just extend your boiler’s lifespan and the durability of its components, but it will also facilitate long-term cost savings. It is an investment that pays off in the form of lower energy costs, fewer repairs, reduction of costly down time, and compliance with regulations; all contributing to long-term cost savings.

Make sure to explore our earlier Boiler Basics 101 articles and keep an eye out for the upcoming edition!
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Keeping it Safe - Gas Trains

Maintenance budgets are among the first to be cut when companies need to decrease costs. Unfortunately, this means that critical equipment, such as the safety of combustion equipment, may be overlooked, specifically the testing of fuel trains.

gastrain12.jpgGas trains regulate the amount and the pressure of gas to the boiler's burners and are used to eliminate gas from entering the combustion chamber. This is achieved through a series of shut-off valves that are specifically designed to close when the combustion process occurs (through safety shutoff and blocking valves). Gas trains also include a series of pressure switches that prevent gas under pressure from entering the burner. If anything should go wrong, shutdown would occur immediately.

As crucial as gas trains are for the safety of the boiler, many facilities are unable to perform the preventive maintenance and testing work on the equipment as should be necessary to help decrease combustion incidents from occurring. John Puskar (Combustion Safety Inc.) has developed the following strategies that can help any facility to be proactive in the maintenance of fuel trains and combustion equipment. Overall, the goal of any safety program is to improve the reliability and life of boiler related equipment. These guidelines not only help to achieve those goals, but more importantly they help lead to fewer unplanned outages and improve the overall safety of plant personnel.

1. Most of the explosions and fire incidents, by far, have historically been due to human error. All of the safeties and interlock equipment in the world won't help if you attempt to bypass or jumper-out safety controls. There is no possible substitute for proper training. Training has to include mock upset and hazard recognition drills. Your site needs training even if you will have contractors doing preventive maintenance work.

2. Start-up and shutdown are your biggest risks. You need clearly written procedures that everyone understands and agrees with so that consistent, safe practices are in place with every shift and every employee.

3. Make sure that you do regular and complete interlock and fuel train valve tightness testing. Jurisdictional inspectors, even where they are mandated to be around, cannot be at your facility every day. Combustion equipment safety testing needs to be part of your organization's culture regardless of what it costs and what the perceived hurdles are. You should comply with code requirements for testing even if they are not enforceable in your area.

4. Create corporate guidelines for third party combustion equipment reviews and commissioning for newly acquired equipment or for major upgrades. Now that you see how little review and attention combustion equipment may receive from the time it's specified to when its really operating, you may want a dedicated professional review of the process.

5. Upgrade equipment for safety's sake. Do not wait for a problem and let attorneys dictate when this happens.
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Freeze Protection Recommendations



The winter season is here and for many users affected by freezing temperatures it is critical that the boiler unit is properly protected. Nationwide Boiler recommends the following in order to ensure that your unit continues to operate while facing freezing conditions.

  1. Enclose both the front and rear of the boiler area and use an external heat source to minimize freezing conditions.

  2. Install heat tracing with insulation to protect exposed stagnant water lines.

  3. Utilize an appropriate heat tracing method (electric or steam tracing) to all of your main lines and piping components. This includes the following lines which should be heat traced regardless if the boiler is in operation or not (in freezing conditions): sensing lines (steam drum to CMR, high steam and steam gauge), auxiliary low-water-cut-off, water column and level control blowdown. Depending on the length of piping runs, the main and continuous blowdown should also be heat traced.

  4. In addition to heat tracing on stagnant sensing lines, drain the lines and fill them with a 50/50 (water/glycol) solution, making sure to re-connect the line.

  5. When an extended boiler down time is expected, completely drain the boiler and stagnant water lines.
The above are recommendations, however, use sound engineering judgment calls when there are concerns of possible freeze damage to the equipment. Call us if you have any further questions at 1-800-227-1966.

 

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Combustion Air Fan & Efficiency

In order for your boiler to operate at peak efficiency, it is important that the correct balance of fuel and combustion air is achieved. Air and fuel ratios are controlled through linkages, fans, dampers and the increase or decrease of gas pressure. Gas pressure is controlled through a pressure regulator and a fan controls the volume of combustion air.
If there are any problems with the fan, more energy may be introduced into the system, causing decreased efficiency. To help ensure that your equipment is running at its peak performance, please review the common fan problems below.

Fan Capacity/Pressure is Below Rating:

  1. Dampers or variable inlet vanes are not adjusted properly

  2. Fan inlet or outlet conditions are impaired

  3. Multiple air leaks within the system

  4. Damage sustained to the blower wheel

  5. Direction of rotation is incorrect

Fan Vibration:

  1. Worn bearings

  2. Unstable foundation

  3. Foreign material in the fan causing an imbalance

  4. Misalignment of bearings, couplings, wheel or v-belt drive

  5. Damaged wheel or motor

  6. Bent shaft

  7. Worn coupling

  8. Loose dampers or variable inlet vanes

  9. Speed too high or incorrect fan rotation

  10. Vibration to fan transmitted from another source

  11. Uneven blade wear

  12. Loose or broken bolts or set screws

Overheated Bearings:


  1. Improper lubrication

  2. Poor alignment

  3. Damaged wheel or driver

  4. Bent shaft

  5. Abnormal end thrust

  6. Dirt in bearings

  7. Improper belt tension

Overload on Driver:

  1. Speed too high

  2. Direction of rotation is incorrect

  3. Bent shaft

  4. Poor alignment

  5. Improper lubrication

  6. Wheel wedging or binding on fan housing
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