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14 Steps for Winter Boiler Maintenance

Winter is officially here! When cold weather settles in, it is important to make sure that your boiler is well-maintained. Like any other mechanical system, boilers will tend to wear down over time. Boilers can be dangerous if not properly inspected and not working properly. Full boiler efficiency will help avoid boiler downtime and unnecessary expenses. Here are 14 steps to follow to help you get on track with your winter maintenance:

1. Inspect the fuel source.

The fuel used needs to have the proper viscosity for atomization. Test and gauge the fuel viscosity to ensure full efficiency. 

2. Inspect the fireside.

Inspect the fireside and look for any indication of corrosion.  If no corrosion is found, continue to clean the fireside and the furnace area as necessary. 

3. Check the refractory.

Due to the cooler weather, be aware of thermal expansion. Boiler refractors are designed to expand and contract with temperature changes. But all boilers will incur some cracking due to those constant changes. If excessive cracks are found, repair as needed.

4. Inspect the waterside.

Inspect the waterside of the boiler for scale and remove as necessary. Scale prevents heat transfer inside the boiler and can significantly lower efficiency. All water-level controls need to be properly inspected, opened, and cleaned.

5. Inspect the burner.

While the boiler is open, inspect the burner components.  Visually check the boiler’s flames. If there are inconsistencies in the flame patterns or color, there may be an underlying issue. Make sure everything is in order before proceeding. Failure to maintain the fuel system in good working order could result in excessive fuel costs, loss of heat transfer or even a boiler explosion.

6. Inspect the controls.

Any controls used to monitor the water level of the boiler should be checked after reinstalling onto the boiler. Before starting the boiler, inspect all the operating controls and look out for any signs that show of overheating.

7. Close all openings.

Make sure all of the boiler’s openings which include all doors, manholes and handholes are properly closed.

8. Open the boiler’s valves.

This is inclusive of the boiler’s header valves, piping drains and vent valve. Make sure all are operating as required and that the vent is not clogged. All ventilation requirements for the boiler need to be checked and met. 

9. Test the pumps and valves.

You will need to test all of the boiler’s pumps and valves before fully operating to make sure everything is working properly. Once everything has been tested and approved for operation you can start warming up your boiler.

10. Warm up your boiler.

To account for the colder weather it is important to increase the boiler pressure slowly. This allows the joints and metals to heat up evenly and reduce expansion stress. 

11. Switch to automatic operation.

Once your boiler is up to operating pressure, switch to automatic operation.   

12. Analyze combustion.

When you perform a combustion analysis this helps increase performance, verify component operation, decreases maintenance and fuel requirements. This will save some potential expenses made in operation. 

13. Water treatment.

Water treatment is needed before feedwater can be pumped into a boiler. Test the boiler water and treat accordingly. Follow the guidelines provided in the Installation and Operations Manual.

14. Monitor your boiler. 

Within the first few days after start-up, monitor the boiler for any leaks or any additional maintenance items. If you discover water or steam leaks at this point, shut the boiler down and have the leaks repaired.

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Boiler Blog 101: Importance of a Water Softener Consequences of Hard Water

Improper water treatment is the leading cause of tube damage and poor performance in a boiler system. In this month’s edition of Boiler Basics 101, we will discuss the consequences of introducing your boiler to hard water and the importance of utilizing a water softener.

If water is not treated properly before entering the boiler, scale will begin to form due to a chemical imbalance within the tubes. Scale is defined as concentrated minerals being precipitated when the water is evaporating in a boiler. The precipitated minerals consist of a mixture of calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum, and silica, and are often referred to as “hard minerals”. Scale is detrimental in a boiler system because it acts as an insulator and prevents proper heat transfer. This can lead to decreased boiler efficiency, costly downtime, and even premature boiler failure. Eventually, scale build-up will cause boiler tubes to overheat and rupture.

To help prevent scale and deposit formation, make-up water should be circulated through a water softener before it is fed to the boiler. A water softener is an ion exchanger designed to remove positively charged ions from hard minerals (like magnesium, calcium, and iron) and replace them with negatively charged ions. The resin beads that are inside the resin tank are negatively charged by brine, which contains salt and potassium. As the water goes through the resin tank, the positively charged ions are chemically attracted to the negatively charged resin beads. The hard minerals then stick to the resin as the water runs through the tank, thus turning the water into “soft water”. This process frees the water from these minerals before entering the boiler and decreases the risk of tube scaling and irreversible damage.

Water softening is one of the main ways to increase boiler longevity and maintain boiler performance. Nationwide Boiler’s fleet of mobile boiler rooms, steam plants, and feedwater system trailers include duplex water softening systems to ensure optimum boiler performance. We also have skid-mounted and trailer-enclosed, stand-alone water softeners available for rent or for purchase. It’s important to know that when Nationwide Boiler delivers a rental unit, it is the customer’s responsibility to maintain and supervise the water treatment and chemistry of the water entering their rental boiler.

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. To avoid damage and costly repairs, monitor water chemistry routinely and ensure that you are supplying your boiler with soft water at all times.

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Food for Thought

With the holidays just around the corner, Nationwide Boiler was inspired to collect food donations to help fight hunger in our local communities. We just wrapped up our 2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive, this time supporting the local food banks in both Fremont, CA and Washougal, WA. Our offices collected the most needed items requested by the Alameda County Food Bank and Inter-Faith Treasure House. Our goals were set to surpass the amount of food collected from last year, and the results were positive. Pacific Combustion was able to collect over 10 bags in Washougal, and in Fremont we filled four barrels full of food. Each of these Food Bank provided barrels are equivalent to about 125lbs of food, if filled to the top. Four full barrels means we donated roughly 500lbs of food along with the added amount from Washington. Way to go team!

Inter-Faith Treasure House has been in business for over 49 years and has provided food and assistance to Camas and Washougal residents in need. Majority of the business is funded and runs with the help of volunteers and donations. Treasure House administers several outreach programs for families in crisis and the food we have donated is going to help support these families. 

The Alameda County Community Food Bank or “ACCFB” distributes millions of healthy meals every year, and they are on the forefront of new approaches to ending hunger and poverty. For over 30 years they have stood by the belief that food is a basic human right and no one should worry about their next meal. The estimated 500lbs of food donated will go directly to the ACCFB and contribute towards their mission statement of ending hunger and poverty. We are always encouraged to see Nationwide employees come together to  support a good cause. The multiple bags and barrels we filled will fill the bellies of many in need.

Nationwide is always looking for opportunities to lend a helping hand and contribute to local nonprofits. Our company was proud to help contribute to these efforts and encourage others to donate as well. If you are interested, please research local food drives, food banks, or other nonprofit organizations in need. 

For more information on Inter-Faith Treasure House, please visit their website: http://www.ifth-cw.org/outreach.html

If you would like more information on the Alameda County Food Bank, please visit their website: https://www.accfb.org/
.

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Boiler Basics 101: Economizers for Increased Efficiency

The price of fuel is constantly fluctuating and with it comes creative ways to be more economical. Finding methods to be more energy efficient is never a waste of time. In the boiler room, efficiency improvements can be found by many sources, however, a common option for energy savings includes the use of an economizer. What is an economizer? The economizer is a fabricated assembly of finned tubing that captures waste heat extracted from the boiler’s stack flue gases; the exhaust that leaves the boiler stack (or “flue”).

It’s all about the principle of Heat Transfer. While low temperature water, or feedwater, enters a boiler system, high temperature flue gas exits. An economizer captures heat from the flue gas that would typically go to waste, and utilizes it to preheat the feedwater. By doing this, an economizer is able to increase thermal efficiency by decreasing the energy required to heat the water to steam. This will typically result in a reduction of 1% in fuel cost per 10 degree rise in feedwater temperature. Overall, an economizer can be a major cost savings for boiler owners and will easily provide a quick return on investment.

The economizers’ simple technology and static parts provide longevity and low maintenance, and they are available in multiple designs and configurations. Conventional economizers are cylindrical or rectangular and come in a range of sizes for both firetube and watertube boilers. Rectangular designs are more commonly used for larger industrial watertube boilers, and can be configured for vertical or horizontal gas flows, finned or bare tube design, and other additional options if needed. A condensing economizer can improve waste heat recovery even further by cooling the flue gas below its dew point, reclaiming both sensible heat from the flue gas and latent heat by condensing the flue gas water vapor.

BOILER EFFICIENCY COMPARISON
  Combustion Efficiency at
4% Excess Oxygen
Stack Gas
Temperature
 Boiler  78% to 83% 350F to 355F
 Boiler with Standard Economizer  84% to 86%  250F to 300F
 Boiler with Condensing Economizer  92% to 95%  80F to 150F


When determining whether an economizer is ideal for your boiler equipment, the location of the economizer into stack is important. To ensure the most thermal recovery during the process, you need to make sure the economizer is installed as close to the furnace breach as possible. This will help avoid thermal loss and cooling.

At Nationwide Boiler, we offer our EconoStak economizer as an optional addition (or a standard addition in some cases) on our fleet of watertube rental boilers. The EconoStak consists of the economizer as well as all of the associated piping and structural supports required for very efficient and safe operation. In addition, we are a West Coast representative for E-Tech Heat Recovery Systems, a leading provider of economizers for new, replacement, and retrofit applications.

Contact Nationwide Boiler today to see if an economizer is the right option for you, and be sure to check out our previous Boiler Basics 101 blogs. We review various topics each month, so stay tuned for the next edition!

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