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The Importance of Water Softeners

Improper water treatment is one of the leading causes of poor boiler performance and can cause boiler tube damage that is irreversible. This is because hard water, or mineral rich water, can result in scale on boiler watersides. This scale is undesirable in water systems because it acts as an insulator and prevents proper heat transfer. Scale deposits of just 1/16” thick can decrease boiler efficiency by 20% and can lead to premature boiler failure and costly downtime.

To avoid this scenario, water softening is a widely-used and economical type of pre-treatment for boiler system. A water softener is an ion exchanger designed to remove the positively charged ions and replace them with sodium or potassium exchanger ions. Hard water contains the positively charged ions magnesium, calcium and iron. The water softening process nearly frees the water from these minerals and decreases the risk of tube scaling and irreversible boiler damage. Water softening, when combined with a reliable water treatment chemical program and blowdown schedule, can lead to many years of reliable boiler system performance.

We’ve installed duplex water softening systems in all of our mobile boiler rooms and mobile steam plants to ensure optimal boiler performance. We also have larger skid-mounted duplex water softeners available for rent or purchase. For more information on products and services available, visit our website at www.nationwideboiler.com.

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Choosing The Right Boiler: Watertube vs. Firetube

Boilers come in all different types, sizes, and shapes and are classified by configuration of the furnace, or firesides, and the watertubes, or water holding volume. The two main boiler types consist of firetube and watertube boilers, and deciding which of the two will best fit your process needs is not as easy as it may seem. It is like comparing apples to oranges; it’s not as simple as just comparing prices for similar nameplate steam capacity, and there are some significant differences to consider.

With firetube boilers, flue gases are directed through vertical or horizontal steel tubes that are surrounded by the water for heating, and typically go through two, three, or four passes, or changes in direction. In watertube boilers, the arrangement is reversed. Instead of the water being outside the tubes, it circulates inside the tubes and is heated externally by the combustion gases. Fuel is burned inside the furnace, which heats the water in the steam-generating tubes. The water then rises to the steam drum where saturated steam is drawn from the top of the drum. The watertube boiler has some relative advantages over the firetube boiler design, which are outlined below.

Watertube boilers are safer by design and generally considered to last much longer than the firetube boiler. They are available in much larger sizes and recover faster than firetube boilers, can handle pressures up to 5000 psig, and have the ability to reach very high temperatures with the use of superheaters. Because of their inherent design, firetube boilers are not suitable for pressures above 350 psig. Also, the steam output is less than the nameplate at actual operating conditions. Watertube boilers are rated at actual operating conditions. However, from a manufacturing standpoint, firetube boilers are typically lower in cost than a comparable sized watertube boiler, the firesides are easier to clean, and the straight firetubes are easily replaceable.

Let’s not forget that there is a tremendous difference in water volume between a firetube boiler and a watertube boiler. From a cold start, the firetube boiler, due to its larger water volume, takes longer to bring up to operating temperature or pressure vs. a similar sized watertube boiler. With less water volume, a watertube boiler can follow load swings more precisely and generally has better turndown. However, one advantage that the firetube boiler does offer is that once it is up to operating pressure, it can handle a sudden upward load surge better because of the large steam disengaging area. The drawback to this feature is once you drop pressure on the firetube, it takes longer to catch back up.

The rule of thumb is that if you have a very constant and steady load that doesn’t vary much, than the firetube boiler may work well. If you have a swing or varying load, then the watertube boiler is generally a better choice.

Click here to view Nationwide Boiler's current inventory of firetube and watertube boilers available for shipment anywhere in the world!

 

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Refresher on Freeze Protection Guidelines for Boilers

Once winter arrives it is a good time to remind our customers about how to properly prepare for freezing temperatures.  This not only applies to when a boiler is in operation, but also when a boiler is down or in transport.  The guidelines below will help get you started, but contact Nationwide Boiler if you have any further questions: 1-800-227-1967.

Freeze Protection Guidelines

Freezing conditions pose a huge risk to boiler equipment if it is not properly protected from the harsh elements. In order to ensure that your unit continues to operate while facing freezing conditions, Nationwide Boiler recommends the following:

    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.



NOTE:

    • The above lines are considered stagnant lines and should be heat traced regardless if the boiler is in operation or not (freezing conditions).
    • Nationwide has also done the following in addition to heat tracing on the stagnant sensing lines: Drain line, fill with 50/50 (water/glycol) solution, re-connect line.
    • Depending on the length of piping runs, the main and continuous blowdown should also be heat traced.
    • For extended boiler down time, drain boiler and stagnant water lines completely.



Standard Enclosure

The above are recommendations; however, use sound engineering judgment calls when there are concerns of possible freeze damage to the equipment.

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Ultra Low NOx Mobile Boiler Rooms Added to Expanding Rental Fleet

Three new ultra low NOx (ULN) mobile boiler rooms have been added to Nationwide Boiler Inc’s growing fleet of rental boiler systems.  The boilers have been specifically designed, manufactured and assembled to meet the increasing demand of steam for commercial and industrial boiler users located in California and other parts of the nation who must comply with strict air emission requirements. All three units have been pre-certified to comply with permitting agencies including the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).NBI Mobile Boiler Rooms

The three new units include a pair of 47.5 hp (200 psig) ULN boilers enclosed in 27’ single axle vans and one 650 hp (250 psig) ULN boiler enclosed in a 53’ van.  All boilers include 9 ppm gas-fired burners (with the option to fire propane fuel), deaerators, feedwater pumps, chemical treatment systems, blowdown separators and sample cooler stations.

For more information about these boiler systems and other units in our rental fleet, visit our website at www.nationwideboiler.com.

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