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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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Routine Maintenance Reminders

Routine boiler maintenance is imperative not only for safety, but also to sustain efficiency and reliability of your system. Being proactive rather than reactive is likely to increase the longevity of your boiler as well as help prevent incidents that can result in injuries, damage, or worse. Incorporating routine maintenance into your facilities day-to-day operations will prove its worth with a great deal of short- and long-term benefits.

There are certain maintenance tasks that should be performed daily, and others that should be performed periodically. Below we have provided a list of best practices to follow when putting together your routine boiler maintenance plan.

On a daily basis, you should track and keep a log of the following items:

  • Boiler pressure and temperature
  • Stack temperature, to determine operational efficiency (a well-tuned boiler should have a stack temperature range of 50 – 100 degrees above the steam or water temperature)
  • Gas pressure to the regulator, as well as downstream from it
  • Water quality and pH levels, to ensure you are meeting the recommended levels

Blowdown of the boiler (bottom blow) and water column should also be performed on a daily basis. In addition, you should observe boiler and auxiliary equipment daily to ensure proper operation and that there is no damage, leaks, or unusual behavior. 

On a weekly to monthly basis, it’s important to conduct additional visual inspections and observe the operation of certain components for areas that may need to be addressed. This includes:

  • Gauge glass
  • Fuel supply valves
  • Operating and modulating controls, water level controls
  • Flame scanner & burner flame pattern
  • High- and low-pressure switches, combustion air proving switch
  • Indicating lights and alarms

When it comes to the burner, you should inspect the valves, pilot tube, and diffuser thoroughly for any signs of wear that might call for a repair. Also, be sure to observe the entirety of the boiler system for potential hot spots (an indicator of deteriorated refractory) and again, be sure to keep an eye out for any leaks of fuel, water, or flue gas.

Lastly, there are certain items that should be performed on a semi-annual to annual basis. Many of the tasks below can be checked off during the annual inspection, when the boiler is taken offline:

  • Open access doors and inspect the fireside of the boiler
  • Inspect boiler and tubes for evidence of corrosion; clean tubes and tube sheets thoroughly
  • Examine the refractory for large cracks (greater than 1/8”) and patch as necessary
  • Conduct safety tests on the gas valves
  • Review all electrical connections for tightness, signs of wiring wear
  • Check pump alignment on all base-mount pumps

This is also a good time to fully inspect the auxiliaries that provide fuel, air, water, and chemicals to the boiler. In addition, combustion should be reset periodically with the use of a combustion analyzer, for accurate readings of NOx, CO, and O2.

While the guidelines above provide a good baseline of tasks to perform when it comes to routine maintenance, be sure to consider the boiler manufacturer’s recommendations as well.  

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Free Webinar Alert: Keep Your Boiler Operating Safely at Peak Efficiency

Cleaver-Brooks hosts a number of informative and educational webinars throughout the year.

Be sure to check out the next webinar, scheduled for September 26, 2018 at 2:00pm EST. The material will be focused on educating boiler operators and owners why preventative maintenance is so important. What routine boiler maintenance tasks are required? What is the recommended frequency of each task? All of these questions, and more, will be covered.

Cleaver-Brooks' Warranty & Service Manager John Pemerton will host the webinar - and you won't want to miss it!

Register today!

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New Storage & Maintenance Facility in Oklahoma!

Nationwide Boiler is excited to announce that we now have an additional storage and maintenance facility to better serve our customers in the Central United States. The facility is owned by Applied Global Cogeneration (AGC) and is located in Broken Arrow, OK. The 112,000 square foot manufacturing and test facility has ample space for our large trailer-mounted watertube rental units and stock boilers. 

We now have eight total storage facilities positioned across the United States. Other locations include California, Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. 

Having several different locations for equipment storage allows Nationwide Boiler to provide customers with dependable solutions and real customer service, getting equipment out quickly and saving money on delivery costs.

For more information on the new storage location and what our Director of Sales, Bill Testa has to say, check out our latest press release.
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