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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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Proper Preparation for Boiler Inspections

Boiler inspections are very common and usually required periodically to ensure that the equipment is being taken care of correctly and working safely and properly. The Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) has published a short but useful guide on how to prepare your boiler for an external and internal inspection.

An external inspection is done when the boiler is still in-service. It is important that the inspection is scheduled at a time where short interruptions (due to the inspection) will not affect facility operations. Make sure that personnel are notified of the inspection and qualified operators are available for any testing the Boiler Inspector may need done.

Internal inspections are done when the boiler is not in service and are a lot more complex, which is why HSB created a list outlining how to prepare for an inspection. Make sure that you prepare for the inspection correctly because if not, the Boiler Inspector can refuse the inspection until the boiler is properly prepared.

For internal inspections, you should:

  1. Shut down the boiler using proper shut down procedures as required by your boiler operating instructions.

  2. Lockout and tag all steam, water, and fuel valves, the ignition system, and electrical disconnects.

  3. Allow boiler to cool completely, 24 to 28 hours depending on the style and size of the boiler.

  4. Open all drain and vent lines and drain the boiler.

  5. Remove inspection plugs in water column connectors.

  6. Remove all manhole and handhole cover plates.

  7. Remove all washout plugs.

  8. Flush all sludge and loose scale from boiler interior. Check with your Boiler Inspector first as some inspectors prefer to leave scale and sludge in the boiler for their inspection.

  9. Open all low-water fuel cutout device float chambers.

  10. Open all low-water fuel cutout device cross tee piping plugs.

  11. After draining and flushing the boiler, close, lockout, and tag blow off valves.

  12. Open all fireside access panels/doors, front and rear.

  13. Remove all soot and ash from boiler furnace surfaces and grates (if applicable). Again, check with your Boiler Inspector to see if he wants to examine the area before cleaning.

  14. Have new gaskets ready for all openings; do not reuse gaskets.


To learn more about boiler inspections and general boiler maintenance, visit Hartford Steam Boiler’s website and check out their Information Resources.

Taken from: http://www.hsb.com/HSBGroup/uploadedFiles/HSB_COM/Information_Resources/769%20%20%20My%20Inspector%20Called%20to%20Schedule%20an%20Inspection%20-%20How%20Should%20I%20Prepare%20my%20Boiler.pdf
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The "No Surprise" Check Off Sheet

We know that renting boilers, whether in an emergency, for scheduled maintenance, or to meet peak-season demands, can be full of surprises. Frequently, even experienced renters are surprised by what isn't included with most rental boilers. And most surprises are expensive - both in time and money.

Before you make a rental commitment call Nationwide Boiler, the "No Surprise" boiler professionals and ask if the above items are included, then call our competitors. We will do whatever it takes to make sure your rental project is a success, without any unpleasant surprise!

1.    Boiler Inspection
Have you inspected the boiler for plugged tubes, age, electrical etc? Some people rent boilers like calling a used car lot, negotiate price and then make a deal over the phone. This can be disastrous.

2.   Freight
Are the freight charges firm? Some boilers may have to take indirect route (road clearance problems) costing many thousand of dollars extra.

3.    In-transit Rental
When does the rent start and stop? On rail shipment, delays are common and your rent can keep running for three or four weeks in each direction adding one-two month's of unexpected rent.

4.    Steam Header Valve
Is one included with the boiler? New ones cost between $2,000.00 and $8,000.00 each.

5.   Blowdown Valves
Are they included? New ones cost $200.00 to $1,000.00 each. Are they mounted or shipped loose?

6.   Voltage
Is the boiler set up for proper voltage prior to shipment? Is the fan starter included? These items can save you money on fieldwork.

7.   Smokestack
Is one included and does it have properly sized transition pieces? Does it have to be shipped on separate truck? Freestanding stacks can be a real problem installing and removing. This can mean considerable fieldwork and expense.

8.   Control Panel
Is the panel mounted on the boiler or shipped loose? Is it weatherproof? Considerable time and expense in field wiring and tubing is common with remote panels.

9.   Guarantee
What will the boiler company cover on parts and callbacks? Some companies say return the broken part to the factory and you pay freight and installation labor.

10.   Economizer
Is one included and is it pre-piped? Do you need separate support and transition pieces? Will it be costly to install and remove?

11.    Blower
Is the blower on the boiler or shipped loose on a separate truck? This could be expensive for freight and installation costs.

12.   Weather Proof
Is the boiler designed for outdoor use? If not, additional cost will be involved to build an enclosure. Electrical controls could be water soaked during installation and shipping.

13.   Hydrostatic Test
Will you be charged for a hydrostatic test when the boiler is returned?

14.   Shipping Damage
Will you have to go back to the carrier to cover broken parts, etc. during shipment or will the rental company assume responsibility?

15.   Loading & Shoring of Refractory
Will you be charged for loading at the storage location including blocking of the firebrick? This can cost $2,000.00 to $5,000.00 and the same when you load out at job-site. This could mean $4,000.00 to $10,000.00 of unexpected cost.

16.   Safety Valves
Are the boiler safety valves set at the proper pressure to protect your steam system? If not, you may need new valves costing $200.00 to over $1,500.000 each or have them reset for $200.00 to over $600.00 each.

17.   Oil Pump
Is a pump set needed and is it included in the rental price? Is it pre-piped and wired as an integral part of the boiler unit? If not included, this could cost $500.00 to $5,000.00 material and labor over the rental cost.

18.    Testing
Has the proposed rental boiler been test fired recently? Is it coming direct from another job without shop check out? If this is the case many start-up problems can develop causing delays.

19.   Maintenance
Will you be charged for routine maintenance when boiler is returned to storage? Some charge for new gaskets, gauge glasses, painting, cleaning, washout, and flat tires on trailer and refractory repairs.

20.   Catwalks & Ladders
Is the boiler supplied with catwalks & ladders? These items can save you valuable time and money during installation and operation. Savings of $500.00 to $2,000.00 in man-hours are not uncommon.
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