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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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Air Permitting for Rental Boilers in California

With California having the most stringent emissions requirements in the country, it is important to be well versed on any and all rules and regulations when buying a new boiler or renting a temporary boiler. This is our final installment of the 3-part series on air permit compliance for boilers in California (be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 if you haven’t already).

Nationwide Boiler maintains a fleet of rental units that are sub-9 ppm NOx and pre-permitted for use in the SCAQMD. We take care of the bulk of the permit work saving our customers an exponential amount of time (no waiting for the application to be approved), and we pay for any processing fees. This allows for quick installation and start-up of a temporary boiler, which is extremely valuable in an emergency outage. The only requirement of our customer is the source testing of the equipment, if the source test is due. Most of these pre-permitted boilers require source testing on an annual basis, and the source test must be done at a job site within the county’s jurisdiction.

The SJVAPCD does not allow the pre-permitting of rental boilers, but they do have a program called the Temporary Replacement Emissions Unit (TREU) which can be utilized when a rental is needed  in a pinch. This program contains an application shield provision which allows renters to install a temporary boiler in place of an existing permitted boiler that is down for repairs without having to get a new permit for the rental boiler. In order to qualify for the TREU Program, the rental boiler being installed must have a heat input equal to or less than the unit it is replacing. Plus, it must not have the potential to produce more emissions than the current permit allows. There is a time limitation to this program; the temporary boiler can be on-site for a maximum of 180 days within a 12-month period.

If you are outside of the two territories listed above, don’t fret! Nationwide Boiler can assist with the permitting process as needed. In addition, utilizing a pre-permitted boiler in a location other than the SCAQMD does have its advantages and can help expedite the permitting process.

With our headquarters being located in California, it is important to us that we are up-to-date with emissions regulations throughout the state. And with other areas of the country starting to experience a similar push for emissions reductions, we have the expertise and experience to help. Nationwide Boiler is proud to take the lead in helping customers everywhere understand and comply with current and future air regulation standards.
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Enhancing BMS Safety with the use of PLC-based Controls

Combustion equipment safety is essential for the daily operation of facilities and safety of plant personnel. Safety protocols and mechanisms in industrial plants have improved drastically in the last century, but incidents still occur far too frequently. Because boiler systems are inherently dangerous, safety must be factored into the design of not just the boiler, but also the burner, combustion control, and the overall operation of the system.

The burner management system (BMS) is just one of many safety devices built into a boiler system, designed to control the combustion process from beginning to end in a safe and reliable manner. It monitors high and low gas pressure, the combustion air fan, combustion air, and water levels, in addition to monitoring safety devices and controlling the sequence of lighting the burner. If any issues arise related to pressure or water level, it will initiate closure of the shut-off valves. To automate these processes, PLC-based controls are often used as a BMS. PLC based BMS gives you much more flexibility, the ability to use analog input signals as limits, limit voting and the versatility to have almost unlimited safety limits.

A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is a robust computer utilized for industrial automation. Although a PLC doesn’t physically look like a typical computer, it incorporates the very same technology seen in computers and smart devices that we use every day. The PLC receives information from connected sensors or input devices, processes the data, and triggers outputs based on pre-programmed parameters. It consists of a power supply, a CPU (central processing unit), input and output cards, and communication cards. A programming device (often a laptop computer) is utilized for writing programs into the PLC and HMI (human machine interface) which provides a visual model of the system as a whole.

Compared to traditional technologies, a PLC-based system is easier to troubleshoot, more reliable, more cost-effective, and much more versatile. In addition, PLC-based controls provide added levels of safety for the burner management system and overall operation of your boiler. PLCs are built in compliance with NFPA 85 and SIL2 requirements at minimum and can be configured to meet SIL3 standards as well. Therefore, we are seeing boiler control panels being built or updated to PLC-based systems more than ever.

Pacific Combustion Engineering has extensive knowledge and experience in the design, build, and programming of PLC-based combustion control systems. If you are in the market for an upgrade or brand-new panel that incorporates PLC, give us a call and we will design a system that fits your unique process needs.

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Boiler Basics 101: What is Steam?

To kick-off our ‘Boiler Basics 101’ series, we are starting at the very beginning. The extremely useful resource, produced by the commercial and industrial boilers that we rent, sell, service and maintain… that resource is steam.

Our business, and the boiler industry as a whole, revolves around steam. We provide boilers and related equipment for both temporary and permanent applications; equipment that works together to produce the valuable resource of steam, utilized in an abundance of processes across many different industries. So, what exactly is steam and what is it used for?

Let’s start with the chemical composition of steam. Water can exist in three physical states; solid, liquid, and vapor. These physical states, in more common terms, are referred to as ice, water, and steam. When water is heated at atmospheric pressure, its temperature rises until it reaches the highest temperature at which water can exist at this pressure. This temperature, 212F or 100C, is the saturation temperature, or boiling point. As water boils and temperature continues to increase, water particles begin to form small bubbles that rise to the surface and vaporize. This is how steam is formed.

Traditionally, steam was associated with locomotives and the Industrial Revolution. However, now steam is an integral part of modern-day technology. Not only is it an excellent source of energy and heat, but it is also sterile, which makes it ideal for use in the food, pharmaceutical, and health industries. Many other industries also utilize steam for processing, petroleum refining, utility and power, and manufacturing.

Steam has become an invaluable part of our world.  Without it, many of the advances and technologies in today’s time would not be as effective or efficient as they are now.

Stay tuned for the next article in our Boiler Basics 101 series to learn about the basic anatomy of a boiler system.

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