Let’s Talk Boiler Cleaning!

Let’s talk boiler cleaning — we here at Goodway Just Venting talk about it a lot! If I only had a nickel for every time I heard that I’d have, well… a nickel.  Or maybe a dime, but not much more. And more’s the pity, as you will see as you read this post all the way through to the end.

As we promised some time ago, we will do the heavy lifting of reading through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program’s O&M Manual, now in its third release.   Our first look was at chillers. Now, its time to give boilers a whirl.  Given the huge numbers of fire-tube, water-tube and electric boilers present in operation around the country, it should come as no surprise that they get a close look in this new manual.

After a brief review of the major types of boilers, section 9 looks at the major components of a boiler (drums, tubes, headers, piping, etc.) and the operating and maintenance issues related to each. For example, the guide notes that “the greatest number of forced outages in all types of boilers are caused by tube failures” due to such issues as deposits on heat-transfer surfaces, flow obstructions and the deterioration and fatigue they can cause.

The next section starts out with a bang (literally), by reminding us of the need for safety. According to the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors, a catastrophic failure in a relatively tiny 30-gallon home boiler would release enough energy to shoot a 2,500 pound car more than 125 feet into the air. Imagine how much energy is contained in one of your industrial or commercial units!

After several other cautionary statements (this is the government, after all), the manual examines best operating practices, quoting from a broad range of sources such as the Boiler Efficiency Institute in Auburn, Alabama. This section of the manual is quite thorough, looking at, among other ideas:

As we’ve noted many times, you need to be able to measure how your system is performing in order to see both what needs to be improved and how your maintenance and operating procedures affect performance.   The government agrees, and in the next section of the manual addresses diagnostic techniques such as combustion analysis and the use of computer software to assess your boiler’s performance and evaluate possible improvements.

We think you should pay special attention to the next section – section 9.2.9.4 (see page 144 of the guide). It starts with this statement:   “This section will focus on maintaining an effective water side maintenance/cleaning, and fire side cleaning program as these are no-low cost measures to implement, that should be part of the  Operations and Maintenance program for the building.”

The remaining sections related to boilers cover rules of thumb, best practices for water usage and case studies of boiler operations and maintenance. The section on boilers concludes with samples of forms you can use to help implement the changes the manual recommends.

So what is the lesson here?   Is there an overall message to be derived from reading this section of the manual?   If anything, we think the takeaway here should be a simple one:  “Take good care of your boiler and it will take good care of you.”

Rich Silverman
Goodway Blogging Team

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