Industrial Boiler Cleaning – Waterside and Fireside Solutions

Mike Rowe, the host of TV’s Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, has tried his hand at some very, very dirty jobs throughout his career. In one episode Mike works with a boiler mechanic to do the annual cleaning of an old steam boiler. After a few hours scraping and sweeping the boiler tubes Mike, covered in soot and dirty water, looks at the mechanic and says, “As jobs go. This really is about as bad as it gets.”

Anyone who has cleaned a boiler probably agrees because boiler cleaning can be a tough and filthy job. In a best case scenario, the work requires a technician to clean two sides of the same machine: the fire side, where the fuel combustion takes place and the water side where cool water is heated to either very hot water or steam. Each side of the boiler has different contaminants that need to be scraped off, etched away, and vacuumed out before the entire machine is clean.

Cleaning the water side of the boiler is all about scale removal. As cool water enters the boiler and is heated, minerals within the water deposit on the inner surfaces forming a hard, often difficult to remove crust called scale. Scale prevents heat transfer inside the boiler and can significantly diminish equipment efficiency.

Cleaver-Brooks boiler company warns about scale formation in their operation manuals. “Scale retards heat transfer, which not only results in lower operating efficiency, and consequently higher fuel consumption, but more importantly, can cause overheating of boiler metal. Overheating of boiler metal can result in tube failures… and lead to boiler downtime and costly repairs.”

Scale must be removed with a chemical descaling system that dissolves the mineral deposits and restores heat transfer efficiency to the boiler. One of the most popular chemicals on the market is ScaleBreak® Liquid Descaler, a biodegradable industrial descaler that quickly dissolves scale from boilers and heat exchanger components. ScaleBreak® is fortified with corrosion inhibitors and is safe for use on steel, iron, brass, copper, plastic, and rubber. The dissolving power of ScaleBreak® means the chemical does all of the work and the technician does not need to scrape off the scale by hand to remove it.

ScaleBreak® is applied via pump and recirculation process. Goodway’s GDS-100 clean-in-place scale removal system is specially designed for larger applications like boiler descaling. The scale removal unit pumps ScaleBreak® descaler through the water side of the boiler dissolving scale and mineral deposits, which remain suspended in the chemical solution until pumped out of the system and discarded. The GDS-100 is wheel mounted for portability and the powerful motor pumps descaler from an integrated 50-gallon storage tank. Technicians can work longer and complete difficult descaling jobs without relocating cleaning equipment or refilling the storage tank multiple times. Descaled boilers run cooler, are less likely to break down, and save money with improved efficiency.

Over time the fire side of the boiler can clog with soot from fuel combustion inside the tubes. Soot inhibits heat transfer on the fire side just as scale inhibits heat transfer on the water side. A Department of Energy report on hospital boiler cleaning noted that “[a]s little as one-eighth inch of soot can decrease boiler efficiency by as much as 8 percent.”

As Mike Rowe discovered, cleaning the fire side of a boiler is unbelievably messy and takes a long time. Easco Boiler Corporation suggests removing “all accumulations of soot with wire brush and vacuum,” but thankfully there is an easier and cleaner way to get rid of soot.

Goodway’s SAM-3 Firetube Boiler Cleaning Kit brings together a trigger controlled tube cleaner that removes baked on soot from the tube’s inner wall with an inline vacuum attachment that pulls out the loose debris. The integral vacuum is superb at keeping the dust from escaping the pipes and covering maintenance staff in a layer of black soot. The twenty-six foot reach with the SAM-3’s bayonet nozzle means maintenance staff can clean even the longest boiler tubes in considerably less time than manual cleaning with a brush. Since boilers come in different sizes each with different tube diameters, facilities staff need to have one machine capable of cleaning all of the boiler tubes in their buildings. The SAM-3 has interchangeable brushes allowing technicians to change out brushes with different sizes so tubes from various boilers can be cleaned. Each component of Goodway’s SAM-3 system was designed to give technicians maximum cleaning power, in the shortest time, while keeping dirt and contaminants within the cleaning system.

Boiler cleaning can be an arduous and filthy job that involves hardened minerals coating internal surfaces and fine ash and soot that go everywhere when disturbed. But without a good cleaning, that scale and soot conspire to rob your boiler of efficiency causing it to run longer, use more fuel, and risk mechanical failure from overheating. Goodway’s line of descaling systems and tube cleaners makes cleaning easier thanks to their portability and ease of use so your boilers run at peak efficiency and your maintenance staff can stay clean.

Next Steps

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