Using Boiler Inspections To Diagnose Deficiencies Before They Cause Problems

Boilers can be dangerous if not inspected and maintained properly. Each year, countless accidents, breakdowns and unnecessary shutdowns occur among industrial boilers. While boiler safety devices are designed to prevent dangerous conditions from elevating into disasters, only proper boiler maintenance prevents the development of dangerous operating conditions in the first place by finding deficiencies before they become a serious problem. In addition to loss of life, boiler accidents can cause major structural damage to plants, facilities and equipment resulting in thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair and replacement losses.

U.S. Water is always looking for new tools to make your facility’s boiler system more efficient. One of the tools is a U.S. Water boiler inspection. What is a boiler inspection you may ask? It is a thorough checkup of your internal and external boiler components in addition to the mandated inspections.

Proper boiler maintenance, servicing and inspection is not only a safety issue, but also an economic matter. Regular boiler maintenance and inspections can provide system optimization. Boilers are high energy users; inefficient operation means wasted energy and increased operating costs. A boiler accounts for a large amount of the plant's energy budget, and even a small decrease in a boiler's efficiency can cause a sharp increase in energy costs. Proper water treatment is a key ingredient to making sure your boiler is operating properly. Raw water impurities that occur naturally in the feedwater may cause corrosion or sediment buildup, both of which reduce efficiency. Impurities lead to wasted energy because they necessitate routine blowdowns. The cleaner the water supply going into the unit, the fewer blowdowns you'll need. U.S. Water has a complete line of boiler water chemicals designed to keep the water clean and your boiler operating at optimum efficiency.

Regular maintenance and inspection can also help extend the life of the vessel. Boiler downtime may force a manufacturing plant to shutdown operation and production, resulting in loss of income that can add up every hour the boiler is down. No plant owner wants emergency shutdowns or equipment downtime because boilers, or other equipment, weren’t serviced or inspected regularly.

U.S. Water Senior Regional Manager Steve Tapper has performed various boiler inspections throughout his tenure in the water treatment industry. “There are two important reasons to have U.S. Water Services inspect your company’s boilers,” Steve said. “First, when inspected by the state, the inspector is only looking to ensure the boiler meets state safety regulations. Second, because these systems shut down once or twice a year, this is the only time we can inspect the inside of the boiler to determine its efficiency and whether any modifications need to be made.”

It is important to remember that most problems don’t occur suddenly. They develop slowly overtime. So slowly sometimes, that they can be overlooked as the maintenance staff grow accustomed to the change without realizing it has taken place.  Maintaining a boiler is much like maintaining a car; you need to do it regularly to optimize efficiency and performance so that it doesn’t break down at an inopportune time. Boiler maintenance logs are probably one of the single best methods for keeping track of boiler maintenance. Boiler logs provide a continuous record of the boiler's operation, maintenance and testing helping identify and detect changes that may have gone unnoticed.

The checklist below is only intended to show general requirements of a typical boiler inspection. All boiler inspections should be done by a trained professional and follow proper safety procedure. Need for specific equipment should be developed on an individual basis.

  • Personal Safety Equipment based on your procedures and ours.
  • Proper “Lockout” Procedure for the boiler.
  • Inspect the steam drum including generating tubes, downcomers, feedwater distribution line, steam separating devides, water/steam interface, drum surface at various locations, continuous blowdown line and chemical feed line.
  • Inspect the bottom drum including the generator tubes, downcomers, drum surfaces at various locations, blowdown angle iron and sludge accumulations.
  • Inspect the fireside of the boiler including furnace wall tubes, blisters, convection sections, supports, economizer, air pre-heater (if present), deposits, refractory, superheater, alignment and corrosion.
  • Check the headers, if present for deposits.
  • Inspect the deaerator including the storage section, sprays and trays.
  • Inspect other equipment such as the turbines, pumps and pre-treatment equipment.
  • Document the results of the inspection in an easy to read, detailed report.

Contact U.S. Water to learn more about how we can help you with your boiler needs.

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