Every year around this time, several thousand heating boilers begin a journey which will eventually take them to the “heating boiler graveyard.” Rather than visit your boiler there, you can take steps to make sure your healthy boiler provides a season of warmth and comfort rather than cold and extra expense.
The leading cause of heating boiler failure is a low water condition. Trouble often starts with a leak that does not appear problematic at first. It could simply be a damp spot or a puddle on the floor. If the boiler’s safety devices are working properly, the small leak will cause problems over time, which will require repair. If the safety devices are not working properly, serious problems are imminent because low water in a boiler is like an engine without oil. It’s only a matter of time before a failure undoubtedly occurs.
The following 12 tips will help you avoid the most common heating boiler problems as you start up your heating systems for the coming winter:
- Have a competent service firm thoroughly inspect and start up the boiler. This should include disassembly of the low water cutoff (LWCO) and make-up water feeding devices. All parts should be cleaned and reconditioned as required, then tested before the boiler is put into service. While in service, the LWCO should be tested once a week for steam boilers and once a month for hot water boilers.
- Burner equipment should be cleaned and adjusted to produce maximum efficiency. Poorly running burners can waste fuel and money.
- The boiler heating surfaces, firebox, ash pit, casing, and ducts should be cleaned of all deposits. Dirty internal surfaces not only waste fuel and dollars but can lead to the burning, bulging, cracking, corrosion, and even explosion of the boiler.
- The safety and safety relief valve should be tested for freedom of operation. The boiler must not be fired if the safety/safety relief valves are inoperative or otherwise defective. These valves should be tested once a month while in service.
- If the boiler water side can be cleaned, this should be done. Where necessary, a suitable chemical treatment should be used to minimize new buildup of scale and to prevent corrosion.
- All pressure and temperature controls and gages should be checked for satisfactory operation and adjusted or replaced as necessary.
- The water level gage glass must be cleaned so the proper water level is visible at all times.
- Any leaking pipes or fittings on the boiler heating system should be repaired or replaced to prevent loss of water.
- Water lines exposed to freezing temperatures should be insulated to prevent freeze-up. Insulation of steam and condensate return lines prevents unnecessary heat loss, reducing fuel bills and paying for itself rapidly.
- All mechanical equipment such as fans and pumps should be checked for smooth operation and proper lubrication.
- A boiler log should be kept for a record of maintenance and operation throughout the season.
- The boiler room should be kept dry, clean, and free of unnecessary storage items, especially combustible items.
The boiler’s operating manual is always a source for maintenance and operating tips. Your HSB (Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company) inspector is a great resource for boiler maintenance and operation assistance. They can provide recommendations for improving your boiler’s efficiency, and that can save you money. Call the HSB Hot Line at 1-800-333-4677 to contact your inspector if you have questions or want to schedule an inspection. You may also email them at NSCInsp_Hotline@HSB.com.
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