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Boiler maintenance: Why is it so important?

22 May 2013

Fulton’s sales and marketing manager Carl Knight looks at why regular maintenance of a steam boiler is so important

In short, regular servicing and maintenance is essential to maintain the optimum operating efficiency and safety; and ensure long-term reliability.

However, a key issue that is often overlooked are the consequences of a boiler not being available due to maintenance or breakdown. Like any piece of equipment, steam boilers will be more reliable when serviced on a regular basis and fortunately a minimum level of annual maintenance is required due to the legal need to inspect a boiler every year. Hopefully this opportunity will be used to undertake all service tasks, but it should be borne in mind that, depending on the level of use, a boiler may require more regular maintenance tasks.

An easily overlooked yet important aspect of operating a steam boiler is the need to ensure good water quality. This, at minimum, requires a water softener and regular checks on its performance. Just 1mm of scale inside a boiler will increase your fuel bill by 7-10% due to the poor thermal conductivity of scale deposits. Unfortunately, scale will accumulate on the hottest parts of a boiler, so these parts will gain the thickest layer of scale, leading to localised overheating and permanent damage to the boiler.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that regular blowdown will remove scale either because it won’t! Blowdown will discharge loose particles and sludge, but cannot detach scale from inside the boiler. Of course, only servicing the boiler once a year may mean that scale accumulation will not be realised until it is too late, but regular servicing will pick up evidence of scale and enable you to remedy the situation before it is too late.

As well as a design and build service – and as a safeguard to end-users – many boiler manufacturers should be able to manage the installation and commissioning of its boilers and systems and provide regular servicing and maintenance contracts and training. There should also be proper after-sales support available, which should be backed by service technicians and/or service contractors offering national and international service support.

To ensure that boilers are correctly maintained and serviced, especially for sites operating a number of boilers, companies should also consider training for its service engineers and boiler operatives. Training also proves invaluable to employers, as operators handle more of their own maintenance and repair and avoid call-outs to ‘boiler breakdowns’ that require no more than the simple flick of a switch to resolve. Real examples like this prove that operator courses could potentially save the cost of many expensive and unwanted engineers’ visits.

Hands-on training should be available on-site or at a training facility and include all aspects of service including product information, day-to-day operation, servicing and maintenance and be structured to the needs of individual’s or companies.

For example, if a boiler is to be serviced by a dedicated service company, its engineers can be trained. However if it is owner-maintained, and as no two boiler facilities are the same, many boiler manufacturers may prefer to run courses at customers’ own facilities so that technicians and engineers learn on the equipment they will be monitoring day-to-day.

Summing up, Carl Knight explains that, like any piece of equipment, steam boilers will be more reliable when serviced on a regular basis and fortunately, a minimum level of annual maintenance is required due to the legal need to inspect a boiler every year. Hopefully this opportunity will also be used to undertake all service tasks, but it should be borne in mind that, depending on the level of use, a boiler may require more regular maintenance tasks.

He goes on to say that, with properly managed maintenance and servicing, a steam boiler should give excellent service for many years. “Even water quality, the most common cause of nuisance failures on steam boilers, shouldn’t be a problem. But please don’t forget that for gas boilers, a recognised and qualified service organisation with Corgi and ACOPS approval is essential.” says Carl.


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