You’ve heard the expression “don’t blow a gasket,” right? Of course you have.
You may have done it a time or two yourself. After all, we’re only human. While everyone out there thinks they know what the expression means, it’s actually a little more familiar to those of us in the boiler industry. After all, we deal with gaskets every day. We know what they do, where they’re installed, how important they are, and what can happen when they fail. And we know that, like human beings themselves, gaskets can start to lose their effectiveness when they’re under too much pressure.
Gaskets exist to mate two different surfaces together, preserving a pressure-tight seal where they come together. This is extremely important in our industry in particular, because the steam we work with is under constant pressure. Even the smallest leak, and you’ll not only lose performance, you’ll vent dangerous steam into the surrounding area.
The gasket is also important in our industry because we deal with the transfer of heat. As you know, even small temperature fluctuations can cause metal to shrink and expand. If there’s an uneven temperature differential where a valve meets a feedwater line, or where a gauge meets a boiler, the two surfaces can separate enough to lose pressure inside.
So how, exactly, did this expression come to be? While boilers have been around since the 1800s, it was the growth of the auto industry that really brought it into common parlance. As more and more Americans came to own their own cars, they became more familiar with the inner workings of the internal combustion engines therein. Many learned of the importance of gaskets by the side of the road on a hot summer day, watching their engines belch steam as they waited for the tow truck.
KEEP IT TIGHT
Because we love technical things, we’d also like to talk a little bit about things to remember when you’re dealing with gaskets in our industry. First, they have to be installed to spec. Tighter isn’t always better. Torque down the retaining bolts on either side too tight, and the gasket can actually be squeezed out of place. Imagine holding a banana, and gripping it as hard as you can. Not as much banana is left inside. It’s also important to remember that nothing lasts forever. Gaskets can often be the first place a leak will develop. Fortunately, they’re fairly inexpensive, and usually easy to install.
If you have a boiler that needs a gasket, don’t blow one yourself. We have you covered. WARE’s Boiler Warehouse is fully stocked, and ready to help. Our technicians know how to install them, and they’re ready to help, too. And remember, in boilers, as in life, it’s important to manage the pressure safely.