The Importance of Keeping Boilers (Especially Temporary Units) Completely Level
At the most basic level, your boiler is just a big tank of water with heat blasting through it.
That heat is transferred using tubes that get very hot. Because of this, those tubes should stay submerged in water at all times. Because when a boiler's tubes are not submerged, bad things can happen.
The tubes could overheat and melt, or worse...
Water could get cycled into the boiler while the tubes are red-hot...
The water would flash into steam faster than the safety release valve could handle...
And it would cause a major explosion.
Because of these serious risks, your boiler water level should remain completely level at all times.
Boilers d have low water cut-offs that can tell when the water is too low. But these safety measures aren't perfect.
Consider this example:
One end of your boiler is lower than the other. The low water cut-off is the "deep end" of the boiler. So it thinks everything is okay...
But on the other end, you have red-hot, exposed tubes.
At best, they could melt. And at worst, they could cause a major explosion.
And this can happen whether you have a float-type cut-off or a probe cut-off.
Temporary units are more likely to be out of level than permanent units because these facilities are in a hurry to get a boiler up-and-running. So they might not fully assess the area where they're placing the boiler.
And even if the area seems level and stable at first...
The extreme heat and weight of the boiler could cause problems once it's filled with water and running.
If the boiler is on earth (dirt, etc.) -- the extreme weight of the boiler could cause the ground to sink or cave in.
And if the boiler is on asphalt -- the heat from the sun can soften the asphalt, causing it to sink.
Not only are these two situations problematic from a safety standpoint...
The boiler shifting significantly can also pull apart the piping used to keep the boiler running and delivering steam to the plant.
In both of these situations, the ground starts out level. But it becomes uneven once the boiler is up-and-running.
So what's the solution?
We have 3 recommendations.
First, pay special attention to the area where you're placing the boiler...even if it's an emergency situation.
A little planning up-front can save a lot of hassle (and money) later.
Make sure you park the unit on level ground. And make sure you park it on solid ground. Make sure you don't park it over a septic tank, cistern, or any other below-ground objects.
Second, check every day to ensure the boiler stays level.
Use a level to check both front-to-back and side-to-side. This quick check can tell you if your boiler is headed for trouble or not.
Do this check every single day. Because when a boiler is not level, it can cause problems in a matter of hours -- days at most. These things happen fast.
And third, use hard wood (like oak) timbers under the boiler's rails to shim it up or keep it level.
You can also use steel plates to do this. And they're especially helpful if you have a temporary unit in a semi-trailer, as it will spread the weight out across the surface of the plates.
Here's the good news:
With a little planning, you can prevent these problems from happening in the first place.
In an emergency situation, speed is important, but safety is more important. Take your time and consider everything when you decide where to place your temporary boiler.
It's not just about connecting pipes. It's about safety.