To keep your boiler running properly, safely, and efficiently, it’s important to have it inspected and maintained at least once a month by a trained technician. Of course, there are daily and weekly maintenance procedures that need to be performed as well, but monthly maintenance is more thorough and detailed in several ways. It can help identify current problems, while also helping to prevent future issues down the line.
Start With Fire
Monthly maintenance focuses on a few key areas, beginning with the components of the firing system. During monthly maintenance, the burner is set to low fire. While it’s at reduced output, the peep sight is used to visually inspect the burner and diffuser for any warping, cracking, or distortion. Inspecting the flame itself can also help verify integrity; a warped or irregular flame is a good indicator that a crack is present.
Cracks are typically formed in the diffuser due to excess heat. Most often, this is due to a burner being out of tune. If the flame is not directed precisely where it’s supposed to be, it can subject the diffuser surface to excess or uneven heat. Believe it or not, a firing rate that’s set too low can also cause diffuser damage. If the rate is set too low, the flame does not receive enough air to push it all the way off of the diffuser, causing it to absorb more heat than it’s supposed to. Over time, excess heat creates ongoing stress in the diffuser, especially during the temperature swings between low fire, high fire, and shutdown.
Cracks not only present a safety hazard, they also rob system performance over time. Improper firing and heat dissipation cause excess fuel consumption and generate excess carbon monoxide. That adds up to wasted fuel and money, and compromised safety.
This Is Your Pilot Speaking
The next part of the monthly inspection involves checking the pilot tube. To check it properly, the pilot tube must be pulled out of the burner prior to inspection. This usually involves removing a few screws, and pulling the tube out. Once it’s out, the electrode and other pilot ignition components are inspected for integrity. The entire pilot tube assembly is also checked for soot and carbon buildup; excessive residue will adversely affect the proper flow of fuel, and can make it harder for the pilot flame to maintain its proper level.
Proper inspection also includes checking the ignition electrode for carbon buildup. Too much residue can prevent the electrode from firing properly. To help ensure proper firing, the electrode gap is also checked, to confirm that it will generate the proper spark when the pilot flame needs ignition.
The next part of monthly inspection and maintenance involves checking the air damper. During inspection, the linkage tolerances will be checked to make sure there is no play or slipping, and that they are properly adjusted and tight. Next, the damper is visually inspected during operation to make sure that it has a smooth and complete range of travel. Any hitches, hang ups, or catches in the damper’s motion could indicate a problem that will worsen over time, eventually causing the damper to seize.
Proper airflow is absolutely key to combustion, making it a huge factor in performance and efficiency. Improper airflow not only affects fuel consumption, it can also cause uneven heating and stress in combustion components over time.
Take A Look Around
Monthly maintenance and inspection should always include a thorough walk-around of the boiler. By visually inspecting the surface, joints, and surrounding area, you can tell a lot about the way a boiler is operating. One of the first things to look for is the presence of hot spots.
Hot spots are any area in the boiler where too much heat is making its way through to the surface, usually indicated by discoloration, distortion, and/or paint loss. Over time, hot spots can cause splits and cracks that will not only rob performance, they can also cause serious safety hazards including literal jets of flame coming out of the boiler surface. Some key places to look for hotspots include:
The presence of a hot spot could indicate a failing gasket or misaligned mating surfaces
On the doors and other firing tube surfaces
Hot spots on the doors could be due to damaged insulation
Proper monthly maintenance and inspection also requires a look at the boiler stack. It’s not only responsible for venting the byproducts of combustion, the stack also maintains the correct back pressure on the burners to maintain efficiency. It does this through the use of a damper, which is usually mechanical and operated manually. The proper damper position should be determined during initial operation, and marked clearly on the stack damper. During inspection, the damper position is verified against the properly calibrated mark, and secured in place.
Interlock and Roll
Interlocks are an extremely important part of every monthly inspection, starting with the air damper interlocks. These interlocks are the set points that indicate the full range of the air damper’s travel: the low-fire point and the fully open purge position needed during high firing. To confirm proper operation, the damper is observed as the boiler is cycled to make sure it holds the correct positions during operation, and that it travels smoothly between both interlock points.
Oil and gas pressure interlocks are also checked during monthly maintenance. For accurate inspection, interlocks are only tested when the boiler is running on each interlock’s corresponding fuel source. In other words, oil interlocks are checked when the boiler’s burning oil, and the gas interlocks are checked when it’s running gas. To confirm proper operation, the fuel supply is adjusted to different levels to confirm that the interlocks shut off the boiler when the pressure is too low or too high.
If your boiler system needs a proper monthly inspection from a trained professional, the technicians at WARE are standing by to help. We also have a full line of parts, and a full line of complete boilers. Whatever you need to keep the steam flowing, please contact us today.