Almost as if by rote many maintenance departments begin their annual boiler maintenance in late summer to get ready for the cooler weather. Does your department understand how important the code is or do they take all this for granted? Do they understand that if an accident were to occur all these maintenance procedures will placed under a microscope especially if someone is injured or worse, killed? Along with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and local code enforcement not to mention private firms hired to investigate an accident someone or something will be held responsible for the accident. You don’t want this person or thing held responsible to be you or your department so it is important to familiarize yourself with the rules, codes, and regulations pertaining to boiler maintenance. Boiler maintenance is serious business and a wise organization will take the steps necessary to train and familiarize their personnel to the rules, codes, procedures, and documentation necessary to ensure that boiler maintenance was completed by the book whether it was written by ASME or a local code agency. After all, the code was written for a reason. That reason you may not understand but someone somewhere learned a valuable lesson and they contributed that lesson to the code book to prevent future accidents from occurring. Know the code and actively comply with boiler maintenance and you will sleep a lot better.
Boiler CodeASME or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code) along with many different regional municipal codes requires regular boiler maintenance to ensure the safe operation of the boiler system. Among these codes is a maintenance check and test of the Low-Water Fuel Cutoff and the Water Feeder to the boiler system. ASME stipulates that these boiler control components should be disassembled (again by qualified personnel) and checked for obstructions, the accumulation of scaling and mud, and for damage. The float should be checked for damage including collapse and a mercury bulb (if used) should be checked for integrity). If parts are not functioning properly ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code states that repairs should not be made in the field but new parts ordered from the manufacturer. Many manufacturers will void warranties if new replacement parts are not used including manufacturers gaskets. The wiring should be checked for frays and good contact with switch mechanism terminals. After the controls are reassembled then the appropriate tests by qualified personnel should be conducted to ensure the safe operation of the boiler equipment. This is the code in many different jurisdictions and municipalities for boiler maintenance.
Low Water Fuel CutoffAll HVAC professionals who are qualified with boilers know the importance of a properly functioning Low-Water Fuel Cutoff on a boiler. If this were to fail the boiler would dry fire and a major catastrophe could occur. The Low-Water Fuel Cutoff should be looked at in the maintenance procedure by someone qualified who fully understand how the Low-Water Fuel Cutoff functions and how the Low-Water Fuel Cutoff could possibly malfunction. Other than having someone watch the boiler 24/7 the Low-Water Fuel Cutoff will save you from having a dry fire boiler. The boiler water feeder needs to be checked also in the boiler maintenance routine. In addition to being checked for blockage from mud and scaling it should also be checked to ensure it completely cuts off the water flow when the proper water level has been achieved. In steam systems this will cause the mains to flood and poor operation and efficiency. Ensure your maintenance personnel are qualified before allowing them to check these components on the boiler.
Boiler Maintenance HighlightsOther areas to look at for boiler maintenance are:
- Expansion tanks for proper functioning and pressures
- Blow down valves and the manufacturers recommendation for blowing the system down
- Water quality and cleanliness
- Leaks in the piping and piping insulation
- Relief valves
- PRV or Pressure Reducing Valves for calibration of proper pressure
- Backflow devices (usually a code requirement) tested by a qualified or licensed back flow tester
- All controls and gages within the system. Are the gages accurate and do the controls function when needed?
- Combustion analysis on the combustion process whether the system is gas, oil, or both.
- Zone valves and actuators tested for proper function and when closed the do not allow water to pass. This includes three way valves and modulating valves for proper functioning and control.
- Circulator pumps should be checked for proper lubrication along with proper alignment of coupling device. Coupling device should be checked for wear and tear.
- Finally, all wiring should be checked for proper attachment, fraying, and corrosion. It’s a good time to test the phase monitor also to ensure it works as designed and installed.