Preventative maintenance tips for industrial boilers

Contaminants like scale, soot, dust, debris, etc often are responsible for reducing efficiency of industrial boilers. Megan Ray Nichols provides a proper maintenance or diagnostic schedule to improve efficiency of boilers.
Preventative maintenance tips for industrial boilers
With any piece of industrial equipment, regular use tends to wear down the machinery and components within. Some degree of general wear is always evident, no matter how well-kept hardware is. But there are also additional factors that can contribute to operational problems, including environmental contaminants like dust or debris.

With industrial boilers, many contaminants can reduce efficiency. Scale, soot, dust, debris and various residue can build up inside a boiler, especially within smaller tubes and compartments, increasing the possibility for failures or complete shutdowns. Therefore, cleaning a boiler, and all its connected elements, periodically can both improve performance and boost the longevity of the equipment.

But keeping equipment clean is more of a known maintenance procedure or requirement even, albeit one that can significantly improve the life of an industrial machine. Perhaps more useful would be some lesser-known preventative maintenance tips, specifically for industrial boilers? 

Following these tips in order provides a proper maintenance or diagnostic schedule:

1. Implement and use modern diagnostics tools
Every maintenance team should have a list of diagnostics techniques they follow, whether to check the performance of equipment or to service it. Modern tools and technologies should be implemented as soon as possible to enhance the process. Some examples of this in motion include:
  • Water line meters to measure and report flows
  • Leak detection meters for closed-loop systems
  • Blowdown measurements to ensure proper levels are maintained
  • Chemical composition sensors that detect contaminants and other elements inside boiler tanks
  • Steam trap and steam-line leak detection meters
  • Condensate pump performance and operation meters
  • Regular safety system inspections including low-water cutoffs, pressure controls, switches and gauge glass

With the right meters and sensors in place, many potential problems can be detected early and taken care of before major damage occurs. A leak in the waterline, for example, could be discovered near-instantly with the use of modern sensors. They can even pinpoint precisely in the pipeline where there are breaks in the flow.

2. Routinely inspect insulation
Because of the incredible temperatures at which industrial boilers operate, insulation is vital to regular operation.

Un-insulated pipes, valves or fittings are incredibly dangerous and reduce performance significantly. That is due to the major heat-loss they cause, emitting a significant amount of the heat produced by the boiler. Worse yet, were personnel to encounter these un-insulated fittings or areas it could cause irreparable harm. Imagine touching a pipe or fitting thought to be fully insulated and safe?

Insulation should always be inspected and repaired accordingly before major operations. Besides, this is a process that should be carried out routinely — it’s not a one-and-done sort of thing.

3. Install more boilers
Using a single boiler for all potential tasks means that you are effectively wearing down the equipment faster. Whenever possible, organizations should increase equipment availability, by keeping two or more boilers at the ready. This reduces the strain on the entire operation, moving it away from a single piece of equipment and dividing it among a fleet of hardware.

Extra boilers can also be used to pick up the slack when one piece of hardware fails, or when the necessary operation is considered extreme for a single unit. With attached boilers, this has the added benefit of increasing potential operating temperatures, because more boilers working in tandem can handle higher temperature applications.

4. Monitor water quality
The water entering a boiler has a considerable impact on the performance and longevity of the system. Lower quality means reduced performance but also fewer usage cycles for the equipment. The contaminants in poor quality water can cause a lot of problems.

While regular checks are always recommended, the best option is to install active monitoring systems to detect condensate and materials dissolved in the water. These sensors can also be used to detect the presence of a de-aerator. 

The larger the boiler, the more instrumental these inspections are.

5. Reduce blowdown
Scale is a result of total dissolved solids or TDS, and they build up during regular operation as a boiler heats the water contained within. This build-up is dealt with through a process called boiler blowdowns, where the water inside is drained routinely to decrease TDS concentrations. As a result, this eliminates shutdowns and failures that might occur from the solid material collection.

This procedure should be carried out throughout the boiler’s usage session to increase performance and eliminate costly failures. It’s another application that would improve thanks to modern sensors, particularly those that detect the build-up of solids within an active boiler.

6. Always document service 
As is true for any piece of equipment, thorough documentation of all service or maintenance tasks should always be employed. 

It shows when a piece of equipment is serviced and what might have been the source of a problem. Also, it provides direct proof that the hardware is indeed appropriately maintained. The record can be used for insurance purposes, but also to track employee performance to ensure maintenance crews are doing what they’re supposed to.

Reducing boiler failure also improves performance
Boilers are like any other piece of industrial machinery. They must be routinely inspected and serviced to ensure top-notch performance and to eliminate the potential for costly repairs or failures.

By following the tips discussed here - or the schedule laid out - all operations can ensure the longevity and efficiency of their equipment remains as high as possible.

About the author:
Megan Ray Nichols is a STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) writer and regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights & IoT Evolution. She can be reached on

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