When equipment in the boiler room fails, it can be a plant manager’s worst nightmare. Conducting a maintenance program can help ensure that systems remain in tip-top condition, and heat exchanger maintenance is key, says John Smart, technical and training manager at Weil-McLain, Burr Ridge, Ill.

Following the manufacturer’s recommendation for proper flow is critical to maintaining the overall performance of the boiler heat exchanger. Too much flow will result in erosion corrosion while too little flow can cause localized boiling in the heat exchanger, which could result in premature heat exchanger failure.

Following boiler maintenance best practices can help increase seasonal efficiency in an existing system, says Smart. Methods that help increase boiler system longevity include:

  1. Check for Leaks. Replacement water is usually colder than the system return water requiring additional amount of heat. Thus, replacement water costs money.
  2.  Use Proper Water Treatment. The lime that is deposited when the water is heated can coat the boiler surfaces, reducing the heat transfer efficiency. Proper water treatment protects the boiler against scale and corrosion. It also protects the entire system, including pumps, valves and heat emitters.
  3.  Utilize Control Methods. Air temperature reset and programmable controls adjust water temperature in the system loop in response to heat demands.
  4. Reduce Burn Cycles. Consider widening the operating and limit control differentials because this method will reduce the number of burner firing cycles.
  5. Conduct Annual Boiler Maintenance. Cleaning heat exchangers, replacing worn out components, adjusting air/fuel mixture and maintaining the water pH balance will improve the boiler seasonal efficiency, prevent costly failures and will extend the useful lifecycle. Seasonal efficiency is one of the most important measurements because it determines how much a facility owner will pay for fuel during the heating season.

Proper inspection and regular routine maintenance are necessary to ensure uninterrupted, dependable and safe boiler operation, notes Smart. Plant managers also should follow and retain maintenance documentation to ensure reliable and safe operation.