The importance of proactive boiler maintenance

Published:  17 August, 2021

Clive Jones* explains the importance of proactive boiler maintenance and offers advice on best practice

Thermal fluid systems are commonly made up of three key components — a thermal fluid boiler or heater, an expansion tank and thermal fluid circulating pumps. If all these components are well maintained, a thermal fluid system can last for several decades. However, because a boiler operates silently in the background of the facility, engineers often overlook it.

Traditionally, industrial boilers operated for around 15 years before they needed replacing. After years of development and research into other factors that we should consider, such as size and operation hours, we now have more robust solutions that can last up to 30 years — but only if it is well maintained.

Why invest in maintenance?

When a boiler, regardless of age, shows clear signs of wear or damage, the heat transfer fluid system can have reduced functionality, reliability and safety. Under safety legislation, employers must ensure that all combustion equipment, such as boilers, incinerators and air heaters, undergoes regular inspection to check the systems are not deteriorating and causing a safety risk to workers.

Regular boiler maintenance is also key to reducing the risk of carbon monoxide and dioxide build-up that can cause serious injury and unexpected downtime. Over time, thermal fluid degradation can lead to a build-up of carbon residue, also known as ‘coke’, in the system. Without regular maintenance, the build-up of carbon can cause blockages, reducing efficiency and increasing internal pressure and the risk of pipes bursting.

Regular testing

Paying constant attention to the thermal fluid system’s condition and carrying out periodic boiler tests can help facilities managers to avoid costly downtime. We also recommend performing regular thermal fluid tests to better understand the condition of the boiler.

Engineers should periodically analyse heat transfer fluid as part of a routine thermal fluid maintenance programme. Engineers should collect the thermal fluid sample when the system is hot, closed and circulating to gain an accurate representation of fluid condition and identify any signs carbon build-up.

If the boiler continues to be inefficient, businesses should consider if problems are occurring elsewhere. Blockages, faulty exchanges, or fluid pumps that are spilling oil can cause temperature problems in the system. Alternatively, electrical or chemical faults can lead to intermittent lockouts or faults in the boiler. If facilities managers do not have the expertise required to fix or maintain this complex system in-house, a thermal fluid expert can perform the relevant tests and servicing needed to extend boiler lifespan.

As the industrial boiler industry becomes more efficient and longer lasting, maintenance should not be forgotten. By taking steps to proactively maintain your fluid and heat transfer system and knowing the signs to look out for, you can protect your employees from unsafe working conditions and reduce the cost of reinstalling a new industrial boiler.

*Clive Jones is managing director of thermal fluid supplier, Global Heat Transfer.

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