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Common Steam Boiler Problems and How to Solve Them

A lot of boiler problems originate from poor water quality. Severe unit damage may result from common boiler feed water problems or condensate return water issues. Instead of expecting a problem to arise, learn how the most common problems with water quality arise and how to solve them.

Causes of Boiler Problems

Boiler problems can be a real headache and often occur at the most inconvenient times. Understanding the causes of boiler issues is essential for preventing them and ensuring your commercial or home stays warm and cozy. 

Some causes of boiler problems:

  1. Lack of Maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial for boilers. Neglecting annual check-ups and cleanings can lead to a build-up of dirt and debris, which can reduce efficiency and cause breakdowns.
  2. Pressure Problems: Boilers need the proper water pressure to operate efficiently. Too high or too low pressure can result in heating issues. Check your boiler’s pressure gauge regularly.
  3. Leaking or Dripping: Leaks can damage your boiler and surrounding areas. Look for signs of water pooling or dripping and address them promptly.
  4. Airlocks: Air trapped in the system can block water flow and prevent proper heating. Bleeding your radiators can help remove airlocks.
  5. Age and Wear: As boilers age, their efficiency can decline and become more prone to breakdowns. If your boiler is reaching the end of its lifespan, consider a replacement.

To keep your boiler running smoothly, you must schedule regular maintenance and address issues promptly. Call a qualified boiler technician in Los Angeles to deal with your problems.

Common Boiler Water Quality Problems

Although technical problems might arise in boilers, imbalanced water is more likely to cause problems. Subsequently, poor water quality may lead to declining boiler components. If you observe any equipment problems, consider all the possible causes, like chemical problems in the water that need to be treated to bring it back into balance.

Here are some common boiler water quality problems to look at.

Scale Build Up

Your boiler system may sustain serious damage due to poor water quality. Water-soluble minerals, such as calcium and other minerals, can build up as scale deposits in the boiler and pipes. The steam flow through the system may be slowed down or stopped entirely by these deposits. The most significant factor causing your steam boiler system’s efficiency to decline is scale.

Scale build-up can hinder heat exchanger performance and keep the boiler’s hot water from heating to the proper temperature. Therefore, your boiler will function more efficiently again if scale build-up is removed and prevented.

Safety and Water Probes Breaking From Scale Deposits

Similar to pipes, probes submerged in water can likewise accumulate scales. Treating the water in your tank is also necessary because of this coating on the probes. The boiler may turn off automatically if the probes cannot accurately assess the water’s temperature or pressure.

Failed safety controls and sensors may also keep the boiler from turning off when a dangerous situation arises, like excessive pressure build-up. Regular inspections are essential for the proper functioning of the tank and for the safety of the people who operate near it since these safety controls keep the system from operating in dangerous conditions.

When the water level falls too low, low water cutoff valves cause the boiler to shut off. Someone inside the building should be responsible for making sure these are operating correctly. When the tank isn’t in a firing sequence, briefly empty it to test the float chamber. The low water control system ought to be activated immediately. In addition to allowing heavy particles to exit the system, this quick drainage inspects the system.

Water Leaks

Leaks in the water chemistry of boilers are one possible problem. Pinhole leaks within the tank, pipes, or other system parts might result from incorrect water chemistry within a boiler.

There are potential water leaks throughout the steam system. Leaks can also happen away from the tank, but look for leakage around its pipes or the tank. The air vents are another way that water might exit the system. It is harder to discover an issue when there are these hidden leaks. Using a water meter, you may find out if a closed system leaks water—even through a concealed hole. You might want to install one if your system lacks one of these gauges.

In a closed system, a leak in the water supply will ultimately cause the water level to fall to a point where the system will shut down. Ambient moisture may enter the system if the water level drops noticeably, but there is a leak. Your tank’s untreated water may be the source of early wear. An excessive water loss somewhere in the system is indicated by an increase in the amount of water delivered to the tank in open-loop systems.

It might be less expensive to replace a few parts at once rather than getting the leaks patched piecemeal because of the labor-intensive nature of removing leaking boiler system parts. This cost savings is particularly relevant if your walls or other difficult-to-reach areas have multiple holes in your plumbing system. Never try to replace the pipes or any other parts on your own. Let the broiler repair experts handle that labor-intensive task.

Greater Than Normal Sludge Amounts

Sludge has a softer feel than more solid-scale deposits. Sludge is exposed to high temperatures when it gets to the boiler tank. But normally won’t solidify unless the water level falls, such as when draining. The inside of a boiler tank develops a baked-on film as the sludge solidifies. Similar scaling issues may then arise from this baked-on sludge.

Sludge build-up in areas with reduced water pressure or flow rates is another problem. If the build-up persists without being checked, it might insulate that part of the boiler system, raising the temperature within the pipes. Water flow in the boiler may be impeded by build-up in any area. As a result, the boiler’s components sustain damage, temperatures rise, and more scale deposits or sludge occur.

Boiler Tank Foaming

When particles within the water float onto the surface, foaming happens inside the boiler tank. These solids bubble from the steam as the water boils. Some rise towards the superheaters or turbines via steam. The system becomes less effective when the solids collect on these. The particles will eventually spread throughout the boiler inside, doing more damage.

Corrosion Inside the Boiler System

There are potential areas of corrosion in the boiler. This boiler issue frequently develops inside before making its way outside. As a result, corrosion can’t always be seen until a tank or pipe leaks.

Corrosion usually results through a chemical reaction between the boiler water and the pipe or tank equipment. Dissolved particles, an incorrect pH level, or excessive dissolved oxygen within the boiler water could cause this condition. A skilled specialist in water treatment will be aware of the right type of chemicals that are used to shield your boiler against this kind of damage. Maintaining the integrity of the system requires stopping corrosion. Additionally, by stopping corrosion, you can stop leaks in your boiler system that result from chemical damage.

The Importance of Boiler Water Treatment

Boiler water treatment may stop many system problems, from small to big. In conjunction with filtering, monitoring water quality, and adding chemicals as necessary to maintain balance, the very first treatment of the water is crucial. 

Having equipment on your boiler that can automatically distribute treatment chemicals and monitor water chemistry to ensure fresh makeup water doesn’t contribute to imbalances would make the process easier.

Monitoring devices such as the following are essential pieces of boiler water treatment equipment:

  • Boiler probes measure the boiler water’s pH, tank level, and other properties. The controller uses the data from the probes to modify the chemical additions.
  • Contact headwater meters to track the amount of water used by your boiler.
  • Corrosion coupon rack: you can determine the corrosion rate within the boiler system without opening any pipes using any coupon rack.

Controllers are also included in boiler equipment to monitor the proper amounts of chemicals used in boiler water treatment. These tools simplify measuring and applying water treatment solutions, prolonging the system’s cleanliness.

The following equipment types are utilized in boiler chemical control:

  • Chemical mix tanks: These tanks combine and safely store chemicals that will be added to the boiler water.
  • Chemical pumps: Chemicals are transported via pumps from the chemical mix tanks to the boiler.
  • Solenoids and bleed valves: These valves control the water or chemical flow.
  • Automation controllers: Using information from the probes, the controllers automatically modify the chemical additions.

Maintaining water quality requires the appropriate tools. The chemicals used to treat the water are the main factor affecting its quality and the boiler’s lifespan. These substances have distinct functions, and depending on the components and methods of operation, every boiler may need a different water composition. Consequently, entrust experts in water treatment to choose the appropriate chemicals for the boiler water and the quantity to add to maintain system cleanliness.

Your system will determine the exact chemicals utilized, but typical boiler chemical categories include:

  • Condensate return water treatment: These substances control the condensate’s pH as it returns to the system from the boiler. They also guard against corrosion in pipelines.
  • Boiler inhibitors: These comprehensive chemical packages treat boiler water to regulate pH, inhibit foaming, halt corrosion, and guard against pitting and scaling.
  • Chemicals for pH regulation: Maintaining the boiler water’s pH is crucial to avoiding pitting and scale.
  • Scale prevention: Chemical water balance is necessary for scale prevention to stop scale solid deposition.
Commercial Boiler Repair in Los Angeles

How to Solve Steam Boiler Problems

Consider the problems and their most common causes when solving a steam boiler. You can save time and money by starting the troubleshooting process by examining the water’s composition and working your way down.

Leaks or Corrosion in the Pipes

Water chemistry should be considered for corrosion or leaks, particularly in the boiler’s hot areas. Check the water quality closely for low pH or dissolved oxygen levels. These two elements frequently lead to corrosion or other damage in steam boilers.

Many types of corrosion can happen to your boiler, both mechanical and chemical, so knowing it has damage is often insufficient. If feasible, assess the internal pipe damage for indications of particular chemical corrosion.

Some examples of chemical corrosion types are as follows:

  • Oxygen damage is indicated by pitting across a small or large region in parts of the boiler that supply hot water.
  • Acid damage: Water with a too-low pH is acidic. The metal within a boiler will often thin out if the acid is not neutralized.
  • Caustic corrosion: Damage from too basic or too high a pH falls at the opposite extreme of the pH spectrum. This harm usually happens beneath scale deposits wherein the water might boil. A pattern of uneven gouging frequently results from this kind of damage.

The primary cause of the harm described above is water chemistry. Thus, preventing scale, lowering dissolved oxygen, and raising low pH in the water can guard against boiler failure and corrosion in the future. In addition to preventing corrosion and ensuing leaks, expert advice may help you maintain a clean boiler system.

Sludge or Scale Build-up inside the Boiler

It’s important to consider your water composition when treating scale or sludge accumulation in the boiler. Chemical treatment is required for the makeup and return water line. Both of these problems will result in decreased flow or higher water pressure. They also hinder the boiler’s ability to heat up efficiently.

You’ll probably have to clean and drain the system if the problems are terrible. Start with water that has been appropriately treated and filtered.

Chemicals that prevent scaling will also prevent sludge from building up inside the boiler. Therefore, when using your boiler in the future, ask your water specialists how to prevent scale and sludge build-up.

Boiler Tank Water Foaming

Before solving the water chemistry issue, clean your boiler from any contaminants from foaming, just like you would with other boiler problems. The chain reaction brought on by foam generation can be stopped by treating the water using anti-foaming agents. The chemicals change surface tension so no solids may cause foam to form in the water.

Los Angeles Commercial Boiler Repair

Call the Professionals for Boiler Water Treatment

Contact AirOstat, Inc. for a water treatment system installation or to have the boiler system inspected if you believe the issue is caused by low water quality. Running a boiler on untreated water is never advisable since this might create damage that shows little symptoms at first and eventually clogs the pipes or corrodes the system. These circumstances frequently call for costly repairs. At a constant, affordable price, our systems assist you in remaining scale-free.

How can I prevent my steam boiler from breaking down?

Preventing your steam boiler from breaking down is crucial to ensure its safety and efficiency. Here are some essential tips to help you maintain your steam boiler:

  1. Regular Maintenance: Schedule routine inspections and maintenance with a qualified technician. They should check for any signs of wear and tear, leaks, or corrosion. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
  2. Water Quality: Use high-quality water in your boiler. Impurities and minerals in the water can lead to scale build-up and corrosion. Consider installing a water treatment system if necessary.
  3. Monitor Fuel Quality: If your boiler runs on fuel, ensure you use the right type and quality. Poor-quality fuel can affect boiler performance and lifespan.
  4. Proper Ventilation: Ensure your boiler room is well-ventilated. Proper airflow helps prevent the accumulation of harmful gases and maintains a safe operating environment.
  5. Pressure Control: Keep an eye on the boiler’s pressure gauge. Pressure that’s too high or too low can be problematic. Maintain it within the recommended range as specified in your boiler’s manual.

Remember that neglecting boiler maintenance can result in costly breakdowns and, in some cases, dangerous situations. If you’re unsure about any boiler maintenance aspect, consult a professional boiler contractor in Los Angeles or your boiler’s manufacturer for guidance.

You Can Trust AirOstat, Inc. to Treat the Water in Your Steam Boiler

Water treatment for boilers within a range of applications is what we do at AirOstat, Inc. Boilers that require water treatment can be found in everything from commercial operations to healthcare facilities to HVAC systems. Scale can accumulate over time in both open and closed systems. It makes no difference. To avoid boiler issues with the tank and the steam system, which are caused by its water, we will install a specially designed solution.

If you have any questions or want more information, call (844) 247-6782.