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Boiler Maintenance Checklist: Tips and Tasks

water boiler

Explore expert tips, tasks, and best practices for optimizing facility operations and ensuring the safety and performance of boiler systems.

Modified on

March 12, 2024

Facility managers and technicians need an in-depth understanding of boiler system maintenance best practices. This knowledge ensures that your facility follows safety rules while improving boiler efficiency and increasing the system’s lifespan.

Of course, to understand boiler maintenance, you also need to know how boilers work. That research will involve understanding standard boiler systems and knowing your manufacturer’s specific guidelines.

Understanding Boiler Maintenance

Boiler maintenance involves various tasks, from routine cleaning and inspection to complex preventive maintenance programs. Some tasks are similar to those used for hot water heater maintenance, but differences occur due to how the two systems function.

With that in mind, let’s look at how boilers work and the different boiler systems.

How Do Boilers Work?

Boilers heat water to generate steam, which is used for heating, power generation, or other industrial processes.

First, the boiler takes in water and heats it using natural gas, oil, or electricity. A thermostat measures the temperature and signals the boiler to heat the water when more heat is needed. As the water heats up and turns into steam, its pressure increases. A boiler relief valve releases steam if the boiler pressure rises too high and regulates and monitors the steam pressure.

Then, control valves adjust the flow of steam, directing it to different parts of a building or various machinery in industrial settings. These valves can open or close to increase or decrease the flow of steam, ensuring that the right amount is delivered to where it’s needed.

Types of Boiler Systems

There are three main types of boiler systems: combi, heat-only, and system. A few different types of boilers also fit into these categories. Here are the key differences.

Heat-Only Boilers: These heat water stored in a separate tank. They are good for facilities that need a lot of steam power simultaneously. Examples include traditional gas and oil boilers.

System Boilers: They work similarly to heat-only boilers but have additional boiler components like a pump and expansion vessel. These added features make them easier to install and more compact. An example is a sealed system boiler.

Combi: These provide heating and hot water in one unit without needing a separate water tank. Examples include combi gas boilers and electric combi boilers.

Boiler Maintenance Checklist

Daily Maintenance Tasks 

Check The Water Level Glass Gauge

A correct boiler water level maintains the balance between heating efficiency and safety. If the water level is too high, it can lead to inefficient steam production. Too low, and the boiler system could overheat, which risks damage and safety.

To check your level, locate the glass gauge on your boiler. Ensure it’s clean and clear and the water inside is at the manufacturer-recommended level. Adjust the water level by adding or draining water if necessary. How you add or drain water depends on the directions in your owner’s manual.

Check LWCO and ALWCO Operations

Low Water Cut-Off (LWCO) and Automatic Low Water Cut-Off (ALWCO) devices prevent the boiler from operating if the water level is dangerously low. It’s important to perform daily checks to ensure both devices are working and properly maintained.

To check, manually test the LWCO and ALWCO according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This process typically involves simulating low water conditions and verifying that the boiler heating system shuts down as expected.

Remove Sludge and Sentiment

Sludge and sediment buildup can lead to poor heat transfer and more fuel consumption than needed. Depending on the materials in the sediment, buildup could also be a potential fire risk.

First, shut down the boiler and let it cool. Then, open the drain valve at the bottom of the boiler to flush out the sludge and sediment. Close the valve once the water runs clear.

Check Floor Drains

Checking floor drains in the boiler room ensures that any leaks or spills from the boiler system are quickly drained away. Doing so daily prevents water damage and helps maintain a safe working environment. Inspect the floor drains for clogs or obstructions. If a drain is blocked, clear it to ensure any leaking water can flow freely.

Check Boiler Fresh Air

A lack of fresh air can lead to incomplete combustion, which increases fuel consumption and may produce harmful gases. Check the air intakes for blockages and clear any debris. Also, verify that ventilation systems are working correctly.

Inspect Fuel and Gas

Check flue gas vent piping and fuel storage units for leaks, signs of wear, or damage, and ensure any electrical connections are free of damage. These daily inspections help prevent fuel waste, improve efficiency, reduce the risk of fire or gas exposure, and keep everything working properly.

Weekly Maintenance Tasks 

Inspect Burner and Flue Gas

Your boiler’s burner should produce a stable flame. An irregular flame might indicate poor combustion. Observe the burner flame and compare it with the manufacturer’s specifications.

To check the flue gas, use a flue gas analyzer to ensure optimal combustion. Adjustments should be made to maintain proper combustion and energy efficiency.

Check for Leaks and Hot Spots

Leaks can lead to water damage and decreased efficiency, while hot spots may indicate insulation failures. Inspect the boiler and surrounding pipes for water or steam leakage signs. Use an infrared thermometer to detect unusually hot areas on the boiler’s surface.

Inspect Refractory Material and Gaskets

The refractory material and gaskets in your boiler ensure efficient operation and prevent heat loss. Look for signs of cracking, erosion, or deterioration in the refractory material. Check gaskets for leakage, brittleness, or degradation.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

Clean Fireside Surfaces

Over time, soot, ash, and other combustion by-products can accumulate on boiler parts. To clean, shut down the boiler and allow it to cool. Access the combustion chamber and use a brush or vacuum to remove debris.

Inspect Refractory Material

The refractory lining protects the boiler structure from heat, and damage to this lining can lead to heat loss. Check for cracks, erosion, or any signs of weakening in the refractory material. Any damaged areas should be repaired or replaced.

Test all System Valves

Properly functioning valves are critical for the safe operation of the boiler because they allow for emergency shutdowns, prevent backflow, and control the flow of water and steam.

Ensure you check the functionality of safety valves, control valves, check valves, and shut-off valves monthly. Manually operate each valve to ensure it opens and closes smoothly. Safety valves should be tested under pressure to verify they open at the set pressure point.

Recalibrate all Operating Controls

Monthly recalibration of all operating controls, including thermostats, pressure controls, and level controls, is essential for maintaining the boiler’s efficiency. To recalibrate, use calibrated instruments to adjust controls to the correct control settings according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Annual Maintenance Tasks 

Disassemble and Check LWCO and ALWCO

During the annual maintenance, carefully disassemble LWCO and ALWCO units, following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Clean all components and inspect for wear or damage. Test the mechanical operation and the electrical connections to ensure proper function under low water conditions.

Tune up Burners and Settings

Tuning up the boiler’s burners and settings optimizes its efficiency and ensures it operates within environmental regulations. Adjust the air-to-fuel ratio, check the ignition system, and ensure the burners are clean.

A professional technician should perform combustion efficiency tests to determine if adjustments are needed.

Inspect Fire Side

The annual inspection of the fire side of the boiler is crucial for assessing the condition of the boiler’s interior components. This process involves examining the combustion chamber, burner parts, and heat exchanger surfaces for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion.

Check for any deformations or cracks in the boiler tubes. Identifying these issues early can significantly reduce repair costs and ensure the boiler operates efficiently.

Hydro Test Boiler For Leaks

Annually conducting a hydrostatic test is essential for verifying the structural integrity of the boiler. This test involves filling the boiler with water and then pressurizing it to a level that exceeds its normal operating pressure but does not exceed the design pressure.

Preventive Boiler Maintenance Tips

Use Preventive Maintenance

Establish a comprehensive preventive maintenance program to keep your boiler system running reliably. Planned maintenance prevents potentially costly repairs and reduces the risk of operational downtime.

Regular Cleaning and Inspection

Regularly clean and inspect fireside surfaces, burner refractory material, and maintenance hole gaskets. It’s also important to clean oil and air filters to prevent debris buildup.

Schedule Professional Inspections

Arrange for annual professional inspections conducted by certified technicians to identify potential issues early on. These inspections are in addition to your regular boiler maintenance processes.

Periodically Perform Tests

Periodically perform efficiency tests using a combustion analyzer to assess the combustion process and combustion air piping.

The Role of a Professional in Boiler Maintenance

Specialist Knowledge and Experience

Professional boiler service technicians have the specialized knowledge and experience to service and maintain boilers. You may consult them to perform periodic maintenance tasks beyond your internal team’s capabilities.

Routine Maintenance and Inspection

Boiler professionals perform routine maintenance on boiler equipment and systems, including inspecting, cleaning, and testing various components to ensure safe and proper operation.

Documentation and Record-Keeping

Professionals maintain and update required records for boiler operations, documenting each service for tracking and accurate upkeep.

Problem Identification and Resolution

Boiler technicians address any problems with a boiler system, check fuel oil levels, notify maintenance when needed, and ensure that all equipment is safe.

Ensure Proper Boiler Maintenance with ServiceChannel’s Solutions

Following boiler maintenance checklists will help ensure all critical components of your boiler function correctly. However, you can take your facility maintenance practices further with the right software tools to help.

ServiceChannel offers preventive maintenance software. Our solutions help your team develop and implement your boiler maintenance program. You can automate scheduling, track your boiler’s condition, identify areas of cost savings, and ensure all technicians perform proper maintenance.

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