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Common Boiler Problems, Part 7: Preventive Maintenance

A comprehensive preventative maintenance program is your biggest defense against accidents and another vital part of staying safe.

If not properly maintained, combustion equipment can become less safe with every minute of operation. Dust, dirt and debris accumulate in combustion air fans and burners. This changes the air/fuel ratios. Some gas control valves get worn more every time they are cycled. Pressure switch diaphragms and contacts are age sensitive. Water level controls accumulate sludge.

These are all examples of possible operational or maintenance issues that could spell trouble for you and your site. The problem is very few sites maintain the specific expertise required for proper combustion systems maintenance. The skills and knowledge required to do this work safely are considerable. These people must do this work regularly to stay sharp - not once or twice a year. They also need frequent training and specialized tools like flue gas analyzers. Most sites lack people with these skills and don’t have properly equipped. In many cases these people know enough to be dangerous. Don’t let your people try to do things like tune burners, change out firing rate control valves, or replace burner management systems unless they have been properly trained.

Sites not wanting to have these problems with in-house staff sometimes blindly rely on outside contractors. Certainly there are many fine contractors out there. However, you will want to be very careful before letting someone touch your combustion equipment. If you own or operate combustion equipment, you and your staff must have some core level of knowledge regarding safe practices before you can even hire the right contractor. You must ask a lot of questions about the specific level of training and experience that the person coming to the job has had. Make sure this person is not going to learn on your equipment. Remember, it’s not the reputation of the company that matters; it’s the specific expertise of the person it sends.


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