Industrial steam heating systems are sometimes used to heat large commercial and residential properties instead of forced air HVAC systems. Preventative maintenance is vital when working with steam heating systems, improving system efficiency, reducing operational costs, and preventing small problems from growing into system failures.
Steam Heating System Maintenance Tips
Certain issues are common when dealing with industrial steam heating systems, and preventing them should be part of any steam heating system maintenance program. Such issues include boiler water quality and quantity, vent maintenance, pipe conditions, burner efficiency, and pressure control settings.
Boiler Water Quality
A steam heating system needs clean water to produce the proper type of steam. Contaminants such as oil, total dissolved solids, and other impurities adversely affect boiler performance.
Contaminants can corrode the inner workings of a boiler, and are often the cause of short-cycling. A boiler that’s constantly turning on and off produces inefficient “wet” steam—a mixture of steam and liquid water. Wet steam makes it more difficult for the boiler to produce necessary amounts of heat.
Pretreating boiler water is the best method for keeping boiler water clean. Check the gauge glass regularly—water dripping from the top of the gauge indicates the presence of wet steam. If the oil in the gauge is moving energetically, it suggests the presence of oil in the boiler water. Chemical cleaning can remove boiler water contamination, but pretreating should be your first line of defense.
Boiler Water Line Position
Regularly check the boiler’s water line position. A high water line adds more water to the boiler than is necessary to produce heat, while low water lines contribute to short-cycling and higher operating costs.
Main Vent Maintenance
The main vents in industrial steam heating systems should be checked for proper installations, as it’s the main vents that provide even stream distribution along the pain pipes.
Main vents should be large enough to ensure rapid heat distribution, reducing burner time and operating costs. Vents must be large enough to move steam from the main to the last distributor in four minutes or less.
Steam heating system maintenance also needs to remove any air in the steam supply main pipe, which interferes with the movement of steam and can cause the boiler to short-cycle.
Double-check that the pipes closest to the boiler are of the correct size and configured correctly according to manufacturer’s instructions. When pipes are too small, they affect steam velocity and move wet steam through the boiler.
While checking pipes, ensure all steam-carrying pipes are insulated to reduce heat energy loss.
Steam Pressure Control Settings
To keep industrial steam heating systems running efficiently while controlling operation costs, set the pressure control to its lowest possible setting, and periodically check to make sure it remains there.
Your steam system’s burner needs an adequate supply of combustible air to run efficiently. Perform a combustion analysis every maintenance session, tuning and adjusting the burner as necessary. Keep a record of all analysis results for future reference.
Steam Heating System Maintenance
Industrial steam heating systems contain complicated and potentially hazardous equipment. Training your staff in proper steam heating system maintenance helps keep your system running efficiently and safely.