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Boiler breakdowns can cost thousands of dollars in equipment repairs, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars for additional property damage and business income losses.  It is important to perform preventive maintenance as instructed by the manufacturer and by local laws and regulations.

Boiler inspection laws are most often governed by the state, but in some cases by a municipality or city. Inspections are done by certified inspectors, but the boilers are typically maintained and serviced by HVAC contractors, building engineers and maintenance personnel, or plant and facility maintenance managers.

Safety Issues and Building Damage

The majority of boiler failures are caused by malfunctioning low water cutoffs, operator error, poor maintenance or corrosion. Therefore, properly functioning control or safety devices are absolutely essential for any boiler. Boiler safety devices are designed to prevent dangerous conditions from turning into disasters and the only way to be confident these devices are present and work properly is to regularly perform required boiler maintenance, testing and inspection.

A boiler failure interrupts service to a facility, the building’s occupants and their operations, and can result in significant damage to the building, other equipment and building contents. Failure during peak heating season can result in costly repairs to a facility, its systems and contents that exceeds the cost of repairing or replacing a boiler. Proper and regular boiler inspections can, in many instances, help prevent situations like this.

Regular boiler inspections also are important for optimal function and energy efficiency. Boilers are high energy users — typically second only to HVAC systems in annual energy use. Inefficient operation means wasted energy and increased operating costs.

Regular inspections can help extend the life of the pressure vessel. This is especially crucial when you consider that boilers are a major investment, costing upwards of $200,000 for large industrial models.

It is important to remember that most problems do not occur suddenly. They develop slowly over a long period of time. So slowly, in fact, that maintenance personnel grow accustomed to the change without realizing it has taken place — such as corrosion slowly building up in the safety valve, or sediment collecting in the float chamber on the connection lines of the low water fuel cutoff device.

Maintaining a boiler is much like maintaining a car; do it regularly to optimize efficiency and performance and it is less likely to break down. In addition to mandated inspections, it is important that you regularly observe and check on the status of a variety of components of the boiler including pressure gauge, low water cut off devices, thermometers, temperature controls, gauge glass and pressure relief valves.Maintenance requirements vary by boiler specifications and applications, however, all boilers require common maintenance activities.

Inspection Laws Getting Stricter

Boiler inspection regulations were first established in 1921 and were later repealed by new regulations enacted in 1982.  Each state has it’s own set of laws and regulations and it is important to say up to date on them.

The Oklahoma Department of Labor has jurisdiction over high-pressure boilers, low pressure steam and hot water boilers, other pressure vessels and licensing requirements for firms engaged in the repair, service and installation of boilers and pressure vessels. All boilers are to be inspected by either the state or an authorized insurance company at least once a year with high pressure boilers being inspected twice a year. Some pressure vessels are inspected every three years. (Source: Department of Labor Website)

State of Oklahoma Boiler Links

Oklahoma OK Boiler Contact Information (Under Safety Standards)

Oklahoma OK Boiler Forms (Under Safety Standards Service)

Oklahoma OK Boiler Operator “Need to Know” Items

Oklahoma OK Certified Boiler Install/Testing/repair Companies

Oklahoma OK Boiler Statutes

Oklahoma OK Boiler Rules

Summery of Regulations – National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)

State of Arkansas Boiler Links

Arkansas Department of Labor

State Boiler Laws

State Boiler Code

Keep a Boiler Log

The majority of boiler accidents can be prevented. Boiler logs are the best method to assure that a boiler is getting proper maintenance. They provide a continuous record of the boiler’s operation, maintenance and testing. Because a boiler’s operating conditions change slowly over time, a log is the best way to detect significant changes that may otherwise go unnoticed. Maintenance and testing should be performed and recorded in the log regularly.

Also, seek out the assistance of your city’s boiler inspector. A boiler inspector’s extensive knowledge and practical experience can provide information about everyday procedures that help prolong the lifespan and provide for safe operation of a boiler. More importantly,this information helps keep building occupants and  facilities safe.

TIPS FOR OPTIMAL BOILER SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE

    • Test the proper functioning of all boiler controls including the pressure gauge, low water cut off devices, thermometers, temperature controls, gauge glass and pressure relief valve.
    • Confirm that there are no signs of overheating, corrosion or erosion.
    • Test all drains and blow-offs to ensure they are functioning properly.
    • Check the fuel system for leaks and ensure that all fuel filters and strainers have been replaced.
    • Ensure all shut-off valves are leak tight. If unsure, perform leak tightness test.
    • Ensure all valves in instrument lines are functioning properly.
    • Open the boiler vent valve or top try cock to vent air and fill the boiler with treated water to its proper level. Check that the expansion tank is properly filled.
    • Verify that the vent valve on gas fired boilers is operating as required and that the vent is not clogged.
    • Verify the flame scanner or sensors are properly connected and functioning.
    • Check all instruments and safety devices for proper settings. Ensure the water pressure regulator functions as required.
    • Ensure the re-circulation pump works as required.
    • Check all heating system isolation valves to ensure they are functioning properly.
    • Verify that there are no leaks from any part of the  boiler or piping external to the boiler. Have any cracked surfaces repaired immediately by a qualified repair company. Bulges or other deformities indicate defective controls, safety devices or improper burner operation.
    • Test safety valves periodically. Replace leaking safety valves. Test safety or relief valves by lifting the test lever at least once a year.
    • Verify that the low water fuel cutoff control shuts off the fuel supply to the boiler as required. Inspect the low water fuel cutoff control for proper sequence and operation.

For tips and alerts regarding boiler inspections and maintenance, follow Hydronic Systems on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 1982: Star Elementary School Boiler Explosion - Spencer, Okla.

Jan 1982: Star Elementary School Boiler Explosion – Spencer, Okla.

Children were busy eating their lunch when the concrete wall between the kitchen and the lunchroom blew as an 80-gallon water heater exploded.  The children closest to the wall were crushed with debris.  In all, seven were killed and 36 were injured.

Sept 2012: Wynnewood Refining Co. LLC - Wynnewood, Okla

Sept 2012: Wynnewood Refining Co. LLC – Wynnewood, Okla

Billy Smith was lighting the boiler after a week of planned maintenance when the boiler exploded.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the explosion and cited Wynnewood Refining Co., with repeated serious and other-than serious violations.  Two people lost their lives in the explosion.

For more information regarding boiler explosions, please follow the link below.

Nine Boiler Accidents that Changed the Way We Live