The other day I stopped by my local dry cleaner, to make a drop off. When I approached the counter, the owner asked, “Do you mind if this takes a couple extra days to clean?” “No, that’s fine,” I said. “Is everything alright?” “No,” he responded. “I have to ship orders to another store while my boiler is being repaired.”
He went on to tell me how he has lost business because many customers couldn’t wait, and went elsewhere. He said he worried they might not come back. I asked him what went wrong with the boiler and he said the repairman told him it was all scaled up, which caused it to overheat and leak.
That got me thinking about what my dry cleaning friend could have done to reduce the chances of something like this impacting his business operations. Not wanting to get too technical I told him that your boiler is like your body. Just like our bodies need healthy food to function properly, a boiler needs healthy water – free from too many impurities so it can run efficiently.
Eating junk food can clog our arteries over time. Scale does the same thing to a boiler by reducing heat transfer through the tubes. Just 1/32 of an inch of scale in a firetube boiler can increase fuel consumption by as much as 7%. In addition, the build-up can result in structural damage and even boiler tube failure.
I said, “Your boiler was working too hard trying to convert the water to steam for your dry cleaning. You see, scale acts like an insulator. It prevents heat from flowing through your boiler’s tubes, reaching the water and turning that water into steam efficiently. Eventually the strain is too much and your boiler breaks down.”
The good news is there are things you can do to help your boiler eat right and stay healthy. A healthy boiler is an efficient boiler and by following a few tips, like these and these, you could reduce energy costs and help your boiler live a longer, more reliable life.
I told my dry cleaning friend that after the boiler repair and scale removal, if he maintains proper water chemistry for his specific boiler type and pressure, he could minimize a recurrence.
© 2014 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this article.