Recently I was at an annual boiler inspection. It was a mid-week inspection at a customer site with multiple steam boilers so production can continue while one boiler is offline. Not all inspections fall during the typical work week. Depending on the site, some boilers can only be down on weekends or holidays, so schedules need to adjust accordingly.
I arrived early to see how the tear down was going and to talk with the maintenance manager. Inspection time is typically the only time of year a water treatment company can validate how the Water Treatment Program is working. I always tell my customers and prospects, if the boiler is ever open, I want to see it.
The inspector arrived at the same time I did. I had met him several times in the past and know he has a reputation for being “very critical.” To protect the innocent, we will call him Bob from XYZ Insurance Company. Bob was not happy when he arrived; he was listening to Sports Talk Radio after a Packers loss. A cup of coffee and one donut later, his outlook on the day improved. Let the inspection begin!
We started with the usual review of the water treatment logs, bottom blow frequencies, and the always popular question, “Have there been any water issues?” The inspection went well. After another 30 minutes or so, Bob signed his orange sticker with the date and slapped it on the boiler, indicating the boiler is ready for operation again. Bob looked to me and said, “I don’t see the Water Treaters much anymore.” At first, I thought he was joking, Bob does not have much of a sense of humor. “I used to see you guys at every inspection and now I rarely ever see the water treatment guy.” I was surprised by his comment and asked why he thought this was the case. He gave me a half smile and said, “I guess everyone is too busy.” Just like that, another donut disappeared, and Bob drove off to the next site.
The Importance of the Facility Owner, Inspector, Water Treater Relationship
The relationship between the facility owner, insurance provider, and water treatment company is important. The owner needs to ensure that steam is available when needed, the insurance company needs to make sure everything is safe and equipment is to code, and the water treatment company needs to lay out the program and recommendations for the owner to keep the boiler clean and efficient. We have other blogs that reference the importance of boiler water treatment. To learn how address some common boiler problems read When Good Boilers Go Bad
or Boiler Corrective Actions
in our Knowledge Center.
Bob’s comment about not seeing the water guy still bothered me a bit. Now, have I been to every single inspection? Of course not. Life happens. If I knew I was not going to make it and could not have a co-worker attend, then customer pictures will suffice. At least for me, this is not typical.
To me, the inspection is validation time. This is the best way to see how your water treatment program is working. All I need is a good flashlight, my phone for pictures, and a pocketknife. Some boilers offer more to see than others, a big Water Tube Boiler leaves nothing to the imagination and allows for someone to crawl right in. While a steam generator such as a Clayton or Miura will require some creativity and good camera work to see much of the water side.
If the water treatment of your boiler is successful, you will see dull smooth tubes with gray or dark maroon/purple finish when you look inside. Also, finding the scratch marks you made during the previous year on a tube will determine that scale or corrosion is not occurring. Finally comparing your pictures from the previous year will serve as further proof that things are working, or not.
Scaled Boiler Tubes
Clean Boiler Tubes
Find Time to Make Time
We all are busy and there are things that may make it difficult to attend every inspection, but this is a critical part of the job. I have been told by prospects that their boiler is clean, and the tubes are fine; but, when the inspection occurs, their definition of “fine” and mine are not the same. When it is time for your next inspection, it is not only time to make sure your company’s investment in steam is still validated; but it is also time to make sure your treatment is in check. If in doubt, it may be time to get a second opinion.
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Jason Waack | Territory Manager, Watertech of America, Inc.
Jason has over 19 years of experience in the water treatment industry. He has been a Territory Manager with Watertech for 7 years, managing accounts in the central part of Wisconsin.