Oil-fired boilers heat large amounts of water to produce steam for various mechanical and heating applications. Whether a large boiler in a power plant or a small one in a home heating system, all boilers have the same components: burners, water tanks, boiler tubes and relief valves. Some boilers are easily accessed, while others may require some disassembly. Maintenance procedures are similar no matter the size or location.
Burning oil leads to buildup of carbon deposits on burner points and surfaces. Turn off the oil supply line at the source. Clean all the small holes where the burner fire erupts. Clogged or damaged burner outlets can cause uneven heating and possibly damage the water tank. Use a petroleum solvent to remove the black buildup on and around the burners. Also, check all the oil-line fittings and make sure they are tight and without leaks. Check all control valves on the oil line for leaks or any obstruction to full opening and closed positions. If a valve won’t close or open completely, it can affect the burner and lead to uneven or inefficient fire under the boiler.
The tank holds the water over the burners and must be clean and free of leaks. Check the water inlet valve for any lime or calcium buildup. Clean as necessary with a calcium-lime cleaning solution. Check the tank for any thinning from corrosion or any pin-hole leaks. Seal with a water-tank sealant compound resistant to at least 300 degrees F. Check the fitting and line leading to the boiler tubes for any calcium or lime buildup and clean as necessary.
The array of tubes connected to the water tank is where the boiler steam does work. The tubes need to be clean of all calcium and lime buildup and corrosion. If necessary, use the appropriately sized wrench to disassemble the boiler tubes for easier access. Check the tubes for any thinning (live steam can corrode steel without any signs of rust) and replace if necessary. Any leaks need to be repaired. Also, if the tube arrangement is insulated, be sure the insulation meets manufacturers specification. If steam enters the tubing and cools, then it does not produce the maximum heat needed to do the necessary work. Steam does work, water does not.
When the boiler is reassembled and has free flow of oil, fire, water and steam, check all the pressure and operation gauges for proper functioning. Check the relief valve to ensure it has a full range of motion and is calibrated to correct an over-pressure setting for the boiler. The relief valve is the single-most important safety feature of any boiler installation. Make sure its operation meets all manufacturer specification. Do not, though, exceed the recommended pressure setting. When it is valved inadvertently, steam does no work and impedes the boiler’s efficient operation.
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