Boiler Operation: Boiler Zero to Boiler Hero

To help you understand the ins and outs of your boiler system, we have grouped our resources together. The boiler operation training material below breaks down into 3 categories:

1. The Basics Of Boiler Operation

2. Boiler Maintenance Know How

3. Improving Boiler Efficiency

Where you start, will depend on where you are in your own boiler training process.

What Is A Boiler?

Before we dive into the operation of a boiler, lets cover a few basics you will need to understand. Boiler are designed to produce steam or heat water. This is then used to heat buildings or for processes at commercial and industrial facilities. These pressure vessels house water and use a burner to inject heat into the system. Burners commonly burn, natural gas, propane, #2 fuel oil or whatever is the most prevalent fuel source. Two common designs are what is known as a “water-tube” or “fire-tube” system. As the names suggests, water tube boilers have water in the tubes and fire tubes have fire in the tubes. These tubes can pass back and forth multiple times within the boiler. This is referred to as “two pass”, “three pass” or a “multiple pass” boiler respectively. Now that we have a basic understanding of what a boiler is let’s look at how it operates.

The Basics Of Boiler Operation

Here are a few of the basics every boiler operator and maintenance technician should know. The goal of this section is to provide a comprehensive understanding of commercial boiler operation.

Corrosion caused by poor feed water on a steel pipe.

1. How Boiler Feedwater Affects Boiler Operation

Understanding your boiler feedwater system is one of the most important aspects of operating a boiler. A poor feedwater system can result in reduction in efficiency, system scale and even boiler leaks. Dissolved gasses and carryover are the main enemy in these systems. Read More Here.

Two Superior boilers with condensate return piping2. Boiler Economizer 101

Understanding the basics of economizers may help you improve efficiency in your system. While certain applications require a dry economizer and others a condensing economizer, we cover the basics of both and why they are important. Read More Here.

3. Boiler Carryover

When something other than steam is going through your header, you have a problem. Boiler carryover creates two major issues, boiler low water conditions and water hammer. In systems that don’t have condensate returns, you can check for carryover in the main steam line drip legs. Read More Here.

4. Deaerator 101

Deaerator tanks serve 3 purposes. One of the most important ones is to drive oxygen and gasses out of your water before it enters the boiler. Surge tanks can help a deaerator work by averaging out the flow, and steam load requirements for the deaerator, and it’s control system. It is important to blown down float operated controls routinely. You should also ensure the level controls are filling to the appropriate level and will turn off the pumps for low water. Read More Here.

A man working on boiler repair.5. Boiler Tube Repair: How It Works

At some point, even with good maintenance you may be faced with a tough decision. Replace your existing boiler or have a re-tube performed. By having pitted and scaled tubes replaced you can breathe new life into your boiler. Read More Here.

6. Boiler Refractory Repair: What’s Involved

If you are looking for one of the leading causes of boiler shutdowns, refractory issues would be it. This heat-resistant material ensures your boiler retains its heat but is considered a “consumable”. This means if your boiler lives long enough, you will eventually need to have refractory work done. Read More Here.

7. Getting A Boiler Ready For Shutdown

Planned shutdowns are a hectic time for most facilities and shutting down your boiler safely is important. For steam boilers, after pressure has dropped to 10-25 PSIG, open the boiler vent to prevent pulling a vacuum on the boiler. Once the unit has dropped below 200 degrees, it’s ready to be drained. Read More Here.

Technician performing boiler lay-up procedures 8. Boiler Lay-up Procedures And Pitfalls

Boiler lay-up allows you to perform an in-depth inspection of your system and also helps prevent corrosion, rust and extend your boilers useful life. Start by reducing the load and move the firing rate to the low position. Then, blow down your boiler AND boiler level controls and columns. Any sediment or sludge that has collected at the bottom of the boiler should be removed before cooling and draining the unit. Read More Here.

9. Boiler Room Air Supply 

Understanding the basics of boiler room air supply requirements is essential to ensuring proper combustion. The rule of thumb has always been 4 to 6 square inches for every boiler HP. When airflow is restricted, you can experience a number of problems. Read More Here.

Boiler Maintenance Know How

Boilers are pressure vessels that are designed to heat water which can heat spaces or be used in manufacturing processes. Whether it’s a firetube boiler, scotch marine boiler or a watertube boiler maintenance is vital.

1. Boiler Maintenance Checklist and Logs

Daily, monthly, semi-annual and annual maintenance tasks to keep your boiler operating smoothly. Some tasks include: checking low water cut off, draining gage glass and performing bottom blowdown to remove sediment and sludge. Read More Here.

Man performing boiler blowdown

2. Boiler Blowdown: And How It Affects Boiler Operation

Boiler blowdown is the process of removing sediment, chemical concentrations and solids by removing water from the boiler. This reduces the risks of carryover, scaling, and corrosion. Read More Here.

3. How To Prevent Common Deaerator Problems

8 easy steps you can perform to prevent most DA problems. Testing water hardness and float switches, flushing strainers and cleaning the gauge glass are some ways you can prevent DA problems. Read More Here.

4. How To Fight Boiler Corrosion

Corrosion is the enemy of any boiler operation. We cover the different types of corrosion from caustic, acidic, pitting, crevice to galvanic. Oxygen scavengers, scale inhibitors and controlling PH are a few ways you can help get control of a boiler that has corrosion issues. Read More Here.

5. Contingency Planning

Setting up contingency piping before a boiler has issues can reduce downtime significantly. Installing contingency steam, natural gas, feed water and blowdown lines allows for a quick rental hook up. This allows us to keep your operation moving while repairing or replacing the boiler. Read More Here.

6. Steam Trap MaintenanceClose up of a steam trap and it's components.

Steam traps filter out condensate and non-condensable gasses while leaving steam in the system. Regardless of if you use a thermodynamic, mechanical or thermostatic trap, testing is important. Measuring the difference between inlet and outlet temperature is one way you can test if your traps are working. Read More Here.

7. 15 Boiler Parts To Keep On Hand

Flame detectors, auxiliary low water cut-off switches, and pressure control device are just a few parts to keep on hand. Maintaining an inventory of your boiler’s mission critical equipment is always a good practice. Read More Here.

Improving Boiler Efficiency

The easiest way for a business to reduce operating expense is to improve their boiler’s efficiency.

1. 15 Key Ways To Improve Boiler EfficiencyEverett Elementary School Boiler Repair | RasMech

Most energy is lost through the boiler stack or boiler water. Aim for the smallest amount of flue gas at the lowest possible temperature. (BTUs are as valuable as gold, and we don’t want to lose them.) Day/Night setbacks can lower operating pressure for steam boilers and operating temperatures for hydronic boilers when idling at night. Read More Here.

2. Condensate Return Systems: Seriously Useful Tips

There is efficiency to be captured in condensate and that is why condensate returns are so important for boiler operation. By ensuring your system is set up properly you can reduce blowdown, increase feedwater temperature and reduce make-up water usage. Read More Here.

Infrared Thermography photo of gas piping3. Infrared Thermography

Using thermal imaging to find process flow issues in steam traps, liquid supply lines and heat exchangers can be invaluable. You can also monitor refractory insulation by locating hot spots, helping you better predict equipment outages. Read More Here.

4. Combustion Efficiency

Optimizing the air to fuel ratio on your burner can result in efficiency improvements. Understanding your excess air percentage at high fire and low fire can prevent soot build up on heating equipment. Improper combustion results in wasted fuel, unnecessary burn cycles and sooty flame that produces Carbon Monoxide. Which can foul the boiler. Read More Here.

5. Calculating Direct Boiler Efficiency

According to an article written by Forbes Marshall, direct boiler efficiency can be calculated by “using the basic efficiency formula- η=(Energy output)/(Energy input) X 100

In order to calculate boiler efficiency, we divide the total energy output of a boiler by total energy input given to the boiler. Then multiply by hundred.

Calculation of direct efficiency-

E= [Q (H-h)/q*GCV]*100


Q= Quantity of steam generated (kg/hr)

H= Enthalpy of steam (Kcal/kg)

h= Enthalpy of water (kcal/kg)

GCV= Gross calorific value of the fuel.”