Signs an Industrial Boiler May Need to be Replaced or Retrofitted

May 20, 2016

Industrial boilers are a vital part of many different industrial processes, providing both heat and hot water for a variety of applications. This means that if a boiler breaks unexpectedly, it can bring operations to a halt and cause a wide variety of problems for the company. The best strategy is to prevent a breakdown before it occurs. For an aging boiler this will typically mean having it retrofitted or replaced before major problems begin or as soon as they start occurring.

However, many companies are understandably reluctant to update a boiler before it reaches the end of its lifespan. Fortunately a retrofit or replacement will often eventually pay for itself by increasing efficiency, lowering fuel costs, saving on repair and maintenance costs. To get the full benefit it is important to correctly assess when it may be time to replace or retrofit a boiler. Here are some key signs to be aware of.

Boiler Age

On average, a large industrial boiler can last for twenty to twenty-five years without trouble. If a boiler has been replaced within the last five to ten years, updating it will probably not provide any benefit. Boilers that have been running for fifteen years or more are often good candidates for retrofitting, allowing them to extend their operational lifespan. If a boiler is very old and past its prime, then retrofitting will probably not be nearly as effective as replacing it.

Overall Condition

While the age of the boiler can provide general guidelines, however, a more important consideration is the overall condition that the boiler is in. The shell, tubes, and furnace should be in good shape, and the boiler should be free of rust. If a routine inspection shows that a great deal cracking, scaling, or pitting is occurring, it might be time to consider a retrofit. Boilers that malfunction or break down regularly might be good candidates for replacement. A boiler that is functioning normally can generally be left alone.

Maintenance Needs

On a similar note, it’s important to consider what the maintenance costs are for the current boiler. Retrofitting or replacing it might be more cost effective in the long run than subjecting the boiler to frequent maintenance merely to keep it running. If expenses such as labor costs, the price of spare parts, and lost efficiency due to downtime have been rising, a boiler may be nearing the end of its lifespan.

Performance Loss

Declining performance is another sign that a boiler needs to be updated. There are a few good ways that this performance can be monitored. One simple test is comparing the amount of fuel consumed by the boiler to the amount of steam it puts out, especially when examined over time. If the amount fuel required to create a constant amount of steam has been rising, the efficiency of the boiler is declining. A boiler that requires a great deal of input for comparatively little output is usually in need of replacement or a retrofit.

Other useful performance metrics include the operating temperature and pressure. A boiler that cannot maintain the correct pressure and temperature while operating will generally need to be updated. It’s also wise to check the current operating capacity in terms of the amount of steam per hour, and compare this to the boiler’s capacity when it was first installed. This is generally a reliable indication of decline.

Potential Benefits of Replacing or Retrofitting

Finally, even if a boiler shows no immediate declines in performance or condition, operations managers should consider whether or not their company could benefit from a retrofit or replacement. Although an older boiler may be functioning normally, efficiency can often be boosted by updating it, as newer technology can help reduce energy consumption. A retrofit can often improve the efficiency of a boiler by up to 10% to 12%, and a replacement can increase that percentage even more, depending on the boiler. This reduces expenses for the company. Since an average boiler can consume nearly four times its original value in energy costs every year, these savings add up quickly.

Upgrading a boiler can also reduce environmental impact. This is both because it reduces energy consumption and because new technological developments can help cut back on pollution. Aside from the benefits to the planet, this can improve a company’s public image and help meet standards set by regulatory bodies.

Industrial Boiler Services

Ensuring that a boiler is running smoothly and efficiently is a critical. STI Group provides dependable, trustworthy industrial maintenance and service options. We offer a wide range of boiler-related services including boiler repair, retrofit, replacement, and maintenance services. Let us help you get the best performance from your boiler.