Firetube Boilers

what is a firetube boiler

Inside a firetube boiler.

What is a firetube boiler? What are the three main types of firetube boilers? Don’t know yet? No worries, we are going to cover it. You will most likely run into those two questions again if you plan on taking the boiler licensing exam, at least one of them, and it is usually the one about the three types of firetube boilers.

A couple weeks ago, a post went up that went over boiler classifications. High and low pressure steam boilers, the basic pressure requirements, and the type of fuel used all contribute to the boiler classification.

Another way to separate boilers is by the type of tubing inside or internal to the boiler. There are firetube and watertube boilers. Again, this post is going to focus only on firetube boilers. We will list quickly define the three types of firetube boilers, then get into the operation of one, such as, how they work or how they differ from watertube boilers. Or you could just wait another month until that post goes up and compare the two lol. Read more

Boiler Classifications

boiler classificationThere you are, standing in the boiler room, or even worse, in a boiler room you’re not familiar with. The supervisor walks up and goes “Johnson, what type of boiler is this?” And instantly you’re on the spot. Do you know? Can you look at the boiler and tell? Don’t think I’d be able to without doing some leg work and poking around. Take a look in the peephole, see what’s going on inside.

It happens in the military and out in buildings and facilities with decent stationary engineer training programs, a little shaming. Some slight embarrassment at your expense if you will. That fear of being embarrassed should make you want to learn and have some answers beforehand yeah?

Well, we’re here to help out those seeking some quick answers on boiler classifications. We are going to briefly start at the top and then work our way into specific classes such as firetube or watertube boilers. For now, this will be more of an overview so everyone at least has some idea of what they’re looking at. Read more

First Set of Boiler Rounds – What You Should Look At

taking over a boiler operator shift

A Cleaver-Brooks boiler.

You can call it getting turn over from the previous stationary engineer, or taking over a boiler operator shift, here, let’s just say you are doing your first set of boiler rounds for the day.

If you are a building or stationary engineer, or boiler operator, one of the very first things you should do when getting to work is tour the boiler room. This is one of the first places I go through. By walking through here first, if I happen to notice anything I can ask the off going stationary engineer about it. Or, I can observe plant conditions and they can tell me why they have the plant operating that way.

What should you look at and check on the boilers? Is there anything you should be testing the operation of? There are a few things you should check as you take over the operation of the boilers for your shift, there are also a couple things to test as well. These don’t necessarily need to be performed during your first set of rounds but rather sometime during your shift at least.

There are tasks that should be performed hourly like checking the operation of the feed pumps; there are also tasks that should be performed every 20 minutes like checking the water level inside the boiler. Let’s not focus right now on the time requirements but just the task. This post started out with just a handful of items to look at. Even now, typing this, it has grown.

Out of this entire list I’ve scratched out on a post-it note, I would say there are 2 more important than the others. Can you name them without reading ahead? I bet you could name at least one. Read more

Basic Boiler Steam Cycle Drawing w/ Explanation

After the novel yesterday, anything less should be easy yeah?  Figured this post we could write a little but include a very simple one line drawing of a basic steam cycle in the life of a water molecule in a boiler system.

For whatever reason, Paint, yes MS Paint, used to be basic, rudimentary, and kind of intimidating. You felt like you couldn’t really do anything, like Notepad (which I use every day now lol,) and whatever you could draw, looked like crap a few clicks later.

Paint is perfect for engineering drawing though. Basic shapes, straight line tools. I’m sure there are way better but for throwing together basic stuff for a knucklehead audience, it’s perfect.

The refrigeration cycle drawing is up, but that is it. We should do more posts with drawings and schematics and we will. It helps with the explanation, they are fun to make, and a person can visually comprehend what is going on as they read. Read more

Basic Steam Cycle – Generation

basic steam cycle steam generation

Typical boiler doing work.

To make it easier to understand steam production or generation, you should know what happens to the steam both inside, and after it, leaves the boiler. There are basically four phases or sections of steam production. These four phases of a main steam system are generation, expansion, condensation, and feed. Over time, we will discuss them all.

This post will cover the first in that list of four – steam generation.

As you go through, do your best to try and tie in the other concepts and ideas we’ve talked about – heat and energy transfers, the laws of the conservation of energy, the laws of gases, etc. It’s all related.

Probably the best way to learn how the steam plant or system in your building, facility, or home operates is to trace the path of steam and water throughout its entire cycle of operation. In each phase of a basic steam cycle, the water and steam flow through the entire system without any exposure to the atmosphere. Read more

How to Clean a Steam Y Strainer

how to clean a y strainer

Steam y strainer – it’s the dark looking y to the left of the valve.

A couple months ago at work, we were having issues maintaining the proper pressure on one of the low pressure steam systems.  The cause, well one of the causes, ended up being due to a clogged steam y strainer.  Using some pics, this post is going to go over cleaning a steam y strainer.  There are a lot of factors actually in choosing how often to clean them, we probably aren’t going to get into that.  It’s just important that if you do operate a steam system with y strainers, keep it in the back of your head that you should do some preventative maintenance on them.

I’m not a home heating expert by any means but I believe I have seen y strainers on them as well, tiny little ones that look like sideways y’s.  Those should have preventative maintenance done as well.  They are easy. Read more

Combustion In A Boiler

what is combustion in a boilerThis baby is going to be all about combustion. Mainly, this will be geared for combustion in a boiler but we are going to cover the definition, the different types of combustion such as perfect and incomplete, as well as the role that one of the boiler support systems, combustion air, plays.

Combustion sure seems like a simple thing to understand. What do you think of when you hear that word?

Something on fire or burning would probably pop into most peoples heads. Combustion is key to boiler operation and controlling the rate of combustion is just as important. First, let’s make sure we have a foundation to start from and define combustion. Read more

How Often Should You Bottom Blowdown Boilers?

boiler bottom blow down valves

The valves associated with a boiler bottom blowdown. This is also where you drain from. We’ve got that one circular handled valve, and then the two to the left with lever handles.

Easy question yeah?  Must be a standard for bottom blowdowns everyone here should be saying.  There is, sort of.  The number of bottom blowdowns actually required daily is a moving target.  There is not one set answer for every single boiler.

It is a simple answer though.

The quantity of bottom blowdowns required each day, for each boiler, ultimately depends on the conductivity of the boiler water.

Don’t forget that conductivity is merely a reading of the amount of solids, both dissolved and undissolved, floating around inside causing corrosion.

If that was the answer you came looking for, there you have it.  Below here, we are going to dive deeper into it.  Talk about why we are actually concerned with the frequency of bottom blowdowns, how to adjust and fine tune your own.

This is perhaps the most common question asked and debated about by building and stationary engineers. Read more

Low Pressure Boilers Book Review

What are the 4 most basic books every building or stationary engineer should have? Of those four, how many do you think a regular homeowner should have?

This post is going to be a review of the book Low Pressure Boilers. It’s not going to be the garbage copy taken from Amazon but a real review from a building engineer.

The four books, imo, are:

  • Low Pressure Boilers
  • High Pressure Boilers
  • Modern Air Conditioning & Refrigeration
  • Uniform Mechanical Code

And I think every person that is taking care of their own home or families should know a little about engineering, trouble shooting, and repairs. But that’s just me and I’m not most people. Are you? How can people not be hungry to learn more? Read more

How to Blow Down a Boiler

how to blow down a boilerYou know what’s going to happen when you open that last valve on the boiler for your blowdown, you’ll feel that high pressure steam go frothing and rumbling past the valve disc and seat. You know you’ll catch that familiar smell of the pipes and insulation heating up during those few steam filled seconds.

You don’t? Good thing you’re here then, today we are going to cover how to blowdown a boiler. Blowing down a boiler is easy, exciting, and there are reasons we do it as building engineers and maintenance people.

Bottom blowdowns involve periodically opening valves tied to the mud drum to allow boiler steam pressure to force accumulated sludge out of the boiler. Read more

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