Tips for Keeping Your Steam Heating System Up to Par
Steam heating is often used in larger commercial and residential applications. Like any other type of HVAC system, however, boilers require regular maintenance and upkeep to maintain efficiency and performance. Here are some tips you can use to make sure your steam heating system is working not just properly, but at its best.
- Ensure boiler water is clean: The water that is used to produce steam must be clean to produce the proper type of steam for heating. Make sure the water does not contain oil, impurities or other material that could affect boiler performance. If these contaminants exist, the boiler could waste energy by short cycling, or could produce inefficient wet steam. Check the gauge glass for signs of water contamination. Rapidly moving or bouncing oil in the gauge suggests there is oil in the water. Water dripping from the top of the gauge indicates wet steam, which means it will take longer for the system to produce the heat necessary to meet temperature demands.
- Check main vents for proper installation and function: Main vents are responsible for ensuring an even distribution of steam along the pain pipes. Air in the steam supply main pipe must be removed and vented so that steam can move freely. The main vent allows this air removal. If the air is not released, the boiler will short-cycle and lose efficiency and performance quality.
- Ensure main vents are the proper size: Larger openings in the main vent will allow faster production of heat to warm a home or commercial space. Larger vents also improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness of boiler operation by making sure steam gets to radiators faster, reducing the amount of time the burner functions. Ensure there are enough vents with large enough openings to distribute steam from the main to the last distribution riser within four minutes.
- Make sure steam pressure control settings are correct: Set the pressure control to the lowest level possible. Low steam pressures improve efficiency and reduce the overall costs of boiler operation.
- Ensure correct water line position: Water line position will affect how efficiently and effectively steam is produced. High water line position means the boiler receives more water than it is intended to heat. Low positions cause short-cycling on the low water cut-off. Steam production will then be affected and operating costs will increase.
- Make sure burner has enough combustion air: Burners require sufficient air to allow proper combustion of fuel. Check the amount of air to make sure enough air is available for efficient burner operation.
- Tune and adjust the burner: A combustion analysis will give you the information needed for tuning up the operation of the burner. Make sure this analysis is performed during every preventive maintenance session and keep consistent records showing test results.
- Check the pipes near the boiler for proper size and configuration: If nearby piping is too small, it can increase the outlet velocity of steam and cause inefficient wet steam to move through the boiler. Make sure the piping around the boiler is the correct size to prevent increased steam velocity. Also make sure the piping is installed according to manufacturer’s instructions for proper operation. A newer steam heating system will use these nearby pipes to dry the steam and improve heat production.
- Insulate pipes that carry steam: Considerable amounts of heat energy can be lost through uninsulated pipes in a steam heating system, particularly those pipes in the near-boiler configuration. Add sufficient insulation to steam-carrying pipes to prevent this heat loss and improve system performance. Eliminating this source of energy waste will produce a significant reduction in boiler operating costs.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on boiler maintenance and improving the function of a steam heating system, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!