Preparing for a boiler inspection
By Dale Yelnich
Hot water boilers are inspected by local state authorities to make sure the boiler is up to code. In general, these state inspections will occur yearly, but this may be variable from state to state. To confirm when a boiler inspection will happen, contact your local or state Boiler Inspection Bureau or commercial building inspector.
Between these certified inspections, boilers must remain in sound working order, and if a mechanical problem occurs, only a certified boiler contractor is authorized to make repairs. Any unauthorized boiler repair may result in fines or termination of the employee that did the work. This is serious business, and any boiler that is found out of compliance, will be given a certain amount of time for the problem to be rectified, or the boiler, and possibly the business, will be shut down until it is.
All boiler inspections generally follow the same protocols. The inspector is looking for non-compliance in areas of operation, soundness of the equipment and routine maintenance. As a general rule, regular routine maintenance is carried out, per manufacturers requirements, and these tasks are entered into a log book. The entries are dated, with no missing entries between dates, and they are inspected to make sure that the services have been done in a timely and responsible manner.
All hot water boilers must be equipped with:
A stop valve in both the boiler supply and return line for repairs or isolation.
A pressure/temperature gauge for hot water boilers (graduated 1 1/2 –3 1/2 times relief valve set pressure)
At least one relief valve on hot water boilers to prevent excessive pressure.
Two temperature controls on hot water boilers (one high limit set at max 250 degrees F and one operating control)
At least one low water cut-off on hot water boilers over 400,000 BTU heat input.
An expansion tank on hot water heating boilers to allow for expansion contraction of water in the system.
At least one bottom blow-down valve to remove sediment from the boiler bottom.
Always maintain a clean and litter free boiler room, and this includes keeping the floor drain clear to allow unimpeded draining. Make sure that the approaches available for safe exiting and egress through the boiler room door, always remain clear and uncluttered. Also, easy access to ladders, runways and controls, must be maintained at all times.
Visually inspect all valves and connections for signs of leaking. Leaking water, even if there is no dripping, will leave a visible residue over time. Under close visual inspection, these leaks can be noticed and they must be corrected before a state boiler inspection occurs.
Check all pressure gauges and make sure they are all within the specific operating range of your boiler system. This check is generally written into the log book, so variations can be determined by paging through past checks. A slight variation, in either direction, is fine, but if there is a steady decline or increase in the boiler pressure, there is a problem with the system and it must be rectified.
Test all of the safety and pressure relief valves once per year. Each safety valve has a test lever that can be lifted to test the function of the valve. When lifted, pressure should escape to ensure that the valve is functioning properly. When released, the lever should correctly reseal the valve. If the valve does not fully reseal, open and close the valve several more times. Sometimes a bit of debris may lodge beneath the valve seal and won’t fully allow the valve to close. By opening and closing the valve, the debris will be purged and a tight seal will resume. If, after repeated attempts, the valve does not seal, it must be replaced.
All pipes must either be marked to show the water flow, or a piping chart must be posted in an easy to read place. This is essential so that anyone who responds to a boiler problem will be able to shut the system off and stop the water from flowing.
When in doubt, it is always the best idea to call in a certified boiler technician before any inspection is going to transpire. A technician will check out everything to make sure it stays in compliance, give helpful tips and suggestions on what the limitations are, but best of all, they will leave you with peace of mind before any boiler inspection takes place.