Boiler System Maintenance

Boiler System Loss Prevention

by Matt Komac, MSGIA Assistant Director – Property & Liability Pool Operations

 Everyone knows that we are dealing with aging infrastructures at our schools, and unfortunately with this situation comes an increased potential for property losses.  We have seen a recent uptick in Boiler & Machinery claims that aren’t necessarily related to the age of the units but rather to the lack of preventative maintenance.  Montana Law requires that all automatically fired boilers in schools must be inspected once each year. If you are a member of MSGIA’s Property & Liability Pool, then you annually receive free boiler inspections from Hartford Steam Boiler’s local inspector. These annual inspections are not only required by law but are also a great way to identify maintenance issues that should be addressed to help minimize the potential for a costly loss. 

 Boiler breakdowns are costly!  The damage resulting from a heating system failure can be more than you might expect.  The monetary expense is one thing, but think about all the potential indirect costs.  Low-pressure boilers are usually used for heating, and the last thing you’d want to deal with during a Montana winter is the loss of your sole heat source.  That is not something that can be fixed overnight.  Furthermore, a boiler failure can very easily result in additional water damage to your building, whether it be from the boiler itself or from other water lines freezing and bursting because your building went the night without heat. 

 Here are some tips provided by Hartford Steam Boiler that can help you prevent a loss from occurring:

  • Start-up - The most common error in the operation of boilers is made at start-up. Don’t expect to fire the boiler at the beginning of the heating season and then walk away for days or weeks. The probability of something happening to the boiler is highest during the startup period. Monitor the system frequently to determine that all water levels and operating conditions are stabilized.
  • Water Treatment - Treat the water to combat corrosion in all low-pressure steel boilers. If you have a cast-iron boiler, use properly treated water and keep the system as tight as possible. Cast-iron boilers are very difficult to clean mechanically, and chemical cleaning may be prohibited in your area due to local ordinances.
    • Here is a question to consider:
      • What is the quality of the water used in the system? If your well, stream, or city water contains impurities, the water could be causing corrosion or scale to form. Hard water is high in minerals and will cause scaling. Untreated soft water may be aggressive and cause corrosion. Determine the quality of the water used in your system by sampling and testing. Once an analysis is made, a plan of action can be developed to properly treat your boiler water.
    • Leakage - How much make-up water is used on a routine basis? Is the system tight (low leakage) or do leaking return lines, leaking packing, fittings, pipes, or radiators necessitate continuous make-up? A tight system will ensure that additional water is not required. Preventive maintenance, including periodically inspecting the system to detect leaks, must be performed. Corrective action can be taken before minor leakage becomes a major boiler repair.
Following your annual boiler inspections, you will receive a report outlining potential issues that were identified during the inspection.  It is important to try and address those issues as quickly as possible so they don’t turn into a costly claim and potentially result in a school shut down for a period of time.  If you’d like to see some additional loss prevention resources, check out Hartford Steam Boiler’s website at and select the “Knowledge Center” tab at the top of the screen. Return to newsletter