CHICAGO — “It’s very easy not to think about a boiler until something goes wrong.”

statement from Daniel Orr, general manager, National Combustion Co.
(NATCO), is an unfortunate truth and a reminder to industry members that
ignoring or overlooking this central piece of equipment can only have
negative consequences for a laundry/linen plant.

Like much of the
other technology that makes a plant run, boilers must be thoroughly
monitored and maintained by any business that relies heavily on their
safe and smooth operation.

American Laundry News consulted a number of boiler manufacturers that have advice for
operators on how, when and why to give a boiler proper TLC, not only for
safety reasons, but for overall plant efficiency. 


wants to avoid the unthinkable: a sudden boiler failure that wreaks
havoc on operations. So how will operators know when is the best time to
replace an old boiler?

“Typically, customers do not realize when
the boiler needs to be replaced until they have a leak in the vessel or
an inspector tells them the vessel is wearing thin, [which] forces them
to replace the boiler,” says Mike McLean, laundry/drycleaning sales
manager at Fulton Boiler Works. “By then, most customers are at the
mercy of whoever has boilers in stock.”

Talk to an expert you
trust, such as a licensed mechanical contractor, especially if you don’t
have a strong mechanical background, Orr advises.

And while many
boilers will last as long as 40 or 50 years, Josh Reasoner, South
regional sales manager at Hamilton Engineering, says newer technologies
often need more maintenance, and a service tech might be able to help
you plan for upgrades or even replacement.

Michael Leeming,
national sales manager, Parker Boiler Co., comments that sometimes it’s
more economical to simply re-tube a boiler, where applicable. “If it’s a
fire tube boiler, you can roll new tubes into it. And that could be
20-25% the cost of a new boiler,” he says.


those interested in investing in a new boiler or in related technology,
recent innovations are playing their part in improving boiler
maintenance, safety and ease of operation.

“What people seem to
want more is to be able to look at the boiler status from
anywhere—either their computer or their phone, and there seems to be
more of a request for that technology at the bigger industrial plants,”
says Leeming.

Economizers for capturing heat from exhaust gases,
especially in the case of steam boilers, are helping to increase
efficiency, says Reasoner. He adds that monitoring and controls on
modern equipment can help create a more integrated system.

innovation has mostly been concerned with improving high-efficiency
boilers, or condensing technology,” says Orr. “The other source of
innovation has been on the controls front, by having boilers use
controls that learn to anticipate demand loads and operating

Among recent innovations, McLean lists burners with
low-NOx emissions, timer and conductivity controls for blowdown, and
lead lag controls for multiple boilers.

Owning and operating a
boiler is a huge responsibility. But since the boiler is a driving force
behind operations, it’s in operators’ best interest to invest the
necessary time and energy for regular maintenance tasks, safety checks
and parts upgrades and replacement.

“A lot of times, laundries
only have one boiler, and if that’s the case, it’s really critical that
they take care of that boiler, because if that boiler’s down, the whole
plant is down,” Leeming says.