Boiler Water Treatment for Breweries
Brewing is one of America's fastest-growing industries, and most breweries require a steam boiler. Your brewery relies on steam production for efficient, even heating and a quality brewing process. So, you need a reliable brewery steam boiler that runs efficiently, performs reliably and won't break down. A well-maintained boiler plays a vital role in your facility's safety, as well — the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors reports that 40% of all boiler-related accidents and fatalities result from human error or poor maintenance.
Boiler water treatment helps keep your brewery boiler safe, reliable and running in peak condition. In the guide below, we'll explain how.
How Your Boiler Impacts the Brewing Process
Steam boilers are indispensable tools in breweries — the brewing process could not take place without them. Boilers boost heat transfer and timeliness during several critical steps:
Mashing, Lautering and Sparging
When the crushed barley kernels travel to the insulated mash/lauter tun so enzymes can continue breaking down the starches, your boiler generates the hot water that sprays onto the grains to keep the released sugars moist and usable.
In lautering and sparging, as water recirculates to filter through the husks of the used grains and additional hot water pours over the grains to remove the sugars for further use, you'll need your steam boiler to provide the proper water temperature for effective heat transfer. The correct water temperature helps ensure that these processes run smoothly and on time.
When you boil the hops with the liquid from your mash, you'll need consistent heat to ensure thorough boiling. The kettle has double walls so steam can circulate in the gap to provide even heating, and you'll also need a boiler capable of effective, even heat transfer. Without a strong heat program, the boiler will scale and inhibit heat transfer, thereby taking more time to boil ingredients.
Fermentation and Bottling
During fermentation, as the yeast converts the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide, you'll need to maintain a carefully calibrated temperature in the fermentation vessel so the yeast can do its work most efficiently. Your steam boiler helps provide the precise level of heat you need for fermentation and bottling.
What Does a Steam Boiler Do in a Brewery?
Let's take a closer look at the benefits a steam boiler provides.
Within the brewing process, steam plays a vital role in providing hot water for sanitation and heating the kettle. Along with maintaining proper temperatures and producing heat for bottling, steam provided by the boiler is a crucial part of the brewing operation. Producing and using this steam as efficiently as possible will lower overall fuel costs and the cost per barrel.
The Importance of Water Treatment for Brewery Boilers
Water treatment for brewery boilers has two main benefits — it improves performance and lowers costs.
- Improving performance: The feedwater in a boiler contains minerals and other impurities that can build up as scale or corrode the boiler's metal. Scale and corrosion make boilers inefficient, increasing their energy consumption, and they also cause premature wear and tear that can cause a boiler to break down. Water treatment helps disperse the minerals in the water to prevent scale buildup and corrosion. It helps your boiler perform more efficiently and reliably.
- Lowering costs: An inefficient boiler consumes massive amounts of fuel and sends your utility bill skyrocketing. And a boiler that breaks down because of scale buildup or corrosion can cost you a small fortune in repairs. Chemical treatments for your boiler help keep your costs low by minimizing scald and corrosion, making your boiler more efficient and reducing expensive repair and maintenance needs.
Tips for Maintaining a Brewery Boiler
Brewery boilers require proper maintenance and monitoring to stay at peak performance, and you'll need to know how to troubleshoot common boiler problems. Here are a few tips for brewery boiler maintenance.
1. Have a Regular Maintenance Schedule
Irregular maintenance is one of the most frequent causes of boiler issues. As your boiler runs, parts will wear out, so catching minor issues when they are still small allows you to prevent more significant problems that could lead to injuries or catastrophic breakdowns.
Failing to give your boiler the maintenance it requires can have devastating effects, including dangerous and even fatal boiler explosions. The boiler fuel may also explode, or the extreme heat of the boiler can cause damage if the water level drops too precipitously without triggering the trip switch.
A major boiler failure is costly and dangerous, and can bring your operation to a standstill. Avoid this scenario by scheduling routine brewery steam boiler maintenance throughout the year and catching small problems early.
2. Check Steam Traps
In a boiler, since the insulation around steam lines is not 100% effective, it's common for some steam to condense. The boiler system must have a way to separate the condensate from the steam to maintain pressure and keep the steam flowing down the line. Steam traps accomplish that separation.
Steam traps typically attach to the lower section of the steam line, air handler coil or heat exchanger. They let condensate through while preventing steam from escaping along with it. They are also useful for discharging water from a machine heated with steam, while preventing the steam from traveling past the point where the machine will use it.
Sometimes steam traps leak and allow steam to enter the condensate return line. When that happens, the steam system short-circuits. The boiler must produce more steam to satisfy the same demand. This level of overwork increases fuel consumption, water consumption and wear and tear on the equipment. Regularly addressing steam trap leaks helps make your boiler more efficient, keeps it running smoothly and decreases the need for additional maintenance.
3. Perform a Weekly Blowdown
Water, especially hard water — the name given to water that contains high concentrations of calcium and magnesium — usually contains dissolved minerals. These minerals leach into the water as it flows through rock formations in the ground, and the water carries them as it flows toward points of municipal, commercial and industrial use.
In a boiler, minerals in the water — especially chloride, iron, calcium, magnesium and alkaline ions — can build up as scale on the boiler's inner surfaces. This whitish buildup can impede heat transfer, block water flow, lead to inefficiencies and increase wear and tear.
Blowdown helps prevent these problems by inhibiting scale buildup. Blowdown is the process of intentionally draining the water out of the boiler to limit the concentration of the minerals. The water added to the boiler to replace the blown-down water typically has a lower mineral concentration, helping resist scale formation. Ideally, you should perform a blowdown every week to minimize scale deposits.
4. Provide Daily Chemical Treatment
Daily chemical treatment also helps keep your boiler in peak shape. You can use chemicals to soften your water, inhibit scale formation, boost alkalinity, reduce foaming and treat return lines to prevent corrosion. The type of chemicals you need for daily treatment will depend on your specific boiler setup. A reliable water treatment company can help you figure out what chemicals you need and develop a treatment protocol that keeps your boiler performing well without excessive chemical use.
5. Keep a Maintenance Log
It's easy to let maintenance fall by the wayside if you don't keep track of it. To keep maintenance needs from slipping through the cracks, have a logbook where you record the details of the maintenance performed on your boiler. If you know of specific recurring maintenance requirements, you can use the log to track those needs and the desired intervals between maintenance appointments.
Keeping a maintenance log also gives you an easy way to track previous maintenance requests when you're trying to pinpoint the source of a problem with your boiler. By scanning your log for trends, you'll be able to see where your boiler's problem areas are and check those locations more closely for malfunctions. You'll be able to diagnose problems before they escalate and require an emergency shutdown.
6. Monitor for Pressure Loss
Because of their closed design and the expansion that occurs when water becomes steam, boilers are under a lot of pressure. Pressure loss generally indicates a leak somewhere in the boiler system. You can check for pressure loss by monitoring your boiler's pressure gauge — the needle should be somewhere in the green range, with the red ranges indicating critical scenarios.
If your boiler system is experiencing pressure loss, you'll want to check the valves, where leaks can be frequent. You'll also want to inspect the tank exterior, since this is another common area for leaks to develop. Or, if your tank has an on-off style water feed, the cold feedwater may be reducing steam production when it enters the tank, dropping the pressure temporarily.
An undersized heating element can also cause low pressure in a boiler system. A heating element that is too small will fail to boil the water sufficiently to generate the required amount of steam. If you've recently had heating elements in your boiler replaced, a missized element could be the reason for your boiler's pressure loss.
7. Measure Gauge Performance
To ensure accurate monitoring of your boiler system, you'll first need to evaluate your gauges and ensure they are working correctly. For instance, if your older pressure gauge is reading low, but your system seems to be functioning normally, the gauge may be outdated. Most modern boiler systems put out lower pressure amounts than traditional ones, and it's possible your gauge needs configuring for the newer system.
If you need new gauges for your boiler, be sure to have professionals install and calibrate them. That way, you'll know you're getting the accurate information you need to keep your boiler in top shape.
8. Fix Steam and Water Leaks
If you locate steam or water leaks, you'll need to have them repaired immediately before they get any worse. Call a professional to perform these repairs, so you can be sure of the quality of the work.
How can you check for steam and water leaks? One way is to inspect the tank exterior. In boilers with open systems that use fresh water, the water in the tank can sometimes boil excessively at the waterline and create a hole in the cast iron. To test for this damage, you can check visually, or you can have an expert come out to shut down your boiler system and then refill the tank up to the piping. If this method uncovers a leak, you'll need a professional repair right away.
Leaks may also occur away from the tank — for instance, at the valves or air vents. Using a water meter is one way to tell if your closed-loop system is leaking and get started on a repair.
One reason leaks are so problematic is that in addition to releasing steam and water, they also let potentially contaminated air and water in. This untreated water can harm the boiler, causing excessive corrosion, microbial contamination or general wear and tear. It's essential to address any issues right away, especially if you have multiple leaks and need to get entire elements replaced.
9. Know When to Call for Help
The critical thing to remember about boiler treatment is that you can always call for assistance. Getting professional help with maintenance and having a reputable water treatment company treat your brewery boiler water can minimize your need for costly repairs and keep your boiler in top shape.
You may be able to adjust minor boiler issues yourself. But with more significant problems like leaks, unexplained pressure loss, malfunctioning gauges and extensive scaling or corrosion, working with a professional gives you peace of mind that you'll get your problem solved quickly and accurately.
Our Services for Brewery Boilers
At Chardon Laboratories, we offer several different boiler water treatments for brewery boilers to help eliminate scaling and prevent corrosion.
- Complimentary assessment: Our first step is to perform a free evaluation of your brewery boiler to determine its condition and service needs.
- Chemical treatments: We offer superior chemical treatments to help prevent scale buildup, inhibit corrosion and maintain high performance in your brewery boiler. We'll deliver the chemicals, add them to your water and dispose of the containers for you. All our chemical treatment technicians have received International Organization for Standardization certification, so you can feel confident in the quality and safety of the chemical application.
- Regular testing: We'll set up a customized water treatment plan that tests your water regularly to determine when more chemicals are necessary. That way, you won't end up paying for chemicals you don't need.
- Peak use and off-season care: Your brewery probably has times of high and low demand, and use of your boiler will fluctuate accordingly. We can give your boiler the optimal service for its peak usage and slower times.
- Ongoing maintenance: Once we've treated your brewery boiler, our top priority is to ensure its long-term performance. We'll provide ongoing maintenance at a fixed price, so you'll never receive a repair bill that's much higher than you expect.
- Chemical-free treatments: If your brewery is looking for a greener option than regular chemical use, we can offer a chemical-free alternative to our standard water treatments. This sustainable, eco-friendly solution helps you reduce wastewater, earn LEED credits, control scale and erosion and save your brewery thousands of dollars in maintenance and repair costs.
Contact Chardon Laboratories for Dependable Boiler Water Treatment
To see the benefits of chemical treatment for your brewery boiler, make Chardon Laboratories your trusted provider. At Chardon, we understand the need for a clean and efficient brewing process and how steam production plays a vital role. Our proven chemical treatments help you conserve energy, produce steam more efficiently, reduce repairs and lower costs, and we can customize a treatment program for your brewery's specific needs.
Contact us today to learn more.