We have a 10-year old boiler fired up, and a chemical rep told us we should be using a series of chemicals to prevent corrosion and build-up of minerals. A rather expensive array of chemicals it seemed to me (about $600/year).
The guy who installed the boiler said this was just a chemical supply rip-off with vastly over priced, & not necessary chemicals. He said a shot of sodium metabisulfate would do all we need, with maybe an annual descaler.
Any thoughts on who is right?
I would not call it a rip off, however, I have found that it pays to keep a close eye on boiler chemical salesman.
Speaking from experience, properly treating a boiler can save you money from preventing boiler failure. When your boiler goes, not only do you have to purchase a new one, but in many cases, you can't make any beer while it isn't working. A boiler can also be quite dangerous if it is not properly maintained. It does not take that long to have corrosion wear through tubes in a boiler with no treatment, depending on your water.
The ideal boiler treatment will vary based upon your system and your local water chemistry. In many cases, you can actually prevent the majority of corrosion and scaling by just putting a water softener on the feed line. If your system is an "open" system at all, you will also want to add an oxygen scavenger to eliminate O2 in your boiler water.
There are also chemicals that reduce scale build up in steam lines, as well as ones that help produce "dry steam", which means way better heating performance in your kettle or mast tun.
Over treating you boiler can have adverse consequences as well. I have had several chemical salesmen attempt to "over-dose" my boiler (more chemical means more commissions!). An acid environment (PH<7) will accelerate corrosion. A constant ph environment of 11 or above can cause the steel in your boiler to become brittle, possibly leading to catastrophic failure. I'm sure you have some sort of PH measuring ability in your brewery, use it on your boiler water. It's not all about ph, but in general the ideal ph range for your boiler water will be between 9 and 10.
By best advice is to learn more about operating a boiler, and find a chemical supplier that you trust, and closely monitor what they do. It might be worth visiting with your state boiler inspector - sometimes they can be very helpful.
Ajax boiler treatment
We just purchased a used brewery with an Ajax boiler/low pressure
model #HNG600W. We will be using an RO system for all incoming brewing and Boiler water, will we need any additional boiler feed water conditioning
Beersmith gave a great explanation of the requirement for water treatment in boiler systems. We start with GAC filtered water and add chemicals as well to our Parker 15 Hp.
Originally Posted by nohandslance
In addition to that fine write-up I would add that there's also a treatment for reducing carbonic acid build-up in the boiler system, which causes acidification and corrosion in the system. When water boils, it creates a small amount of CO2, which forms carbonic acid in the condensate tank, if you have one. If you are just venting the traps to a drain line and not returning to a condensate tank, then this is probably reduced quite a bit. We don't use it at some risk because we use our steam in a mix valve to produce hot water. The carbonic acid treatment travels in the steam and is not food grade.
I had a very bad experience with a chemical sales rep. and their product while brewing in the U.S. . I would beware if your rep. is from Nalco, who mistreated, overdosed, and screwed up the boiler I inherited at a brewpub, before I learned what I needed to know.
The boiler tech who installed the new boiler for me directed me to a friend he knew that did boiler maintence and chemical treatment, independant of any particular line of chemicals. If you have a service contract with a HVAC firm, get to know the top boiler guy and see if he knows what or who the large boiler affiliated industries use in your area. This may be a good jumping off point if you're looking for a consultant to do monthly testing and chemical treatment. My contract with the consultant was less than $100/month and included all testing and chemicals.
Boiler Water treatment
Thanks for input. I have installed a water softener, and will organize some treatments. I haven't found a good source yet in Canada. My local fellow was asking $30 for pH papers which I know cost maybe $3, then he suggested a Molybdate test kit for $225, which I see going elsewhere for $25, so when I see $300 for a pail of boiler treatment (enough for 10,000 gallon) the red flages way up. I would still need to do the testing. I'll see if anyone local does boiler maintainence, but I haven't heard of anyone.