Failure to automate the boiler blowdown process is causing a number of industrial steam users to overspend on labour and energy costs, according to a leading industry spokesperson. Mike Griffin, Emerging & Innovative Technologies Manager Northern Europe at Spirax Sarco, believes the critical boiler blowdown process, which needs to be activated regularly for any active steam boiler, can often inflate the running cost of a typical boilerhouse, and prevent it from becoming a bona fide unmanned plant.

Griffin commented: “While every steam boiler will have a bottom blowdown valve, there is a notable tendency for many engineers to persist in using the manual valve supplied with the boiler purely because it has always been there.

“The mistake many make is holding on to the belief that fitting an automated valve is unnecessary or little other than a ‘nice to have’. The reality is that an automated valve actually has a number of tangible benefits and should be considered as a way of improving thermal efficiency in the boilerhouse.”

Designed to bleed off undissolved solids present in chemically-treated boiler water, a bottom blowdown valve is key to ensuring the boiler remains clean, and that the furnace tube at the bottom of the boiler does not foul. However, by remaining loyal to a manual blowdown process, engineers run the risk of either failing to remove sufficient contaminants, or purging useful thermal energy and treated water.

Griffin continues: “By automating the blowdown process, engineers are able to remove any element of guesswork from the equation, which avoids the risk of too much or too little purging – both of which can prove extremely costly over the long term.

“When excess energy costs and labour are taken into account, an automatic valve can pay for itself in as little as 18 months to two years. It also has the added bonus of keeping the boilerhouse operational, efficient, and compliant, even when an engineer isn’t present. Given the growing number of unmanned boilers, these are all huge advantages to be considered.

“For a valve fitter, time is king, and the latest generation of products, such as Spirax Sarco’s Bottom Blowdown Valve, takes this into account by being quick and simple to install, and easy to maintain – not to mention designed to work in compliance with the BG01 guidance document. Designed to help reduce unnecessary energy and water losses once programmed, a Bottom Blowdown Valve can play a huge role in helping an organisation to hit its energy and sustainability targets.

“For these reasons, an automated blowdown process should be considered an essential, rather than a mere optional addition to the typical boiler plant.”

For more information, take a look at Spirax Sarco’s Bottom Blowdown Systems, or for expert advice on improving the performance of a steam system, visit the Spirax Sarco blog.