Boiling point

Every laundry will have a boiler at its core to provide heated water and steam.

But like most things in life, what works quite happily in the background can become taken for granted and is only missed when it has failed. And this is a problem – since a failed boiler leads directly to downtime and a loss of business; and it’s compounded when maintenance schedules slip. In this month’s issue, Adam Bernstein examines the products, services, features and legal issues that can make a laundry sink or swim.

Fulton’s aftercare and business development manager, Jeff Byrne, starts by talking about technical boiler house risk assessments, from their legalities to the potential savings that can be achieved. He strongly advises that all laundries with a steam boiler “have a technical risk assessment in place for its boilers and boiler house.” And he says this because “it is required by law under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and is necessary to comply with the requirements of the CEA and SAFed’s documents BG01, HSE INDG 436 and HSE INDG 417 Rev1, under which steam, or hot water plant, should be operated.” Beyond the legalities of the matter, Byrne cautions that a faulty steam boiler brings with it the risk of a steam explosion: “With significant stored energy, failure of steam – or pressurised hot water boiler plant – can produce a similar level of destruction and/or devastation as a bomb, potentially causing catastrophic damage, serious injury and possibly multiple fatalities.” He points out that with around 100 pressure vessel failures and at least one fatality per year in the UK, according to the HSE, “the importance of a technical boiler house risk assessment (TBHRA) cannot be overstated.”

In his view, a TBHRA is therefore essential for owners, operators and managers “to ensure that staff are aware of the risks and their responsibilities for the safe operation and management of industrial steam and hot water boiler plant.” He reckons, from experience, that it is also likely to be the first thing a HSE inspector would ask to see in the event of an inspection.

All of this makes a TBHRA “a vital link in the safety chain” in the process of identifying risk and developing measures to mitigate against those risks, “thus,” as Byrne says, “ensuring the safety of all involved with the plant.” As he reiterates, “non-compliance with the law can result in substantial fines and the likelihood of a custodial sentence in the event of serious injury or a fatality.”

So, with the landscape set out, how does Fulton approach TBHRAs? In answer, Byrne says that Fulton’s method with the TBHRA “is to take a very collaborative approach with clients and use only experienced steam boiler and steam system engineers with over 60 years’ knowledge of not just steam boilers, but steam, water and condensate systems.” As he describes the process, the “highly-experienced team” will scrutinise and photograph every area of risk and will produce a full report proposing and prioritising mitigation measures. This will give owners, operators and managers reassurance “that their plant may be operated safely and that all relevant guidance and legislation is supported once any identified hazards are rectified.”

As to what a typical TBHRA finds, Byrne notes that unlike a vehicle MOT, a TBHRA does not pass or fail a steam system, but instead highlights hazards and the potential risk and then proposes measures to rectify any issues.

He refers to INDG 436 which says that “a risk assessment does not need to include excessive detail”. That said, in his experience, issues that are found often include many potential points of failure such as – boiler specification, location, operation and condition, poor record keeping, lack of suitable/ relevant training or trained operator absence cover, shortage of plant drawings and manuals, control system reliability, ventilation issues, poor/no suitable operational procedures, and water quality issues to name but a few. Once Fulton’s assessment is completed and delivered, Byrne says that there is no commitment by the customer to involve the company in any post-assessment remedial works. But he says that “the document will highlight areas of a steam system that requires attention and will prioritise the risk they pose from high priority (red) to lower priority (green).” He adds that Fulton’s assessment must also be made available to the boiler operator and, in the event of the sale of equipment, the new owner or operator.

Another point worth noting by Byrne is that a TBHRA “is a live document that should be updated on an ongoing basis when any changes or modifications affecting the operation of a boiler occurs.” This, he says, can include personnel changes, additional training, physical changes including boiler and burner upgrades, legislation amendments and so on. In a note of comfort, Byrne says that Fulton can offer support to a customer once the TBHRA has been completed, or during or after the annual review; this support can be provided onsite or via telephone or video conference assistance once the review is completed.

In summary, Byrne reckons that a TBHRA “offers excellent value for money because it not only highlights areas of potential risk for owners, operators and managers, but can also identify where enhancements to the steam system could lead to improved energy efficiency.” Consider, that the cost to replace an old, inefficient or dangerous burner could easily be offset within a few years by the fuel savings achieved through the upgrade. Add in the legal risks of non-compliance and it’s a ‘no-brainer’.

A typical skid-mounted boiler house installation featuring three Fulton VSRT steam boilers

Fulton say that technical boiler house risk assessments are essential to highlight hazards and areas of potential risk

60kW Twin 500L Cylinder: Blades Low Carbon Systems 230/500 comes with flue heat recovery

New 70kW Hot Water Only Server Mk2: Blades Low Carbon Systems’ 30/200 comes with flue heat recovery

Adrian Acaster, managing director at Blades Low Carbon Systems, explains that his company has been designing, manufacturing and suppling bespoke hot and coldwater delivery systems to laundries for the past 10 years.

As he says, “our bespoke laundry systems are designed to ensure that modern commercial washer-extractors operate at their optimum service levels to allow maximum returns to be achieved.” And to do this he says that “it is essential that hot and cold-water supplies meet the required delivery standard in both quantity and temperature. Poor hot and cold-water delivery can seriously affect the production efficiency of the washer-extractors and consequently the profitability of the company.” With this in mind, Acaster thinks that most laundries may be underperforming without even knowing it which is why he says that “at Blades we analyse requirements based on the machine specification and usage pattern, and with this data we can select the correct hot and cold-water system from our range of products.” To this he adds that “our water heaters can be used with either LPG or natural gas and is an ideal economic replacement for the traditional electric systems.”

In terms of his current product range, Acaster says that Blades water heaters can be supplied with 30kW to 230kW twin or single gas fired boilers, in conjunction with 100 litre to 500 litre hot water storage cylinders giving a range of model combinations to suit each site. All models can be supplied with space heating connections if required.

Acaster takes a moment to summarise the benefits of Blades water heaters. And in his view, there are many:

His boilers come with 10-year warranty and are ERP compliant; stainless steel cylinders are used and come with a lifetime replacement warranty; the company uses a standardised modular design that is pre-configured, factory assembled and tested prior to delivery to site to reduce installation, commissioning, downtime and replacement costs; they use a freestanding self-supporting rigid frame format that allows units to be easily integrated into existing plant rooms; frames come with a mobility wheel and adjustable levelling feet as standard; and a lease option is available to make units more affordable.

Reducing carbon emissions is something that Acaster says that Blades understands: “The issues surrounding climate change have always been in the forefront of our minds; we try to provide heating and hot water equipment which reduces carbon emissions but at the same time, appreciate the commercial considerations of maintaining a viable business and service level.” The net effect of this is, as Acaster claims, “our gas fired boiler systems are available with flue energy recovery systems and are currently the most carbon reducing commercial gas fired systems on the market, reducing both fuel costs and carbon emissions increasing the gas boiler system efficiency to 97 per cent.”

On an allied tangent, Acaster says that Blades understands “at the present time, it is impractical to rely on locally produced renewable energy to supply hot water for a commercial building where a continuous supply of hot water is required to enable the building to function.” This means that a continuous form of energy from the national grid is required, gas or electricity, to ensure a reliable supply of hot water is always available. However, as a solution, Blades has, says Acaster, developed hybrid systems which allows the integration of renewable systems with a gas boiler. This means that “when there is renewable energy available it supplements the energy input to the gas boiler, saving on both fuel and carbon emissions… in this way we are moving towards a greener environment without compromising the laundry operation.”

As for the future of boilers from Blades, Acaster says that the company is carrying out research into how best to reclaim waste energy from laundry equipment and use it to pre-heat the hot water system.

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