Boilerman's Duties

Regulation requires steam boiler to be operated by certified boilerman.  However,  boilerman’s duties may not be properly understood.

A boilerman certificate is much like a driving license.  A driver is not a qualified motor mechanic who can repair a vehicle.  Similarly, a boilerman operates a boiler.  He is not a repair or service technician for the boiler.

Water level

Over eighty percent of all boiler accidents are related to low boiler water.  Therefore, taking good care of the boiler water will eliminate eighty percent of boiler problems.

A boilerman’s first task on entering a boiler room is to inspect the level gauge of the boiler and feedwater tank.  A common practice is to size the feedwater tank to cater for ten minutes of boiler firing at maximum continuous rating (MCR).  Ten minutes is the time a boilerman may leave the boiler room.


 The primary purpose of blowdown is removal of dirt, sediment and scale.  It is an essential part of every boilerman’s duty.  ASME has recommended blowdown procedure.  It differentiates operation of quick- and slow-opening blowdown valve.  This procedure is not well known outside of US and seldom practiced.

Blowdown of water column

Every boilerman knows that boiler blowdown is essential, however, many do not carry out water column blowdown regularly.

Warm start-up vs cold start-up

Starting up a cold boiler needs more time in order to reduce thermal shock to the boiler.  The boiler must be fired at low fire until it reaches steaming temperature.  The air vent on the top of the boiler should be open during this time to release air  trapped in the boiler.  It should be closed when steam starts to appear. The whole process may take from thirty minute to one hour.  Many owners bark at boilerman working longer hour than the boiler without realizing the harm it may occur to the boiler started too fast.  There are factories that operate boilers round the clock throughout the year, stopping only once a year for annual overhaul.  They demand that the boiler be heated up slowly and put back into operation no sooner than twenty four hours.

Boiler should be controlled by the first valve mounted on the boiler

This is ASME’s requirement, yet most boilers are controlled by the valve on the steam header.  The boiler nozzle valve is never operated.  Yet the steam nozzle vale is serviced during annual overhaul and the header valve is not.

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