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How much will Boiler Treatment Really Cost Me?

Spending hours scouring the internet only to come up empty handed on any question just isn’t acceptable by today’s standards. We have found there is a gap in readily available information regarding Boiler Water Treatment programs and their associated  costs. For a new business or first-time manager, knowing which factors are important and which level of treatment is required, will be key to calculating your estimated monthly costs to have a quality Water Treatment program. To address this problem, we have provided a series of guidelines that will point you in the right direction and make you feel more confident as you evaluate program options to maintain your boiler system.

The Boiler Treatment

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘how much will boiler treatment really cost me?‘ Well first, what makes a bad versus a good boiler treatment program?  Not being an expert in the field raises the level of difficulty to decipher a good deal, someone who is reputable, and the program that will do the job. These may not all be equally available.  To help with this process, our article How to Choose a Water Treatment Company can be referenced. Ultimately, a bad treatment program will result in spending more money on water and energy costs.

On the other hand, a good program will precisely place the chemical injection points, leading to reduced water and energy costs. A good program should also address the following:

  1. Pitting and general corrosion within the boiler’s internals along with scale control and sludge conditioning. Preventing pitting and general corrosion are important to prevent leaks and replacing boiler tubes. Preventing scale and controlling sludge will ensure your boiler internals are not insulated, fuel usage doesn’t increase, and in some extreme cases, tube failures.
  2. Feedwater treatment ensures that dissolved oxygen is removed or treated before the water enters the boilers. Dissolved oxygen causes pitting, which leads to holes in the boiler tubes (similar to what drilled holes would look like).
  3. Condensate corrosion protection guarantees when the steam condenses back to liquid water it is kept at a proper pH for reuse as boiler feed water

When discussing with a Water Treater your Boiler Treatment program, four basic principals are used to determine a cost analysis.

  1. Type of system being treated
  2. Equipment required to treat
  3. Water Quality
  4. Personnel availability

Type of System being Treated

Steam boiler systems fall into 2 categories, process system and comfort heating systems.
Comfort heating systems typically run during the winter months to provide heat for a building. They can also run at a reduced load in summer to provide hot water for the building. In a comfort heating system, you will typically return close to 100%, unless there are leaks in the system.
Process systems use the steam in a manufacturing process and can run anywhere from a couple hours a week to all hours of the day and night. In a process system, another driving factor in cost is returned condensate. The less condensate returned to boiler feedwater tank, the more make-up water a system uses. That will then increase the amount of water that needs to be chemically treated. Systems can range anywhere from 80-90% to 0% down returned condensate.

The cost of these programs is determined by the following:

The size of the boiler system

The size of a boiler is measured in horsepower, the more horsepower, the larger the boiler and the more it will cost to treat. The average cost of a service agreement will range anywhere from $1 to $2 per boilers HP (horsepower) per month.

The run time of the system

There are two types of run times a boiler can be used for and those are Process and Seasonal. The more months of a year that the boiler is being run, the more the cost of treatment will increase. For example, when a boiler is ran less than a year it may add some costs to the general program to start and stop the boiler, but because it will not be running all year, it likely will be cheaper over a 12 month period as compared to a full time boiler.  In terms of costs, if a boiler would normally cost $2/HP (per month) to treat for a full year, and the boiler is operated for only 50% of the year, you likely could estimate around 50% reduction in cost to treat annually, plus and start up and shut costs.

Quality of the makeup water

Depending on the city or town from which you receive your water, the water will be treated differently. Was the water pre-treated at all? Was a softener used? The quality of water plays a big part in the cost for the water treatment program. The more your water was treated beforehand, the less expensive it will be. Quality ranges from unsoftened city supplied or private well systems, to softened water (which is a recommended minimal source for steam boilers, to RO or DI make up water). As the quality of the makeup water increases, the amount of cycles of concentration you can run a system also increases. The more cycles you can run, the less make up water you need to add to a system.  In essence, the better the water ahead of time, the less treatment required for the boiler and the more likely the costs will align with $1/HP instead of $2/HP (per month).

Industry boiler gas burner

Equipment required to treat 

Options for equipment required to treat a steam boiler system range from adding treatment manually to complete automation of chemical feed and surface blow down. Manual feeds should only be considered if a company has the personnel available to do it. Bottom blow down always need to be done manually. The most effective options for automating the other tasks is to install blow down controllers, chemical feed pumps, timers, and chemical feed injection points.  All can be configured to set up a system that would require minimal to zero in-house responsibilities. Depending on the system requirements, costs can range from several hundreds to thousands of dollars.

 

 

Personnel availability

Depending on size and availability of a company, maintaining your system can be handled different ways. Some plants or buildings have in house personnel that can maintain the chemical treatment program, add treatment blow down boiler, and monitor or test boiler water at regular intervals, as well as adjust if needed. Some buildings have limited personnel with limited time and resources to do this properly, if at all. This will also determine the type of service program required from your water treatment vendor. For example, a service visit rate per hour could range from $75 to an upwards of $250 depending on the service work required during the visit.   For companies trying to save money, it might be worth having someone inhouse ready to take on this extra task.

The Bottom Line

A company who owns a 300 HP steam boiler would approximately pay anywhere from $300 to $600 each month to treat. The difference in cost would depend on run time, water quality, and how much steam is lost and not recovered as condensate return.  As the cost to treat rises, lower quality make-up water, as well as a low amounts of condensate return is typically the culprit.  Conversely, as the feed water improves and the less loss of steam, the costs will drastically reduce.  Bottom-line is proper treatment programs reduce all over costs for the lifetime of the boiler.  This includes investing capital to keep all auxiliary equipment well maintained.  Companies should invest in routine service visits, proper chemical treatment programs, and making recommended improvements to the equipment as needed.