Cast Iron Sectional Boilers
Perhaps one of our favorite boilers to work on is a cast iron sectional boiler with a power-head. Cast iron boilers are very fun to work on because they are really cool boilers. From the manufacturing of the sections, to the assembly of the boiler, everything about a large cast iron sectional boiler with a power head requires skill and experience, and it is always enjoyable to see the fruits of your labor when creating something fantastic. The sections are formed by using sand to hold the liquid iron in place while it cools and hardens. The techniques used to create the sections are both impressive and fascinating. The transportation and positioning of the extremely heavy and brittle cast iron sections to the assembly point requires great care and skill, and the assembly and design of the boiler system requires both skill and experience. At the end of every job, the boiler maker steps back to look at the works of his hands and cannot help but feel a great deal of satisfaction about what he has built.
Believe it or not, but many mechanical contractors and boiler makers will reduce the job cost if they feel that they will enjoy doing a certain job. For Johnson Heating and Cooling, LLC, we give very good pricing on cast iron sectional steam boilers with power heads, not just because we are skilled at doing boiler work, but also because we really enjoy it.
A cast iron sectional boiler is composed of several sections which are formed though a process using casted iron. The sections are designed to fit together perfectly and to be held in place using tie bolts or tie rods, which typically run along the four corners of the boiler and must be fastened using a torque wrench which is set to a torque setting specific to each boiler manufacturer's guidelines. Fiberglass rope and high temperature sealant trap the combustion air in the parts of the boiler where it is intended to be, and tapered sleeves fit between the sections in machined holes to connect the water jacket from one section to another. Typically, knobs are built into the casting so that the combustion air drafts more slowly when moving along the sections' surface area. In addition to slowing the draft of the combustion air, the knobs also serve to increase the total surface area of the sections that are in contact with the combustion air.
When building a cast iron sectional boiler it is very important that the boiler maker be very experienced. While an inexperienced boiler maker might simply follow the instructions and tighten the tie rods or tie bolts to a specific torque setting (and that is assuming that they even do that), and proceed with the next step in the construction process, an experienced boiler maker will know that it is prudent to not only follow the instructions, but also perform tasks not written in the instructions, like for example, spraying the threads of the tie bolts or tie rods with graphite spray, which will protect the threads for years to come. Applying graphite spray to the threads of tie bolts is not likely to be found in the instruction manual, however, it may become critically important in the years to come. There are many "tricks of the trade" that cannot be found in any books, but a talented and experienced boiler maker is able to bring these "tricks of the trade" to bear when doing his work. Often, small cast iron sectional boilers come pre assembled, weight being the primary factor in determining whether or not boilers will be pre-assembled or unassembled. Usually boilers with less than 500,000 BTU/Hr. output will come pre-assembled, while larger boilers will come unassembled.
The design of the piping on a cast iron sectional boiler system is of critical importance, and because every job is different, the boiler manufacturer does not include specific instructions on the proper piping configuration for each installation. On cast iron sectional steam boilers, for example, improper header construction or design may cause wet steam to be supplied to the system, or may even cause the boiler's sections to crack due to the pressures of expanding pipe, when that pipe is heated. Many design deficiencies may go unnoticed for years and a percent here or there adds up to quite a bit of money wasted, when calculated over the coarse of a typical cast iron sectional boiler's life time. In addition to improper piping causing problems and performance issues with cast iron sectional steam boilers, drafting and combustion problems may occur if the installation of the boiler is performed by an inexperienced boiler maker. Imagine learning that the original contractor who installed a boiler system did a very poor job and that the boiler did not perform as well as it should have for the last ten years. This situation happens all too often, but not when Johnson Heating and Cooling, LLC is contracted to do boiler work. We are very skilled and very experienced boiler makers. Even though the owner of Johnson Heating and Cooling was only born in 1980, when you grow up working in the trades from the age of 12 onward, you have a huge advantage over the competition. Like some other boiler makers in Michigan, our profession is a family tradition. When a person grows up working with well renowned professionals, and even more, when he grows up working with family members who care about his development, that person cannot help but be very skilled at his profession.
Cast iron sectional boilers offer unparalleled robust design and construction. The iron castings need to be thicker to be structurally sound, so they are more resilient to corrosion than other styles of boilers. While a typical cast iron boiler may have a heat exchanger thickness of a half an inch, a typical condensing boiler's heat exchanger may be as thin as 0.07 inches, all be it high grade stainless steel. While it's not terribly uncommon to find a heat exchanger on a boiler that has failed, it is very uncommon to find a failed heat exchanger on a cast iron sectional boiler. Anyone who has had to demolish a cast iron sectional boiler can attest to it's durability. A young man, in his prime, is barely able to break the sections on an average cast iron sectional boiler with a sledge hammer. Multiple hits must be made to crack the average section of a cast iron sectional boiler, and about half of the time, the hammer just bounces off of the section without even damaging it. Imagine hitting a thin piece of steel with a sledge hammer and having it bounce off of the steal without even causing a dent. It doesn't sound very likely. Generally speaking, the cast iron sections on a cast iron sectional boiler are made to last 100 years, while the other components on the boiler are only designed to last 30 or 40 years. Also a consideration is the fact that most cast iron sectional boilers have very simple controls that are widely available from a variety of parts suppliers. High efficiency boilers are less attractive from a repair standpoint because they often utilize specific controllers and circuit boards made only for that model of boiler. It may be that the operation costs of a high efficiency boiler outweigh any repair cost consideration, but all factors concerning the bottom line should still be considered when choosing a specific boiler type. It's always important to remember the second law of thermodynamics when considering mechanical systems. The second law of thermodynamics states that things in a closed system go from order to disorder, which means that "stuff always breaks". Every transistor, relay, and switch has a cycle life time, or a certain number of times that it can perform it's intended function before failing. The more links in the chain, the more likely a failure. Most cast iron sectional boilers have the benefit of very simple and small controls circuits, which basically equates to less links in the chain.
If you live in the State of Michigan and need boiler repair, boiler installation, boiler service, or just a good boiler repair company, give us a call. We have two decades of experience working on boilers and hydronic heating systems, our rates are competitive, and we always treat our customers the way that we would like our families to be treated if they were in your shoes. If you would like to learn more about some of the work that we have done, and look into some of our references that are local to you, just navigate to our contact page and click on the link to your township or city. We have listed a few references from several areas in Macomb and Oakland Counties that are organized under their respective township/city and area codes.
Boiler Service and Maintenance
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