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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 16. Labor and Employment
Agency 25. Safety and Health Codes Board
Chapter 50. Boiler and Pressure Vessel Regulations

16VAC25-50-360. Power and High-Pressure, High-Temperature Water Boilers.

Part III
Existing Installations

A. Age limit of existing boilers.

1. The age limit of any boiler of nonstandard construction, installed before July 1, 1974, other than one having a riveted, longitudinal lap joint, shall be 30 years; however, any boiler passing a thorough internal and external inspection and not displaying any leakage or distress under a hydrostatic pressure test of 1-1/2 times the allowable working pressure held for at least 30 minutes may be continued in operation without reduction in working pressure. The age limit of any boiler having riveted, longitudinal lap joints and operating at a pressure in excess of 50 psig shall be 20 years. This type of boiler, when removed from an existing setting, shall not be reinstalled for a pressure in excess of 15 psig. A reasonable time for replacement, not to exceed one year, may be given at the discretion of the chief inspector.

2. The shell or drum of a boiler in which a typical lap seam crack is discovered along a longitudinal riveted joint for either butt or lap joints shall be permanently removed from service.

3. The age limit of boilers of standard construction, installed before July 1, 1974, shall be determined from the results of a thorough internal and external inspection by an authorized inspector and the application of an appropriate pressure test. Hydrostatic test pressure shall be 1-1/2 times the allowable working pressure and maintained for 30 minutes. The boiler may be continued in service at the same working pressure provided there is no evidence of leakage or distress under these test conditions.

4. The minimum temperature of the water used for the hydrostatic test of low-pressure boilers and pressure vessels shall be 60°F. The minimum temperature of the water used for the hydrostatic test of power boilers shall be 70°F or ambient whichever is greater.

B. The maximum allowable working pressure for standard boilers shall be determined in accordance with the applicable provisions of the edition of the ASME Code under which they were constructed and stamped.

C. 1. The maximum allowable working pressure on the shell of a nonstandard boiler shall be determined by the strength of the weakest section of the structure, computed from the thickness of the plate, the tensile strength of the plate, the efficiency of the longitudinal joint or tube ligaments, the inside diameter of the weakest course and the factor of safety allowed by this chapter.



Maximum allowable working pressure, psi



TS = ultimate tensile strength of shell plates, psi.

t = minimum thickness of shell plate, in weakest course, inches.

E = efficiency of longitudinal joint:

For tube ligaments, E shall be determined by the rules in the ASME Code, Section I.

For riveted joints, E shall be determined by the rules in the applicable edition of the ASME Code.

 For seamless construction, E shall be considered 100%.

R = inside radius of the weakest course of the shell, in inches.

FS = factor of safety permitted.

2. Tensile strength. When the tensile strength of steel or wrought iron shell plates is not known, it shall be taken as 55,000 psi.

3. Crushing strength of mild steel. The resistance to crushing of mild steel shall be taken at 95,000 psi of cross-sectional area.

4. Strength of rivets in shear. When computing the ultimate strength of rivets in shear, the following values, in pounds per square inch, of the cross-sectional area of the rivet shank shall be used.


Iron rivets in single shear


Iron rivets in double shear


Steel rivets in single shear


Steel rivets in double shear


When the diameter of the rivet holes in the longitudinal joints of a boiler is not known, the diameter and cross-sectional area of rivets, after driving, may be selected from Table 1, or as ascertained by cutting out one rivet in the body of the joint.

(in inches)

Plate of Thickness

Rivet Diameter after Driving























5. Factors of safety. The following factors of safety shall be increased by the inspector if the condition and safety of the boiler demand it:

a. The lowest factor of safety permissible on existing installations shall be 4.5 for vessels built prior to January 1, 1999. For vessels built on or after January 1, 1999, the factor of safety may be 4.0. Horizontal-return-tubular boilers having continuous longitudinal lap seams more than 12 feet in length shall have a factor of safety of eight. When this type of boiler is removed from its existing setting, it shall not be reinstalled for pressures in excess of 15 psig.

b. Reinstalled or secondhand boilers shall have a minimum factor of safety of six when the longitudinal seams are of lap-riveted construction, and a minimum factor of safety of five when the longitudinal seams are of butt-strap and double-strap construction.

D. Cast-iron headers and mud drums. The maximum allowable working pressure on a water tube boiler, the tubes of which are secured to cast iron or malleable-iron headers, or which have cast iron mud drums, shall not exceed 160 psig.

E. Pressure on cast iron boilers. The maximum allowable working pressure for any cast iron boiler, except hot water boilers, shall be 15 psig.

F. Safety valves.

1. The use of weighted-lever safety valves, or safety valves having either the seat or disk of cast iron, shall be prohibited. Valves of this type shall be replaced by direct, spring-loaded, pop-type valves that conform to the requirements of the current edition of the ASME Code, Section I.

2. Each boiler shall have at least one safety valve, and, if it has more than 500 square feet of water-heating surface or an electric power input of more than 500 kilowatts, it shall have two or more safety valves.

3. The valve or valves shall be connected to the boiler, independent of any other steam connection, and attached as close as possible to the boiler without unnecessary intervening pipe or fittings. Where alteration is required to conform to this requirement, the chief inspector shall allow the owner or user reasonable time in which to complete the work.

4. No valves of any description shall be placed between the safety valve and the boiler nor on the escape pipe, if used, between the safety valve and the atmosphere, except as provided by applicable sections of the current edition of the ASME Code. When an escape pipe is used, it shall be at least full size of the safety-valve discharge and fitted with an open drain to prevent water lodging in the upper part of the safety valve or escape pipe. When an elbow is placed on a safety valve escape pipe, it shall be located close to the safety-valve outlet or the escape pipe shall be anchored and supported securely. All safety valve discharges shall be located or piped as not to endanger persons working in the area.

5. The safety-valve capacity of each boiler shall be so that the safety valve or valves will discharge all the steam that can be generated by the boiler without allowing the pressure to rise more than 6.0% above the highest pressure to which any valve is set, and in no case to more than 6.0% above the maximum allowable working pressure.

6. One or more safety valves on every boiler shall be set at or below the maximum allowable working pressure. The remaining valves may be set within a range of 3.0% above the maximum allowable working pressure, but the range of setting of all the safety valves on a boiler shall not exceed 10% of the highest pressure to which any valve is set.

7. When two or more boilers, operating at different pressures and safety valve settings, are interconnected, the lower pressure boilers or interconnected piping shall be equipped with safety valves of sufficient capacity to prevent overpressure, considering the maximum generating capacity of all boilers.

8. In those cases where the boiler is supplied with feedwater directly from water mains without the use of feeding apparatus (not to include return traps), no safety valve shall be set at a pressure higher than 94% of the lowest pressure obtained in the supply main feeding the boiler.

9. The relieving capacity of the safety valves on any boiler shall be checked by one of the three following methods and, if found to be insufficient, additional valves shall be provided:

a. By making an accumulation test, which consists of shutting off all other steam-discharge outlets from the boiler and forcing the fires to the maximum. The safety-valve capacity shall be sufficient to prevent a rise of pressure in excess of 6.0% of the maximum allowable working pressure. This method shall not be used on a boiler with a superheater or reheater.

b. By measuring the maximum amount of fuel that can be burned and computing the corresponding evaporative capacity (steam-generating capacity) upon the basis of the heating value of this fuel. These computations shall be made as outlined in the appendix of the current edition of the ASME Code, Section I.

c. By measuring the maximum amount of feedwater that can be evaporated.

When either of the methods (b or c) outlined in this subdivision is employed, the sum of the safety-valve capacities shall be equal to or greater than the maximum evaporative capacity (maximum steam-generating capacity) of the boiler.

10. The relieving capacity of safety valves for forced-flow steam generators shall be in accordance with the requirements of the current edition of the ASME Code, Section I.

11. Safety valves and safety relief valves requiring repair shall be replaced with a new valve or repaired by the original manufacturer, its authorized representative or the holder of a "VR" Stamp.

G. Boiler feeding.

1. Each boiler shall have a feed supply that will permit it to be fed at any time while under pressure.

2. A boiler having more than 500 square feet of water-heating surface shall have at least two means of feeding, one of which shall be an approved feed pump or injector. A source of feed directly from water mains at a pressure 6.0% greater than the set pressure of the safety valve with the highest setting may be considered one of the means. As provided in the current edition of the ASME Code, Section I, boilers fired by gaseous, liquid or solid fuel in suspension may be equipped with a single means of feeding water provided means are furnished for the immediate shutoff of heat input if the water feed is interrupted.

3. The feedwater shall be introduced into the boiler in a manner so that it will not be discharged close to riveted joints of shell or furnace sheets, or directly against surfaces exposed to products of combustion, or to direct radiation from the fire.

4. The feed piping to the boiler shall be provided with a check valve near the boiler and a valve or cock between the check valve and the boiler. When two or more boilers are fed from a common source, there shall also be a valve on the branch to each boiler between the check valve and source of supply. Whenever a globe valve is used on feed piping, the inlet shall be under the disk of the valve.

5. In all cases where returns are fed back to the boiler by gravity, there shall be a check valve and stop valve in each return line, the stop valve to be placed between the boiler and the check valve, and both shall be located as close to the boiler as is practicable. No stop valves shall be placed in the supply and return pipe connections of a single boiler installation.

6. Where deaerating heaters are not employed, the temperature of the feedwater shall not be less than 120°F to avoid the possibility of setting up localized stress. Where deaerating heaters are employed, the minimum feedwater temperature shall not be less than 215°F so that dissolved gases may be thoroughly released.

H. Water level indicators.

1. Each boiler shall have at least one water gauge glass installed and located so that the lowest visible part of the water glass shall be at least two inches above the lowest permissible water level, at which level there will be no danger of overheating any part of the boiler when in operation at that level; except as provided by the current edition of the ASME Code.

2. No outlet connections (except for damper regulator, feedwater regulator, low-water fuel cutout, drain, steam gauges, or such apparatus that does not permit the escape of an appreciable amount of steam or water from it) shall be placed on the piping that connects the water column to the boiler. The water column shall be provided with a valved drain of at least 3/4 inch pipe size; the drain is to be piped to a safe location.

3. When the direct reading of gauge glass water level is not readily visible to the operator in his working area dependable indirect indications shall be provided utilizing remote level indicators or equipment to transmit the gauge glass image. When remote level indication is provided for the operator instead of the gauge glass, the minimum level reference shall be clearly marked.

I. Steam gauges.

1. Each steam boiler shall have a steam gauge, with dial range not less than 1-1/2 times the maximum allowable working pressure, connected to the steam space or to the steam connection to the water column. The steam gauge shall be connected to a siphon or equivalent device of sufficient capacity to keep the gauge tube filled with water and arranged so that the gauge cannot be shut off from the boiler except by a cock with a tee or lever handle placed in the pipe near the gauge. The handle of the cock shall be parallel to the pipe in which it is located when the cock is open.

2. When a steam gauge connection longer than eight feet becomes necessary, a shutoff valve may be used near the boiler provided the valve is of the outside-screw-and-yoke type and is locked open. The line shall be of ample size with provision for free blowing.

3. Each boiler shall be provided with a test gauge connection and suitable valving for the exclusive purpose of attaching a test gauge so that the accuracy of the boiler steam gauge may be ascertained while the boiler is in operation.

J. Stop valves.

1. Except for a single-boiler, prime-mover installation, each steam outlet from a boiler (except safety valve and water column connections) shall be fitted with a stop valve located as close as practicable to the boiler.

2. In a single-boiler, prime-mover installation the steam stop valve may be omitted provided the prime-mover throttle valve is equipped with an indicator to show whether the valve is open or closed and is designed to withstand the required hydrostatic pressure test of the boiler.

3. When a stop valve is so located that water can accumulate, ample drains shall be provided. The drainage shall be piped to a safe location and shall not be discharged on the top of the boiler or its setting.

4. When boilers provided with manholes are connected to a common steam main, the steam connection from each boiler shall be fitted with two stop valves having an ample free-blow drain between them. The discharge of the drain shall be visible to the operator and shall be piped clear of the boiler setting. The stop valves shall consist preferably of one automatic nonreturn valve (set next to the boiler) and a second valve of the outside-screw-and-yoke type.

K. Blowoff connection.

1. The construction of the setting around each blowoff pipe shall permit free expansion and contraction. Careful attention shall be given to the problem of sealing these setting openings without restricting the movement of the blowoff piping.

2. All blowoff piping, when exposed to furnace heat, shall be protected by firebrick or other heat-resisting material constructed so that the piping may be inspected.

3. Each boiler shall have a blowoff pipe, fitted with a valve or cock, in direct connection with the lowest water space. Cocks shall be of the gland or guard type and suitable for the pressure allowed. The use of globe valves shall not be permitted. Where the maximum allowable working pressure exceeds 100 psig, each blowoff pipe shall be provided with two valves or a valve and cock; however only one valve need be provided for forced-flow steam generators with no fixed steam and waterline, high-temperature water boilers, and those used for traction or portable purposes with less than 100 gallons normal water content.

4. Blowoff piping shall comply with the requirements of the current edition of the ASME Code, Section I and ASME B31.1, from the boiler to the valve or valves, and shall be run full size without use of reducers or bushings. All piping shall be steel. Galvanized steel pipe and fittings shall not be used for blowoff piping.

5. All fittings between the boiler and blowoff valve shall be of steel. In case of renewal of blowoff pipe or fittings, they shall be installed in accordance with this chapter for new installations.

L. Repairs and renewals of boiler fittings and appliances. Whenever repairs are made to fittings or appliances or it becomes necessary to replace them, such repairs or replacements shall comply with the requirements for new installations.

M. Each automatically fired steam boiler or system of commonly connected steam boilers shall have at least one steam pressure control device that will shut off the fuel supply to each boiler or system of commonly connected boilers when the steam pressure reaches a preset maximum operating pressure. In addition, each individual automatically fired steam boiler shall have a high steam pressure limit control that will prevent generation of steam pressure in excess of the maximum allowable working pressure.

N. Conditions not covered by this chapter. All cases not specifically covered by this chapter shall be treated as new installations pursuant to 16VAC25-50-280 or may be referred to the chief inspector for instructions concerning the requirements.

Statutory Authority

§ 40.1-51.6 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR425-01-75 § 3.1, eff. July 1, 1974; amended, eff. November 1, 1978; July 1, 1991; September 1, 1993; amended, Volume 15, Issue 05, eff. January 1, 1999 and April 1, 1999; Volume 29, Issue 05, eff. December 12, 2012; Volume 35, Issue 02, eff. November 1, 2018.

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