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A consideration of the losses in boiler efficiency, due to the effects of excess air, clearly indicates the necessity of maintaining the brick setting of a boiler tight and free from air leaks. In view of the temperatures to which certain portions of such a setting are subjected, the material to be used in its construction must be of the best procurable.
Boiler settings to-day consist almost universally of brickwork—two kinds being used, namely, red brick and fire brick.
The red brick should only be used in such portions of the setting as are well protected from the heat. In such location, their service is not so severe as that of fire brick and ordinarily, if such red brick are sound, hard, well burned and uniform, they will serve their purpose.
The fire brick should be selected with the greatest care, as it is this portion of the setting that has to endure the high temperatures now developed in boiler practice. To a great extent, the life of a boiler setting is dependent upon the quality of the fire brick used and the care exercised in its laying.
The best fire brick are manufactured from the fire clays of Pennsylvania. South and west from this locality the quality of fire clay becomes poorer as the distance increases, some of the southern fire clays containing a considerable percentage of iron oxide.
Until very recently, the important characteristic on which to base a judgment of the suitability of fire brick for use in connection with boiler settings has been considered the melting point, or the temperature at which the brick will liquify and run. Experience has shown, however, that this point is only important within certain limits and that the real basis on which to judge material of this description is, from the boiler man’s standpoint, the quality of plasticity under a given load. This tendency of a brick to become plastic occurs at a temperature much below the melting point and to a degree that may cause the brick to become deformed under the stress to which it is subjected. The allowable plastic or softening temperature will naturally be relative and dependent upon the stress to be endured.