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Five Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Kettle

Buying a used processing kettle can be a great option for expanding your operation or replacing older equipment. Used kettles and other vessels can often be available more quickly for lower prices than you’d see if you were buying new.

But after weighing availability, price and basic design factors like shape, capacity and agitator type, there are other things you should weigh when deciding whether or not to buy a used kettle.

Here are five questions to explore as you make your decision:

1 – What was the kettle used for originally?

Determining what ingredients were processed in the used kettle under consideration is an important safety and liability issue. For example, a kettle previously used to mix or process hazardous, reactive chemicals or pharmaceutical products may pose a cross-contamination risk in food processing.

While the used kettle’s original manufacturer may be able to provide general information on the first buyer’s industry and application, this information may not be available for that kettle’s subsequent owners. Due to confidentiality agreements, the original owner and application information often cannot be disclosed. Unless you can establish a clear chain of ownership on a used kettle under consideration, you can never be sure of its prior use history.

2 – How will wear, defects, or unauthorized repairs affect your safety and liability?

Under section VIII of the A.S.M.E. code, processing kettles with steam and water jackets are classified as “unfired pressure vessels.” As a result, A.S.M.E. code guidelines must be followed and documented for any repairs or alterations made to the unit. Any repairs to a kettle can only be performed by a state-certified A.S.M.E. boiler technician, and all such repairs must also be inspected and receive an “R stamp” by a state-certified A.S.M.E. boiler inspector. 

It’s critically important to verify a documented record of all inspections and any certified repairs made to the used kettle you’re considering. Due to the significant safety and liability risk involved, you should absolutely avoid any kettle where undocumented or uncertified repairs have been made. 

3 – What are your custom requirements?

Most kettles on the used market were custom-built for their original owners with specific features and operating characteristics. As a result, the used kettle you are considering may not meet your production and safety requirements. 

The cost of major modifications – such as rebuilding the agitator drive, replacing worn parts or adding a larger discharge port –can put the total cost and time of buying a used kettle in line with those of a new kettle custom-designed for your needs.

4 – Are you prepared to repair your recently purchased used kettle and provide parts for preventative maintenance?

Most used equipment dealers don’t perform maintenance on the kettles in their inventory. To prevent costly downtime once that kettle is on your production floor, it’s essential to have this preventive maintenance done before the kettle is put into operation and to make sure you have access to the parts needed for future repairs on your equipment.

5 – Are you comfortable with a limited warranty (or no warranty at all)?

New kettles typically carry a warranty (Lee provides a two-year limited warranty), used kettles are most often sold “as is, where is,” without any warranty. In some instances, kettles that have been reconditioned by dealers may be sold with limited-time unsupported warranties. Generally, the best you can expect on a used kettle is a short-term warranty, which makes a thorough inspection and preventive maintenance vital to keeping production downtime to a minimum.

New or Used, Be Sure You’re Asking the Right Questions

Knowing the right questions to ask before you make your purchase is critically important, whether your next kettle is new or used.

And once you know the right questions, Lee industries can help you answer them. Lee offers A.S.M.E. certified repairs on all our used kettle sales, in addition to refinishing, complete rebuilds and upgrades. In addition, we maintain extensive records on all our equipment dating back to the 1940s and would be happy to bring our professional resources to your facility for any used Lee kettle purchase.

If you choose to buy used, evaluating the original use, repair history and how the kettle meets your current needs in light of your future use and warranty situation is a vital part of the process. We hope that these questions will help you make a satisfying, rewarding kettle decision. 

For more information to consider when weighing the decision to buy new or used, consider the Lee Industries guide New or Used Kettle? How to Make the Right Choice for Your Food Processing Operation.


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