Steam Boiler Efficiency

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10 Tips for Boosting Steam Boiler Efficiency

Hot water or steam boilers provide process and HVAC heat for your business, which is essential as winter approaches and the cold sets in. Since boilers get plenty of use, especially during the cold months, efficiency is a necessity for the environment and your budget. Here are some ways to conserve energy through steam boiler efficiency to keep your utility expenses to a minimum.

10 Ways to Improve Steam Boiler Efficiency

Options for improving boiler efficiency cover everything from upgrading equipment to improving operating processes and ensuring the unit receives regular service.

1. Add Insulation

Heat loss is almost always a concern with boilers, which causes them to lose thermal efficiency.  Line the pipes with fiberglass insulation, including all valves and traps, to lock in heat and boost thermal efficiency. If you notice your utility bill is costing more or the building is cooler than usual, but no one has touched the thermostat, check the insulation, imperfections, or worn areas, which may affect system performance.

2. Change the Burners

Weak burners put stress on your boiler and cause it to run inefficiently, so replacing them soon after they begin to deteriorate will reduce your business’s heating costs and energy consumption. Ask your technician to check for wear and tear on linkage components, misaligned burner heads and adequate combustion air at every maintenance appointment. 

They may also recommend energy-efficient parts to replace the problematic components.  A linkageless burner upgrade can normally be performed without replacing the entire burner.  This can improve fuel-to-steam efficiency and combustion performance by as much as 5% and can usually pay for itself in a short period of time.

3. Balance Combustion Air

 All boilers require combustion air to function, but too much gas will reduce efficiency. Conversely, too little air will result in decreased efficiency, pollution, soot, and potentially explosive gases. Because the correct ratio will depend on your boiler, have your technician perform a quarterly combustion analysis.  Fuel/air ratio adjustment through the combustion analysis process is key to maintaining an efficient boiler system.

4. Install an Economizer

Instead of letting the excess hot flue gas go to waste, you can recover and use it more effectively by installing an economizer. This device transfers the expelled gas to the expired heat sink as it flows through the tubing. This process lowers the amount of fuel required by the boiler to produce steam. Besides improving efficiency, the economizer also reduces pollution that occurs during operation. 

Economizers are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. They also require minimal maintenance, saving your company time and labor. 

5. Use a Variable Frequency Drive

Most modern boilers have a variable frequency drive (VFD). Without one in your system, you may miss out on significant power savings.

A VFD utilizes the concept of affinity laws for pumps and fans. These laws address the relationship between the variables that impact hydraulically powered pump and fan performance. The VFD works by automatically throttling the unit’s motor when detecting excessive power loads. By reducing the time that the motor needs to operate at full speed, a VFD enables improved control and lower energy consumption. 

6. Clean the Fireside and Waterside

Soot accumulation around the fireside of the tubes is a common issue that affects steam boiler efficiency, especially with older units. A substantial soot layer reduces the heat transfer rate and increases fuel consumption, resulting in higher operating costs. Regularly cleaning the boiler tubes by removing soot will improve the equipment’s performance. 

It’s also important to inspect the boiler’s waterside to check for leaks and scale. Leaks can impede the heat transfer process and prevent water from cooling the heat transfer surfaces. Untreated scale deposits can eventually cause the boiler to overheat, resulting in potentially costly repairs. 

7. Manage the Blowdown Rate

While boiler blowdown is essential for removing impurities and keeping surfaces clean, it also removes heat from the system. If your boiler utilizes a continuous blowdown, it’s important to control dissolved solids effectively to minimize heat loss. Installing an automatic blowdown valve can facilitate this process and conserve heat and energy. 

Recovering the heat from a blowdown can also make a boiler more efficient. Installing a blowdown heat exchanger or flash tank allows you to capture this energy.

8. Reduce Steam Consumption

High-efficiency steam boilers require less steam usage. Besides insulating the pipes and tanks, you can install a condensate system to reduce consumption at the deaerator and within the boiler unit. You should also survey your steam traps regularly to ensure they’re not worn out or stuck in the open position.

9. Cut Down on Carryover

Boiler carryover refers to anything but clean steam that exits through the unit’s header. Carryover can consist of water, contaminants in vapor, and dissolved solids. These impurities leave deposits around the steam system that reduce efficiency and can cause damage. Regular service can detect carryover and eliminate its cause. 

10. Schedule Professional Maintenance

Perhaps the best way to ensure continued boiler efficiency is by setting up a professional maintenance schedule. Your contractor will inspect it for signs of damage and perform repairs to boost its functionality. They’ll also let you know when it’s time for a replacement. 

It is best to have regular maintenance performed at least quarterly in addition to the required annual inspection.  Deficiencies can be discovered during the quarterly inspections and remedied prior to the annual inspection so the boiler is not red-tagged by the state and your boilers can be put back on-line without delay.

Contact Smith Hughes to Improve Steam Boiler Efficiency

Whether you need a hot oil heater rental, thermal fluid heater or any other type of rental boiler, we have the resources you need available whenever you need them. Smith Hughes services boilers nationwide.

Keep your boiler in excellent shape with maintenance and repair services from Smith Hughes Company. For over 75 years, they have provided installations, boiler rentals, Vapor Steam Generators, Superior Boiler Equipment and industrial water treatment services to customers throughout the United States. Call 1-888-956-SHCO to ask about their inventory of boilers for sale, and visit the website to learn more about their 24-hour emergency services. 

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