Why do you need to optimize your boiler system?
Some people overlook the necessity of boiler system maintenance. They react when things go wrong but don’t take sufficient preventive measures. Here are some reasons why staying on top of upkeep could help a company’s bottom line and ensure its equipment operates safely.
Boost Efficiency While Lowering Costs
Keeping industrial boilers optimized can bring benefits such as reduced emissions, lowered costs and better efficiency. However, it’s too labor- and time-intensive to task someone with continually monitoring and adjusting the fuel and air parameters that affect performance. This is especially true when contending with fluctuating characteristics, such as unit load and fuel composition.
Thus, the usual approach is to find the combustion optimization comfort zone. It’s the range that requires few ongoing adjustments and reduces the possibility of incomplete combustion. However, staying within it for too long interferes with maximum efficiency and can cut into profitability.
An alternative is to automate the process. A power company in North Dakota took that approach by using a specialized platform to make adjustments automatically. During an 18-month test period, company representatives logged a 19.6 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions when the boiler operated at full load. The statistics also showed improvements of up to 2.85 per cent concerning the gross unit load versus net unit heat rate.
Many automation-based systems connect to sensors that measure dozens or even hundreds of data points. That makes it easier to spot unusual trends and address them promptly. Automating boiler optimization is not the right solution for every company. However, investing in purpose-built automation tools can be a smart move when leaders want to capitalize on mechanization without being extremely familiar with it.
Save Energy and Get Consistent Results
Keeping a boiler system optimized also involves verifying it operates on the right cycle times. Boilers activate according to various loads, and some respond to differences by adjusting the burner’s firing rate. Alternatively, during low-load periods, the boiler’s burner may go into a deactivated state until it requires more heat.
However, even once a boiler turns off, heat continues coming from the boiler jacket, and air will flow through the system to cool it. When it cycles on again, it consumes energy to recover from those internal temperature changes.
Install Several Boilers to Reduce Cycling
A boiler will have a lower seasonal efficiency when the unit cycles too often. One method of reducing those losses is to install several smaller boilers. Reducing the capacity will cut down on cycling. Plus, equipment operators can save money during low-load conditions, which may only require one boiler operating at a time. As the load increases, more boilers can be activated to compensate for it.
Another benefit of using more than one boiler is that there will not be a total shutdown if one unexpectedly breaks down or needs maintenance. Although people may expect less energy efficiency if using several units rather than one, the situation described here highlights why that’s not necessarily true. Changing the number of boilers used can cut down on cycle time, helping companies save money and achieve better energy efficiency.
Know That Ongoing Maintenance Reduces Costly Surprises
Implementing a thorough maintenance program is a proactive way to improve boiler optimization. It also minimizes a company’s chances of experiencing a major failure that affects profits and could put people’s safety at risk.
Begin by understanding how a boiler’s temperature changes necessitate looking for abnormalities. A cycled operation produces temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit before cooling off. Those ongoing temp changes cause gaskets and fiberglass insulation to wear over time. The refractory materials in a boiler’s lining expand and contract as the material heats and cools.
There’s also an event called thermal shock, which brings sudden, drastic temperature changes. Those cause immediate and more severe damage to a boiler’s refractory linings. Thus, an essential step in ongoing maintenance involves checking for signs of cracks and erosion.
While performing boiler system maintenance, it’s also crucial to check for buildup on the unit’s heat-transfer surfaces, such as the evaporator and reheater. Materials like soot decrease the unit’s operating efficiency. However, keeping things clean is a simple and vital way to improve results.
Getting into the habit of regular maintenance can help company representatives avoid costly and inconvenient boiler failures. Moreover, when people become more familiar with a unit’s typical operation and condition through upkeep, they’ll become aware of when replacement is needed to achieve optimal performance.
Work With a Service Provider to Upgrade Aging Boilers
Cases often exist where no amount of maintenance can make an older boiler as optimized as a newer one. Besides the increased likelihood of less-than-ideal performance metrics, the reliability of old units reduces with age.
When decision-makers worry about the dependability of their boilers, they may immediately think the only solution is to invest in new equipment. However, several leading boiler companies offer an alternative called steam-as-a-service. Miura joined Hartford Steam Boiler and Armstrong International to provide the new option.
Paul O’Donnell, Miura’s vice president of strategic development, explained, “Steam has become so vital to processing industries, schools, hospitals and other markets, but there are growing challenges when it comes to having the capital to invest in the latest technologies to replace aging, fuel-hungry infrastructures, as well as a dwindling expert workforce to operate and maintain the equipment.”
People who use the service get modular boiler equipment with Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities. The monthly fee also covers all on-site maintenance needs. This arrangement could help company leaders pursue boiler optimization at more manageable costs.
Boiler System Maintenance Makes Good Business Sense
Following best practices for maintaining a boiler and looking for additional optimization opportunities can help companies save money, reduce emissions, enhance efficiency and improve visibility. It should help a business maintain competitiveness and profitability.
About the author: Emily Newton is an industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized.