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Steamed About Boiler Operating Costs? Take Action Now

Key Points
  • Simple boiler maintenance and operation practices can reduce fuel waste and save on energy costs.
  • Component upgrades, such as economizers and burners, can increase boiler efficiency.
  • By upgrading to new, high-efficiency units, you can reduce boiler energy use by 20 percent or more. 

SteamedBoilers are used to produce steam for space heating and process heating. In many facilities, however, wasted fuel from inefficient boiler operations can really cause energy bills to rise. If rising fuel costs is putting the pressure on your energy budget, don't get steamed. Take the heat off with these simple, low-cost boiler maintenance and operational practices.

  • Adjust excess air levels. High excess oxygen levels in your boiler will result in wasted heat and lower efficiency. Excess oxygen levels should not exceed 6 percent. Monitor flue gas and adjust to maintain excess air at optimum levels. Use inexpensive flue gas analyzers and oxygen trim systems.
  • Manage operating schedules. Examine boiler operating schedules. Idle or shut down boilers during periods of no production, such as nights and weekends. Idling avoids the time and expense of restarting boilers, while shutdowns can potentially save more energy.
  • Monitor fuel gas temperature. If the flue gas temperature rises, it could be an indication of scale or deposit formation on boiler tubes.
  • Clean scale buildup on boiler tubes. Scale buildup will inhibit heat transfer and force the boiler to burn additional fuel to meet the hot water and steam requirements of the system.
  • Measure carbon monoxide levels. Make sure that excess carbon monoxide levels are within acceptable limits of 200 ppm. High, excess carbon monoxide levels are a sign that combustion is incomplete and fuel is being wasted.
  • Check steam traps for leaks. Failed steam traps waste energy by allowing live steam to escape. An annual steam trap survey can reduce system fuel costs by 5 to 15 percent. Steam trap testing methods include temperature, acoustic, visual and electronic.

Energy-saving retrofits

These component upgrades require an upfront investment, but you'll get your money back through increased boiler efficiency and lower energy costs.

Boiler economizer. Economizers pre-heat the feed water and increase boiler efficiency by 3 percent. Good candidates for economizer retrofits are boilers that exceed 100 hp and operate at pressures of more than 75 psig. 

Energy-efficient burners. Burners are designed to maintain the proper air-to-fuel mixture that will maximize combustion efficiency and minimize air emission. An efficient burner requires no more than 2 percent excess air. Replacing an older burner with a new, more energy-efficient model can result in significant energy savings and a quick payback. 

If your boiler is 15 years old or older, consider replacing it with a new, energy-efficient model. A high-efficiency unit can reduce boiler energy use by 20 percent or more.

Image source: iStock

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