Some appliances have undergone drastic changes and improvements to optimise their performance and functionality in the fast-paced modern world that we live in. By comparison, the changes that have been witnessed in boilers are much more discrete, but in the industry there are steps being taken to improve the efficiency and safety of these household appliances, and to control dangerous emissions.
While the steps forward in the world of boilers are smaller, they still have been innovative. Efficiency is one of the most important things we look for from technology, and really is a priority for companies looking for ways to improve their products. In more recent years, improving boiler efficiency through changes to the burner has been an area of significant interest. In 2012, product manager for commercial boilers at American company Cleaver-Brooks Inc., Alan Wedal, referred to the developments in making burners in boilers more efficient as “the biggest major development in decades, perhaps since World War II.”
In the last ten years, computer modeling technology has come a long way, and these advances have made it much easier for engineers to work quickly, analyse and record data from the modeling software, and run tests before actually producing boilers. In the past, the process would involve a lot of trial-and-error, whereas now there are computer programs which can do the hard work for you. So what are the two main changes that lead to improved boiler efficiency?
Amount of Excess Oxygen
Extra oxygen is required for a boiler to burn properly. Not enough oxygen results in incomplete combustion, which produces the deadly poisonous gas carbon monoxide. However, too much excess oxygen can also be bad for boiler efficiency. According to research by Cleaver-Brooks, the optimal amount of “excess air” for combustion is around 15 per cent. Any more than that is actually a detriment to the performance of the appliance.
Design of the Boiler
Engineers at Cleaver-Brooks developed a new design which would increase the efficiency of boilers. The tubes running inside the boiler were re-designed so that there is increased heat transfer (and decreased heat loss). Helic ribs which help to create more turbulence of the hot flue gasses (and thus a higher amount of heat transfer) inside the tubes were installed. Compared to a traditional bare tube, heat transfer increased by 85 per cent. Boilers of this style are perfect for industrial and large scale heating purposes.
Florian Winiski, product manager for industrial boilers at Cleaver-Brooks, stated that she expects this technology to replace all of the old style boilers over time. Since the lifespan of boilers is around 50 years, it could take a while before the old technology is phased out, but industries will benefit tremendously from more efficient boilers. Domestic households who use a boiler for hot water and/or central heating could also benefit from this innovation, as it uses less fuel so is less expensive to operate. While efficiency was the main goal, the boilers that have been manufactured also release less emissions and take up less space.
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