Recent developments in computer technology now are being applied to industrial heater controls for thermal fluid heaters. In the past, heater control was limited to the site where the heater was installed. Operators could learn the status of the heater only by watching instruments mounted on or near the heater. They could adjust the heater only by resetting controls on the heater. Troubleshooting often required specialists to travel to the site where the heater was installed. All that is changing.

Heatec Inc., a thermal fluid manufacturer in Chattanooga, Tenn., has developed new controls that allow remote monitoring, adjustment and troubleshooting using an Internet connection or computer network. The controls include programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and an Allen-Bradley industrial computer that runs the Microsoft Windows CE operating system.

Heatec has programmed the computer to display graphic images depicting the heater and its components. Some of the images are animated. The operating states of various heater components are displayed as bar graphs, curves, alphanumeric information and simulated analog instruments. Operating states show temperatures, flow rates, amp-draw, fluid levels, setpoints, etc.

The computer also performs trending, which provides a history of the heater operation during a period of time. This information is invaluable for troubleshooting and tweaking controls. The touchscreen is used to start and stop various components as well as to enter setpoints.