News about rising energy prices dominates our headlines almost nightly. For manufacturers, fuel prices represent a cost of producing goods that can eat into margins and damage a company's bottom line. One way to ensure that energy costs don't hurt profits is to maintain burners or upgrade combustion equipment to more efficient options.
Before committing any capital to upgrades, begin by examining your existing combustion system to ensure it is operating at its highest potential efficiency. The following items should be checked:
- Inspect burners, regulators and control valves for wear or damage.
- Ensure that periodic maintenance items like strainer cleaner, filter changing and bearing lubrication have been performed on a regular, appropriate schedule
- Examine the burner under operating conditions to ensure that the combustion is smooth and reliable.
- Check the products of combustion with a combustion analyzer to verify all the fuel is burning completely and cleanly. Telltale signs of incomplete combustion are aldehydes, high carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust or process.
- Inspect the heating device, oven, dyer, kiln, etc., to look for energy lost in air leaks, poor damper settings, or poor process control inaccuracies. Remember that burners only create heat. How the heat moves to the end product is a function of the specific equipment design.
All these items can produce less than optimal use of fuel and increase operating costs. Burners, like engines, must be maintained to provide consistent, reliable heating with optimal fuel usage.
If your combustion system appears to be operating at its peak efficiency, begin looking at how the process transfers energy to the end product. This study requires intimate knowledge of industrial heating processes and heat transfer. If you need assistance, consult an equipment manufacturer, consulting firm or burner vendor for assistance.
As you probably know, the operating cost of most industrial heating equipment far outweighs its initial capital cost. This is especially true for burners and ratio controls. Spend effort and capital up front to buy better equipment with more efficient designs and your long-run profitability will improve.
SIDEBARIf your combustion system appears to be operating at maximum efficiency, there still are ways to save on energy costs. Here are some examples of altering heat transfer to increase efficiency.
6 More Ways To Cut Energy Costs
1. Change indirect steam or thermal oil heating processes to direct fired processes where end products allow.
2. Provide boosting infrared heating in drying and curing applications, especially where products have a large mass-to-surface-area ratio.
3. Change low velocity burners to high velocity burners where product temperature uniformity is critical, like in heat treating.
4. Use flat-flame burners close to products to promote more radiant heat transfer especially in forge furnaces and galvanizing kettles.
5. Change high temperature processes to oxy fuel burners to increase available heat and reduce stack gas losses by reducing stack volumes.
6. Change mechanical or impulse ratio controls to modern "smart" fuel/air ratio controls to reduce control errors and fuel-robbing hysteresis.