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Tune Your Boiler: Watch Video for 3 Tips to Improve Energy Efficiency

Oct 30, 2018

Improving energy efficiency in facilities, campuses and hospitals is top of mind for most facilities managers and engineers.  Government regulations like Boiler MACT and other energy efficiency mandates for government buildings like VA hospitals have put the pressure on facilities engineers to take a hard look at their equipment to optimize for energy efficiency.  Optimizing energy efficiency comes in the form of both saving energy and increasing productivity.  Hands down the biggest energy hog in a facility is compressed air production and a close second are the boilers which use methane & air for combustion to create steam energy.

Glen Coblentz, VP Sales North America for Sierra, tackles the tough question, “Is Your Boiler Running at Optimal Levels?” and gives some in the field tips to tuning your boiler to improve energy efficiency in his new Flow Tip Video. Watch Video.

3 Tips for Tuning Your Boiler

1. Know Your Flow-get accurate methane measurements in low and high flow conditions

As with most energy audits, it’s critical to know how much fluid you have running in your pipe. In this case, you must know much inlet methane (or intake fuel) is entering your boiler? This is actually a difficult flow measurement due to the requirement for flow measurement accuracy over a wide range, from very low flows to high flows. There are many types of flow technologies to choose from for methane measurement.

In the past, facilities have used insertion turbine meters for methane measurement, but turbine meters don’t work well with low flow conditions.  Thermal flow meters are the ideal technology for methane measurement due to their high accuracy over a wide range-from 0 up to 60,000 sfpm  (0 to 305 smps) and wide 100:1 turndown.

2. Get direct mass flow measurements over volumetric flow rate

We have established that thermal flow meters have excellent accuracy and turn down over a wide range. But what are the other advantages of using thermal flow meters for methane measurements? Thermal mass flow meters are ideal for natural gas combustion because mass flow rate, not volumetric, is the quantity of direct interest. For example, the optimal fuel/air ratio for efficient combustion is calculated on a mass basis.

Natural gas is also billed on a mass basis. Because thermal mass flow meters count the molecules of gas, they are immune to changes in inlet temperature and pressure. In a thermal flow meter’s simplest working configuration, fluid flows past a heated thermal sensor and a temperature sensor. As the molecules of the fluid flow pass the heated thermal sensor, heat is lost to the flowing fluid. The thermal sensor cools down, while the temperature sensor continues to measures the relatively constant temperature of the flowing fluid.

3. Determine if your boiler is running too rich or too lean 

Once you have accurate methane measurements, you can answer the key question: Is my boiler running too rich or too lean? If your boiler is running “rich”, which means it is using more methane than is needed for optimal combustion, you not only waste money on natural gas costs but also emit more hazardous air pollutants into our environment-every molecule of methane that is not burned increases emissions. If your running too “lean”, your boiler is not at optimal combustion, so you are not producing steam at capacity.

So the answer is to “tune” your boiler to get the optimal boiler efficiency calculation which improves energy efficiency.  A well-tuned boiler is around 80% efficient. If the boiler’s efficiency is less than 80%, then energy is being wasted.  Government regulations like Boiler MACT require end users to fix the boiler to meet this efficiency level. “Fixing it” entails fixing leaks, adding insulation, and cleaning heat exchanger tubes, which all add to the cost of boiler maintenance. Download Boiler MACT Information Guide.

Boiler Tuning with Thermal Mass Flow Meters

As part of Sierra’s Big-3™ suite of Flow Energy Management products for all gas, liquid, and steam flow applications,  QuadraTherm 640i/780i thermal flow meters have been specifically designed for precise flow energy management in compressed air and natural gas applications. QuadraTherm offers:

    • Direct mass flow measurement of gases, eliminating the need for temperature or pressure compensation

    • Wide 100:1 turndown

    • Accuracy of +/- 0.5 percent reading; high flows 60,000 sfpm (0-305 smps); 100:1 turndown

    • Multivariable Mass flow rate, temperature & pressure

    • Advanced four-sensor “dry sense” technology minimizes drift and enables field validation

    • Insertion version with hot tap capability for easy installation on large pipe

    • Software applications for easy set-up, in-situ calibration, dial-a-pipe, and gas mixing

    • Digital communications suite

For a more economical solution, Sierra’s BoilerTrak 620s provides direct mass flow accuracy at a lower price point. Sierra also offers all products needed for Boiler tuning like the InnovaSonic 207i ultrasonic flow meter to measure the feedwater and InnovaMass 241i for measuring steam output. Learn more about our complete flow energy management solution for all gas, liquid and steam flow applications.

See all of Sierra’s boiler efficiency solution flow meters.



Erica Giannini, Marketing Manager
Written By:
Erica Giannini, Marketing Manager
Sierra Instruments

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