Monitoring Your Boiler Room

Monitoring Your Boiler Room

Don’t Miss a Thing: Make Sure You Are Monitoring Your Boiler Room

Your boiler has a lot of things going on. That means there are a lot of things that need to be monitored to make sure they are operating within spec. Remember, you’ve got air and fuel making heat and exhaust gases, you have water turning into steam, and any hiccup or failure anywhere in the process could result in lost efficiency or even worse a safety hazard. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of what’s happening in and around your boiler at all times. With proper monitoring, you’ll get the most out of every fuel dollar, and keep everything running safely.

Analog or Digital

There are two kinds of boiler monitoring systems you’ll see out there, and it all boils down to whether they’re mechanical or digital. 

Mechanical systems use good old-fashioned physics to get the job done, often using mercury switches, bimetallic strips, and temperature probes to create a feedback loop that keeps the boiler running. 

Digital systems, on the other hand, use a series of solid-state sensors that communicate data streams to a central monitoring hub. These systems usually include a computer monitor, often a touchscreen, that let operators make adjustments in a sort of “fly-by-wire” manner. 

Both kinds can help a boiler operate effectively and efficiently, but the digital systems do have a little bit of an edge because they can respond instantly, and make small adjustments to the control mechanisms to optimize burner efficiency on the fly.

As boiler monitoring technology has become more advanced, it’s opened up incredible possibilities with regard to analysis and precision control, especially when it comes to your boiler’s fire side. Never before have boiler operators been able to see what’s in their intake, combustion chamber, and exhaust with such accuracy, down to even the molecular level. 

Autoflame Engage

One of the leading companies in boiler combustion monitoring, and WARE’s preferred partner for automated monitoring, is Autoflame. They’re a British company that’s been at the forefront of automated boiler operation since the 1980’s. The systems they provide give boiler operators a real-time picture of what’s happening everywhere in the boiler, and allow precise control to fine-tune operation. 

Autoflame systems use what’s known as “micromodulation”. In a micromodulating system, the central control hub takes constant readings of the boiler’s parameters, then makes continual small adjustments to the air, fuel, and feedwater valves remotely via a series of servo motors to optimize performance. 

Air Monitoring

The air pressure inside the furnace’s windbox is a crucial parameter to monitor. There has to be enough pressure (created by the combustion fan) to drive the air through the furnace’s windbox fast enough to create the air turbulence that improves fuel/air mixing prior to combustion. If there’s not enough air pressure, the air and fuel won’t mix properly. That’s why Autoflame and other monitoring systems use a pressure switch to ensure the windbox is getting enough air to do its job. 

Autoflame’s air monitoring system is the only one in the world that uses a solid-state sensor, allowing it to take precise readings in rapid succession. The Autoflame system also features a touchscreen interface, and can display a history of pressure readings and corresponding fuel servo settings to check performance over the long term.

Fuel Monitoring

Knowing what you can get out of your boiler starts with knowing what you’re putting into it. That’s why fuel flow monitoring is so important to proper operation. By knowing the exact quantity of fuel you’re putting in, you can calculate exactly how much heat energy you’re producing, or should be producing. That way, you’ll know if your system is running at peak efficiency, or whether you’re losing some of your energy somewhere. 

The Autoflame system’s fuel flow monitoring takes detailed readings constantly, allowing it to show the current rate and the fuel use over time to track trends in consumption and energy dollars spent. 

Fuel Air Monitoring

Once the air comes through the windbox, it starts to mix with fuel before combustion begins. That mixture is extremely important to maintain because the more consistently the fuel and air mix, the better the boiler’s efficiency will be. The Autoflame system monitors the fuel/air mixture by comparing the rate of fuel flow to the rate of air flow, and adjusting each of them with servo-controlled valves. These valves, incidentally, are accurate to a tenth of a percent. That allows operators to fine-tune their combustion process and run as lean as possible to get the most out of every energy dollar. Remember, air is free. Fuel isn’t. 

Combustion Monitoring

The next step in the monitoring process involves keeping an eye on the combustion as it’s happening. That doesn’t just mean checking for a flame. That means knowing what’s flowing around in there, and whether you have too much or too little oxygen or combustion byproducts as the fuel and air are consumed. The Autoflame system uses electronic sensors designed to detect specific gases in the combustion chamber including oxygen, carbon dioxide and monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and monoxide, water vapor, and others. By knowing the amount of each one present, the system can determine precisely what needs to be adjusted to preserve the highest efficiency. 

Exhaust Monitoring

It’s important to monitor what goes on inside your boiler’s furnace, but it’s just as important to monitor what comes out. That means monitoring the exhaust to check its temperature, and the level of emissions present. If the temperature is running too hot, that could mean any number of boiler issues, some serious, some not. But all worth investigating. 

If your exhaust has too many combustion byproducts in it, or too much oxygen, that means you’ve got inefficient combustion happening. That opens you up to a whole range of problems from wasted fuel to early corrosion to metal stress. That’s why the Autoflame system is such a smart solution. It uses an Exhaust Gas Analyzer (EGA) to compare what’s in your stack to what it expects to be there based on the fuel you’re using. The system then makes adjustments to the boiler’s operation to keep exhaust gases within normal spec. The Autoflame system can even monitor the health of its own EGA cells, so you know when they need replacement. 

Valves, Fans, and Everything in Between 

In order to make all those real-time changes it needs to preserve efficiency, the Autoflame system relies on servos and fans to actually open and close the valves and move the air. Through an electronic feedback loop, the system’s monitoring screen can show the position of every valve, the current speed of the fans, and correlate them with the amount of fuel or air flowing through them. It’s an incredibly detailed look at boiler operation, with incredible control capabilities. 

If you’d like to learn more about Autoflame boiler controls, WARE is standing by to show you the efficiency, safety, and total control that come with every Autoflame system we install. If there’s anything else we can do to help you, as always, just let us know.

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