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By: Greg Jefford

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Monday, 14-Jan-2013 16:56 Email | Share | | Bookmark
How Do Boilers Work?

There are many different types of boilers, but they generally have one thing in common: They use heat and water to generate power. In some cases, the boiler exists only to heat the water, providing you with hot water for domestic use. In other cases, though, the water is heated to the point of evaporation, at which point the steam provides convertible energy inside an industrial boiler. In any case, though, it all starts with heat, water and mechanical engineering.

Fire Tube and Industrial Boilers

In a fire tube boiler, fuel is burned to create hot gas, which circulates through tubes. These tubes run through a water vessel like straws in a glass, and as the gas circulates through the tubes, heat passes through the walls of the tubes and heats the water, creating gas. This type of industrial boiler was commonly seen in steam locomotives, in which case the steam would often be superheated. During the superheating process, hot steam is heated even more to eliminate condensation in the steam—this makes it safer to use in engines, which could be affected by water getting into the moving parts.

Water Tube Boilers: Energy Under Pressure

Water tube boilers are virtually the opposite of fire tube boilers. While they still burn fuel to heat water with gas, the internal construction of the boiler is reversed. Instead of passing gas through tubes to heat the water from the inside, the water circulates inside the tubes and the gas heats the water from the outside. While the saturated steam created by the heating process can still be superheated like in a fire tube boiler, this design is able to operate under higher pressures, including marine applications. Because of this notable advantage, most power-generating boilers in operation today are water tube boilers.

Waste Heat Boilers and Cleaner Energy

Industrial boiler technology is ever-changing, and one such example of technological innovations in this industry is the waste heat boiler. Anytime a machine with moving parts generates energy, it creates waste heat, an unavoidable byproduct. If your laptop has ever started burning your legs after prolonged use, that's waste heat on a small scale. On a larger scale, though, an industrial plant or manufacturing facility can create enough waste heat to change the air temperature around it. This heat can also contain chemicals that make the air relatively unclean. Waste heat boilers, though, channel waste heat and use it as a heat source during energy production. It is energy efficient both because it utilizes this otherwise wasted byproduct and also because it reduces the need to burn fuel to create heat.

If you're interested in learning more about how waste heat can be converted into useful energy, a company specializing in energy-efficient fire tube boiler systems can give you more details about how they work.


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