A Guide to Commercial Boiler Energy Efficiency

A Guide to Commercial Boiler Energy Efficiency

Regardless of your industry, energy efficiency should be on top of mind if you're considering a commercial boiler. In addition to being the better solution for the environment, choosing a more energy-efficient commercial boiler means substantial fuel savings, proactively navigating potential legislative and regulatory issues, and a host of other benefits. 

However, choosing the most energy efficient commercial boiler hasn't always been as cut and dry as most would like it to be. In fact, even the most knowledgeable engineers or facility managers tend to find one or more subjects surrounding commercial boiler energy efficiency to be outright confusing. 

Fortunately, the experts at ATI of New York have created a short and helpful guide to commercial and industrial boiler energy efficiency. Let's take a closer look at energy efficiency and clarification on a few of the more confusing attributes of commercial boiler energy efficiency. 

Combustion, Thermal, Steady-State & Seasonal Efficiency

When it comes to commercial boiler energy efficiency, much of the confusion can be reduced to a matter of semantics. So before we move forward, an explanation is in order of the four different types of efficiency.

  1. Combustion efficiency is explained as how efficiently your boiler combusts and burns fuel.

  2. Thermal efficiency is combustion efficiency minus convection losses and radiation. 

  3. Steady-state efficiency can be defined as how well your boiler utilizes combustion heat when it's under full load. 

  4. Seasonal efficiency explains how well the boiler utilizes fuel over the full heating season.

While all of the efficiency measures are vital, seasonal efficiency is probably the most important because it explains how much you'll pay for fuel over the full heating season. It doesn't mean, however, you shouldn't pay attention to all  of the efficiency measures. 

Increase Commercial Boiler Efficiency by Increasing Number of Boilers 

Today, there are several features designed to improve efficiency. However, one of the best ways to increase boiler efficiency is a matter of sizing. In most instances, a boiler sized smaller than required will match the heating load of the building for the majority of the season thanks to fewer on-and-off cycles. Once the first boiler is no longer able to keep up with the heat loss, a second boiler and third (if necessary) can kick in to manage the load. 

So, instead of only using one boiler for the job, two boilers can be used to slash the required capacity boiler in half. Or, you can use three boilers to reduce the capacity to one third. In this example, each boiler will cycle one half to one third less than one boiler would, which will significantly increase seasonal efficiency. 

Look for ENERGY STAR on Smaller Commercial Boilers 

The ENERGY STAR specification means the product meets the relatively strict guidelines for efficiency set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR commercial boilers boast an impressive thermal efficiency of ≥ 94.0% and a turndown ratio of 5:1. 

Thermal efficiency can be best understood as the percentage of heat energy (BTU/hr) that is absorbed by the water to the total amount of heat energy available by the combusted fuel. The turndown ratio represents the maximum firing rate (Btu/hr) of the boiler divided by its lowest nameplate firing rate. 

Commercial boiler systems that have a higher turndown ratio are able to more easily adjust to the varying heating demands of the space. In other words, boilers with a higher turndown ratio will be able to provide an even, steady heating for occupant comfort as well as use the least amount of fuel.

The ENERGY STAR label, however, is primarily used on smaller, more compact packaged boiler models of less than 2 MBtu/hr. These smaller commercial boiler units will be either combined with larger boilers for more robust needs or used by themselves for less rigorous heating needs. The experts at ATI of New York will work closely with you to understand your needs and guide you to the best commercial boiler solution  

Downtime Losses Affect Efficiency 

Whenever you shut your boiler off, there will be heat that continues to radiate through the jacket. This lost heat is called downtime losses. And downtime losses can affect the different efficiencies in different ways. 

For example, industrial and commercial boilers with a high seasonal efficiency will require a solid steady-state efficiency in addition to a good combustion efficiency. On the other hand, a boiler with a relatively high steady-state efficiency (perhaps 75%) can potentially have seasonal efficiency of 55%. These efficiencies greatly depend on downtime losses, which can vary based on a range of factors, including:

  • The applicationThe design of the boiler system
  • The construction of the boiler

Simply put, the more your boiler cycles, the higher your downtime losses will be, which can substantially lower your seasonal efficiency. 

Contact ATI of New York for Assistance Choosing a Commercial Boiler

Unless you do it every day (and you don't), choosing the best commercial boiler can be confusing. However, you're not alone. The experts at ATI of New York are the manufacturer's representatives for the leading industrial and commercial boiler manufacturers in the world, including:

  • Columbia
  • Weil-McLain
  • Superior Boiler Works
  • Fulton
  • And more

We'll work closely with you to understand your facility's needs and guide you to the best solution. We have a team of highly-skilled, factory-trained sales engineers who will put your needs first and ensure all of your concerns are met in a packaged solution. While facility's needs may be different, we've outlined a few of the general top concerns or factors you should consider when you're looking for a commercial boiler. 

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