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How Does a Commercial Boiler Work? – How Boilers Operate

January 12th, 2021

Last updated: August 26th, 2022

How does a boiler work? In this guide, we’re going to talk you through some of the functions and science behind one of the most important pieces of equipment your business will ever invest in; a boiler.

A commercial boiler is one of the most important features of the infrastructure of a business. Even if the organisation simply runs an office, the boiler is integral to basic health and safety duties of providing heat and hot water for welfare facilities. However, in a school or hospital this need is magnified, and in a leisure centre the need for hot water for showers, for example, is constant. Other businesses in the manufacturing sector may need a constant supply of water for their production processes.

That’s why businesses need a commercial boiler to be reliable, because it is running for a long period of time and is needed for all that time. And for that reason the boiler has to run cost-effectively because this becomes a big operational cost to the business. Not servicing your boiler can lead to a host of issues.

What is a Commercial Boiler?

How do commercial boilers work? The biggest difference between a commercial boiler and a boiler that we may have at home is essentially size and power. A commercial boiler needs to be much bigger, because it needs to disperse heat in a far larger environment and therefore, the demands on it are far more than for a domestic boiler. Also, a commercial boiler may be running 24 hours a day, so cost and reliability are very important and this needs to be built into the design. It may need to be serviced more frequently, too, to ensure efficient operation.

The actual science of how a boiler works doesn’t change, merely the size and capacity, to suit the large environment in which it is working in a commercial setting.

Commercial boilers can differ in design, but in general, they are a pressurised system which uses a variety of different fuel sources to create hot water.

The question “how does a biomass boiler work?” and “how does a gas boiler work?” are relatively similar, it is the fuel that changes, but most of the technology running the boiler remains consistent. This fuel source can be electricity, gas or a sustainable fuel such as wood. The fuel source is burned to create the hot water, which is then transported to all necessary points via a system of pipes. How the boiler operates and how much heat is generated, can be controlled by the user or even automated.

Inside a Commercial Boiler

To properly understand how a boiler works we need to get what is going on inside it. What is it that actually keeps us warm on those winter days?

Heat is created to provide hot water by a series of components inside the boiler:

  • Fuel burner: this produces the heat needed to heat the water, it can also be an electric coil. This aspect of the design will vary depending on what kind of fuel is being used.
  • Heat exchanger: this is a component which allows energy to be exchanged between two fluids or substances to create heat.
  • Combustion chamber: this is an enclosed chamber where the fuel is burnt and converted into heat, it is a safe and secure area that needs to be heavy duty and hence is usually made from steel, copper or cast iron.
  • Exhaust stack: this is pipework and a vent, which transports natural gases from inside the building to the outside, this is an essential safety feature because these can be toxic gases, and they need a way to get out of the building so as not to cause any sort of hazard.
  • Controls: a commercial boiler will have controls to manage internal pressure, water temperature, fuel supply mixtures and ignition. These are important in the everyday running of the boiler, and also in managing use and therefore cost. In the modern day, a lot of boilers can be integrated with a building management system and even have smartphone controls for you to make changes conveniently, and from a distance. This can also be a way to monitor the efficiency.

Maintaining a Commercial Boiler

Where fuel combustion is used, the burners provide flames to heat the water, and this flames needs to be strong, consistent and efficient, otherwise heat can be lost and the boiler won’t fulfill its basic function. This can be extremely damaging to any commercial organisation.

Maintaining a consistent flame can be achieved through a regular service and maintenance programme. An important feature of this is cleaning the inside. The flame burning so regularly produces a build-up of debris inside the boiler, this can become problematic if left as it can affect the consistency of the flame and block pipework and vents, meaning the flame has to burn more to create the same heat energy. This can lead to safety and efficiency problems. You also need to insulate pipework and valves to reduce heat loss, this is another factor in saving money and running the boiler efficiently. These maintenance measures also contribute to the quality of the water produced.

Advice on Commercial Boilers

As you can see, maintaining a boiler is essential and can even save you money in the long run. Robinsons Facilities Services have many years of experience in the repair and servicing of commercial boilers in organisations operating in many different commercial sectors. We can improve the efficiency of your commercial boiler and help you safe on operational costs.

Our experience has shown us that many businesses are looking at more sustainable fuels as an alternative to traditional electricity, oil and natural gas. These include wood fuel used in biomass boilers and hydrotreated vegetable oil, a form of renewable diesel. We always look to provide an efficient solution and one that can save money in the long run.

Some of these are developing technologies, but we can assess your system and operations and advise on the most practical and cost-effective fuel source for your commercial boiler, and our structured maintenance programme will ensure you have an efficient and reliable commercial boiler for years to come. Contact us today for expert boiler advice.

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