Choosing the best steam boiler

AES-12 Element 12kW Steam boiler

With various types of steam boilers available, from electrode to gas, diesel or coal-fired options it’s important to understand your options before making a selection

Lionel Maasdorp, General Manager at Allmech, a leading South African manufacturer of boilers and supplier of water treatment components, says that the starting point is to understand how much steam your application requires. “Our recommendation is that if you need anything less than a tonne, your best bet is an electrode boiler,” he says. “If it’s not an option for you – for example if there is no electric power supply – you can look to diesel or gas-powered options. For applications that require more than five tonnes of steam, you need to look at coal-fired or heavy furnace oil boilers.”

Another consideration is whether your steam requirement is for a constant flow, or if you’re working in a batch processing environment. For example, a glass manufacturer needed a low average steam generating capacity, but when looking into the production process, the company realised that significant steam was required at specific intervals. This necessitated a bigger boiler size.

On the other hand, a bakery client was able to cut costs substantially by moving away from diesel-fired boilers to electrode boilers because the maintenance and servicing requirements were much lower. “Electrode boilers are cleaner and don’t require as much space (or fuel storage space), and are quicker to reach temperature,” says Maasdorp. “They have a lower carbon footprint and only require operator input to switch on and off, rather than requiring two to three people to operate at all times, like a coal-fired boiler. They were thus the perfect choice for the bakery application.”

Companies also need to consider a boiler’s ‘life cost’. “Ask about the warranty on the boiler, and find out about whether the company you are purchasing from is able to undertake servicing and supply replacement parts if required,” Maasdorp advises. “Check that you are buying from a reputable supplier who is able to help with a solution for your specific requirements.