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Boilers produce waste heat as a byproduct of their operation, and this waste heat can be harnessed and utilized in various ways to improve overall energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. Here are some common waste heat resources associated with boilers:
Flue Gas Heat: The hot flue gases exiting the boiler stack carry a significant amount of waste heat. This heat can be recovered using heat exchangers or economizers and used to preheat incoming combustion air or water, increasing the overall efficiency of the boiler. Flue gas heat recovery systems are commonly used in industrial and commercial boilers.
Blowdown Heat: Boilers require periodic blowdown to remove impurities and maintain water quality. The blowdown water is typically at a high temperature and contains heat that can be recovered. Blowdown heat recovery systems can capture this heat and use it for preheating feedwater or for other process heating applications.
Steam Condensate: Steam boilers release waste heat in the form of condensate when steam condenses. This hot condensate can be recovered and returned to the boiler as feedwater, reducing the need for additional energy to heat the water. It's particularly relevant in systems where steam is used for process heating.
Bottom Ash and Slag: Solid waste products, such as bottom ash and slag, are generated in solid fuel-fired boilers, such as coal or biomass boilers. These materials may contain residual heat, and some systems can recover this heat for various purposes, including preheating combustion air or generating additional steam.
Heat from Flanges and Valves: Various components of the boiler, such as flanges, valves, and fittings, can become hot during operation. This heat can be recovered using heat exchangers or heat recovery systems and used for space heating or other applications.
Cooling Water Heat: In some cases, cooling water is used to cool equipment associated with the boiler, such as economizers or auxiliary systems. The cooling water may absorb waste heat during this process, and it can potentially be used for other heating needs within the facility.
Hot Water/Steam Distribution System Losses: In steam and hot water distribution systems, there are often losses due to heat escaping from pipes and fittings. Proper insulation and heat recovery systems can help capture some of this lost heat and use it for other purposes.
Thermal Oxidizers and Emission Control Systems: Industrial boilers often have emission control systems like thermal oxidizers to treat flue gases. These systems can generate waste heat that might be utilized for process heating or to preheat combustion air.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Systems: In some cases, boilers are integrated into CHP systems, where waste heat from electricity generation is captured and used for heating or other industrial processes.
Solar Preheating: In solar-assisted boiler systems, solar collectors can preheat water or air, reducing the load on the boiler and improving overall energy efficiency.
The recovery and utilization of waste heat from boilers are essential for increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering operating costs in industrial and commercial settings. The specific waste heat resources available will depend on the type of boiler, its design, and the operational conditions. Engineers and energy professionals often conduct energy audits to identify and assess the feasibility of waste heat recovery opportunities for a particular boiler system.