Most industrial and manufacturing systems require indirect heat during their process, and steam boilers have been the go-to choice for decades. But as technology advances, new systems arise that offer advantages over their traditional counterparts. So say hello to a new heating system that is more efficient, cheaper to install and operate, and safer: thermal fluid heaters.
How Does a Steam Boiler Work?
To understand the benefits of a thermal fluid heater, we first need to explore how its primary competitor works. A steam boiler uses the heat produced by combustion to heat water and produce steam. This steam is then used in applications like moving turbines to produce electricity, heating spaces through HVAC systems, and transferring heat during manufacturing processes.
First, the material burns in a combustion chamber and heats the air. Next, the heated air passes through tubes across the water, heating the water until it becomes steam. The steam then passes onto the next part of the system.
Thermal Fluid Heaters
The biggest differentiator with thermal fluid heaters is that they do not use combustion to heat air. Instead, a thermal fluid heater uses a liquid such as an organic oil to conduct the heat.
Inside a closed system, a pump propels the chosen liquid forward until it passes through heated cylindrical coils. Thermal fluid heaters typically use biomass, natural gas, or oil burner to fire heat into the center of the coil system. The liquid passes through these coils and picks up heat, which transfers from this primary liquid to a secondary application.
Benefits of a Thermal Fluid Heater
The simplicity of a thermal fluid heater is its biggest advantage and offers it significant benefits compared to steam boilers. The first is that maintenance on a thermal boiler is cheaper and less cumbersome. The only parts that need regular maintenance are the pump that moves the oil and the burner. In steam boilers, the water and steam can cause deposits and corrosion that reduce efficiency and lead to damage. They also require frequent blowdowns, steam trap maintenance, and water maintenance. The liquids used in thermal heaters don’t typically require adjustments and don’t cause deposits or corrosion.
Additionally, thermal fluid heaters have higher efficiency and precision than steam boilers. Thermal fluid heaters can modulate the temperature quickly and precisely, especially when combined with automated controls. This versatility and modulation are critical for applications that require more precise and consistent heating than is possible with steam boilers.
Thermal fluid heaters operate at a significantly lower pressure than steam boilers, making them safer and cheaper. The lower pressure makes the system less susceptible to failure and reduces the frequency needed for inspection and maintenance. Some local, state and federal regulatory bodies address the safety hazards of boiler systems by mandating a boiler attendant who spends a lot of time inspecting the boiler at frequent intervals. Plus, high pressure in these systems requires thicker pipes and materials that cost more during manufacturing. Thermal fluid heaters use less costly materials that don’t need to withstand high pressure and often don’t have as stringent legal requirements as steam boilers.
Lastly, you can install this type of heater outside to save space in the facility. The oils used in the heating process have a higher freezing point than water, meaning they can pass through tubes placed outside without freezing. Exterior boilers may not be practical for all regions but are a viable space-saving option for others.
Applications of Thermal Fluid Heaters
The precise heating capabilities of a thermal fluid heater make them ideal for applications that require precise temperature control. Common applications include:
- Asphalt heating
- Biodiesel distillation
- Chemical process heating
- Petroleum refining
- Wastewater management
- Lube oil heating
- Rubber, plastic, and paper processing
- Tanker and barge heating
Learn More About Thermal Fluid Heaters
With over 20+ years of experience, Industrial Boilers America is a manufacturer specializing in the development and installation of heating systems that exceed regulations and are a fraction of the cost of our competitors. We craft each of our thermal fluid heating systems using superior materials which are more durable and reliable than other materials available.
Request a quote today and let our team handle the hard work so that you can get back to what matters most.