The Basics of Combustion Analysis
Now that the east coast of the US has been running in heat mode for a few months, boilers furnaces, and water heaters will begin doing strange things (like shutting down in the middle of the night so you have to go in and hit a reset button in the middle of the night!)
One way to make sure that oil and gas-fired equipment is running is to do a combustion analysis to get a clear and definite answer about what the flame is doing inside of your piece of equipment. Combustion analysis is performed using a combustion analyzer to determine how well a flame is burning by measuring the following things:
1. how much air is it getting? if a flame is getting too much air, it will flicker (like blowing a candle) and can cause the flames to hit the sides of a combustion chamber or burner tube causing carbon to build up, which can then cause other compound problems. Too little air can cause the flame to burn low, and then you won’t get the maximum output from the system.
2. how much carbon monoxide is it making? too much carbon monoxide is a sign that the burner is not getting the right air/ fuel mixture, while you’re doing it, take a few general readings in your plant to make sure your combustion chambers aren’t leaking deadly CO into your plant.
3. What is the stack temperature? A hot stack (or flue) can be another sign that not enough heat is getting into the air or the hot water that you are trying to heat. This can also be caused by carbon buildup which can act as an insulation blowing the heat right out through the flue piping. You can get temperature readings with an IR camera but for the purpose of this test a simple infrared thermometer will work fine.
If you don’t have access to this equipment and you chose to use an outside contractor, make sure you use a contractor that has been trained by the National Comfort Institute, and make sure they leave you a copy of their readings and explain what each thing means.
Finally remember that this time of year is critical for carbon monoxide poisoning. People burn fireplaces they aren’t used to using, try to use parts of their stoves they’ve never used before, and many other combustion-related fatalities can occur. Look into getting a permanent CO detector, and have it checked annually just like your fire alarms and smoke detectors. CO is a colorless, odorless gas- and has been called “the silent killer”.
Remember, in addition to all the other important things that a maintenance technician does, you’re probably the company safety officer as well- stay informed and stay up on the latest in Facilities Management skills right here at Maintenance Mastery.