In many commercial buildings, boilers are the engine that keeps the building running. The hot water or steam created by the boilers can be used for building heat and domestic hot water, to power equipment, or for other specialized processes. So it’s critical for architects and engineers to have a thorough understanding of how to get boiler design right. In Consulting-Specifying Engineer, CDM Smith mechanical engineers Ian Marchant and Alexandria Stuart offer an in-depth look at the factors affecting boiler specification.

“The best boiler system may incorporate multiple smaller boilers to handle the load instead of a larger one,” the engineers write. “Multiple smaller boilers offer several advantages over a single larger unit. The turndown can be greater because the turndown of the smallest boiler in the system dictates the turndown of the total installed capacity. Multiple smaller boilers offer better reliability over a single large unit; a failure of one smaller unit will not leave the system without heat. In systems with large seasonal changes in load, several smaller boilers can be kept offline in summer, thereby reducing standby losses.”

Marchant and Stuart go on to describe the components that make up a complete boiler system, including the burner and fuel system. While natural gas is a common fuel source for these systems, projects without access to natural gas can still use the same technology. Instead of using gas from the pipeline, these buildings would use on-site propane storage to fuel comparable propane boilers. Learn more about commercial propane boilers, or check out our recent article on combined heat and power systems that can build on the efficiency of traditional boilers.

Read more.