Minimize Boiler Short Cycling Losses PDF Print E-mail
Written by USDOE Office of Industrial Technologies   
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 08:11

Minimize Boiler Short Cycling Losses

Boiler "short cycling" occurs when an oversized boiler quickly satisfies process or space heating demands, and then shuts down until heat is again required. Process heating demands can change over time. Boilers may have been oversized for additions or expansions that never occurred. Installing energy conservation or heat recovery measures may also reduce the heat demand. As a result, a facility may have multiple boilers, each rated at several times the maximum expected load.

Boilers used for space heating loads are often oversized, with their capacity chosen to meet total building heat losses plus heating of ventilation and infiltration air under extreme or design-basis temperature conditions. No credit is taken for thermal contributions from lights, equipment, or people. Excess capacity is also added to bring a facility to required settings quickly after a night setback.

Cycling Losses
A boiler cycle consists of a firing interval, a post-purge, an idle period, a pre-purge, and a return to firing. Boiler efficiency is the useful heat provided by the boiler divided by the energy input (useful heat plus losses) over the cycle duration. This efficiency decreases when short cycling occurs or when multiple boilers are operated at low-firing rates.

This decrease in efficiency occurs, in part, because fixed losses are magnified under lightly loaded conditions. For example, if the radiation loss from the boiler enclosure is 1% of the total heat input at full-load, at half-load the losses increase to 2%, while at one-quarter load the loss is 4%. In addition to radiation losses, pre- and post-purge losses occur. In the pre-purge, the fan operates to force air through the boiler to flush out any combustible gas mixture that may have accumulated. The post-purge performs a similar function. During purging, heat is removed from the boiler as the purged air is heated.

A 1,500 hp (1 hp = 33,475 Btu/hr) boiler with a cycle efficiency of 72.7% (E1) is replaced with a 600 hp boiler with a cycle efficiency of 78.8% (E2). Calculate the annual cost savings.

Fractional Fuel Savings = (1 – E1/E2) = (1 – 72.7/78.8) x 100 = 7.7%

If the original boiler used 200,000 MMBtu of fuel annually, the savings from switching to the smaller boiler (given a fuel cost of $3.00/MMBtu) are:

Annual Savings = 200,000 MMBtu x 0.077 x $3.00/MMBtu = $46,200

Suggested Actions
• Determine the efficiency and operating cost of each of your boilers and adopt a control strategy for maximizing overall efficiency of multiple boiler operations. (See sidebar)
• Avoid short cycling by adding small boilers to your boiler facility to provide better flexibility and high efficiency at all loads. (See sidebar: Boiler Downsizing)

About DOE's Office of Industrial Technologies

The Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT), through partnerships with industry, government, and non-governmental organizations, develops and delivers advanced energy efficiency, renewable energy, and pollution prevention technologies for industrial applications. OIT is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

OIT encourages industry-wide efforts to boost resource productivity through a strategy called Industries of the Future (IOF). IOF focuses on the following nine energy- and resource-intensive industries:

• Agriculture • Aluminum • Chemicals

• Forest Products • Glass • Metal Casting

• Mining • Petroleum • Steel

OIT and its BestPractices program offer a wide variety of resources to industrial partners that cover motor, steam, compressed air, and process heating systems. For example, BestPractices software can help you decide whether to replace or rewind motors (MotorMaster+), assess the efficiency of pumping systems (PSAT), compressed air systems (AirMaster+), steam systems (Steam Scoping Tool), or determine optimal insulation thickness for pipes and pressure vessels (3E Plus). Training is available to help you or your staff learn how to use these software programs and learn more about industrial systems. Workshops are held around the country on topics such as "Capturing the Value of Steam Efficiency," "Fundamentals and Advanced Management of Compressed Air Systems," and "Motor System Management." Available technical publications range from case studies and tip sheets to sourcebooks and market assessments. The Energy Matters newsletter, for example, provides timely articles and information on comprehensive energy systems for industry. You can access these resources and more by visiting the BestPractices Web site at or by contacting the OIT Clearinghouse at 800-862-2086 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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