Green vs Standard Boilers: Pros and Cons

Industrial biomass boiler

Buying or leasing a boiler is a major decision that requires a large commitment of finances, resources, and time. Buying or leasing an industrial boiler also means that you have to take stock of your facility’s needs, your budget, and what your company’s future goals are when it comes to work capacity and growth. While evaluating this might seem overwhelming at first, having the help of an experienced industrial boiler company will make the process easier. At Manley’s Boiler, Inc., one of our biggest priorities is to give customers education and information, so that they can make the right decisions. You need to have the support of a company that works as hard and as smart as you do, and we consider ourselves the ultimate match for clients looking for excellent service.

  • One big decision our customers have let us know about in regards to boiler purchasing and leasing decisions from an industrial boiler company is whether they should go for a green boiler or a standard, traditional boiler. We always tell customers that it depends upon your business, your goals, and the kind of work you need to do. We’ll give you a breakdown on both the types of green and standard boilers available, and weigh the pros and cons of each type so that you can determine the best equipment for your needs.

Orange autumn leaves

Types of Green Boilers: The Biomass Boiler

One of the most popular types of green boilers is a biomass boiler. A biomass boiler is a type of boiler that burns fuel to create heat, but instead of using more traditional fuels, the biomass boiler typical uses urban or industrial waste products in order to create a combustion process. Biomass boilers may also use products like dead plants and leaves, or other organic material as fuel. The biomass boiler is used by many large companies in the United States and abroad to fuel their operations. As an industrial boiler company, we’ve seen sales and interest in these types of boilers truly skyrocket over the past few years.

Outdoor industrial boilers

The Benefits of a Biomass Boiler

There are many reasons why biomass boilers are rapidly gaining popularity. Biomass boilers produce zero carbon, which make them a great choice for areas like California, where the state is strict when it comes to industrial boiler emissions. Biomass fuel is widely available, and unlike fossil fuels such as coal or gasoline, it isn’t subject to wild price fluctuations. By burning biomass fuel, you are also reducing the amount of waste that would have to be brought to places like landfills. Biomass fuels are also a great alternative to traditional boilers if your facility is somewhat out of the way and it’s difficult to receive reliable quantities of fossil fuels. By utilizing a biomass burner, you can usually increase your accessibility to fuel materials close to your facility that can be transported with much more ease. Additionally, biomass boilers are fairly widely available, with many companies producing excellent models, so leasing or purchasing one from an industrial boiler company is just as easy as leasing or purchasing a traditional boiler model.

Burning campfire

The Cons of a Biomass Boiler

While there are many advantages to having a biomass boiler installed inside your facility by an industrial boiler company, there are several drawbacks to biomass boilers that we advise you to consider before investing in this particular boiler model. While biomass boilers are carbon neutral, this does not mean that they always pollute less than fossil fuel burning boilers. For example, while carbon emissions are certainly reduced, burning materials like wood can release other harmful compounds into the environment. For this reason, it’s worth looking at the consequences of burning various biomass fuel types in order to understand their environmental impacts.

Because wood is one of the most common biomass fuels, there are concerns that heavy biomass reliance could result in deforestation, which happens when too many trees are harvested. Biomass boilers are also less efficient than traditionally fueled boilers, which makes it so more fuel is needed in order to do the same amount of work as a standard fossil fuel burning boiler. Ultimately, this inefficiency can make biomass boilers more expensive than their traditional boiler counterparts.

Condensing boiler

Condensing Boilers: Traditional Fuels and Innovative Design

Condensing boilers are fueled by either oil or gas, but their design makes them more efficient than standard models, making them a greener choice. Condensing boilers are engineered to use heat from exhaust gases that would typically be released through the flue. By capturing and using this heat, condensing boilers can offer up to 28% greater efficiency when compared to their non-condensing counterparts. While the condensing boiler name refers to the process that allows heat to be captured, condensing boilers also have the advantage of being physically smaller than other types of boilers, allowing them to take up less space. Other advantages of condensing boilers are that they are easy to modify for options such as change in capacity, and they won’t flood, as they do not rely on a large heating tank. Since they don’t require a heating tank, the startup time is also shorter and the boiler reaches operating temperature more quickly.

Underground circuit board

The Drawbacks: What Condensing Boilers Can’t Do

In order to create efficiencies in the combustion process, condensing boilers have more components than other boilers, which means that there are more chances for parts to break, malfunction, or require general replacements over time, which creates work to do from the standpoint of an industrial boiler company. Compared with other types, servicing condensing boilers may be more involved and complex. In terms of output, a condensing boiler may limit hot water usage. While there are many reasons to go for a condensing boiler, including greater efficiency, fuel cost savings, and to maximize space, it may not be adequate for your desired heat output.

Old rusted boiler

Types of Standard Boilers: Firetube Boilers

One of the primary features of a firetube boiler is that the water source remains outside the boiler while the gas passes through combustion tubes and is processed within the boiler. As an industrial boiler company with a specialty in service, we recognize the many advantages to firetube boilers. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase, they are space efficient, and comparably easy to clean and service. For these reasons, they are among the top choice for industrial boilers in large facilities.

Why a Firetube Boiler May Not Be the Best Fit

While there are many good reasons to choose a firetube boiler for your facility, there are some drawbacks, as with any boiler type. Firetube boilers are not a suitable match for very high pressure applications, and they generally don’t work well beyond 250 psig. In addition to their pressure limitations, firetube boilers are also limited in their steam capacities: if your operations require very high capacity steam generation, a firetube boiler will not be an optimal fit for your company.

Water tube boiler

Watertube Boilers: Flexible and Fast

Unlike firetube boilers, watertube boilers rely on a combustion process that takes place outside the boiler and the water flows through the tubes inside the boiler. There are just as many advantages to this type of boiler as there are to firetube boilers. One of the greatest advantages is the flexibility of watertube boilers: the average industrial level watertube boiler can handle immense amounts of pressure (up to 5,000 psig) while still maintaining a relatively low startup time to raise this kind of intense steam pressure. While the load rates from boiler to boiler make and model vary, watertube boilers tend to be ideal for industrial and commercial applications and they are available in a variety of sizes, so they can be scaled depending on your needs—which is a great way to avoid spending more on fuel than necessary. Although watertube boilers can reach extremely high temperatures and produce large amounts of high pressure steam, they also offer a quick recovery period, which is important for frequent firing or changes in demand.

What Watertube Boilers Don’t Offer

While watertube boilers may seem like the no-brainer choice, particularly for a high-output industrial facility, there are certainly some drawbacks. Watertube boilers have a much higher initial cost, as any industrial boiler company will tell you. Cleaning and maintenance of these boilers is more difficult, and they don’t offer the same space-saving advantages as firetube boilers or biomass boilers. While they create results, the technology behind watertube boilers is older, and their reliance upon fossil fuels means that you will need to monitor emissions levels closely to make sure you stay within legal parameters imposed by your state.

The Bottom Line

Although there are similarities between traditional boilers and green boilers, both differ in key respects. For example, finding an industrial boiler company that offers watertube and firetube boiler maintenance is easy, whereas finding a technician or company that can offer service for the various green boiler options may be more difficult, as many technicians lack expertise in these new technologies. With this being said, green boilers do offer cleaner and more renewable fuels, so if your company emphasizes the environment in their operations, a green boiler is a great way to fulfill those values. Generally speaking, for commercial and industrial spaces, a standard boiler will be better until green boiler technology has a chance to catch up with more traditional  types. However, if located within an area that is more off the grid, making it hard to access fossil fuels, a biomass or green option may be the better option.

Engineers working together

If you are an industrial or commercial facility in California, consider getting in touch with the industrial boiler company experts at Manley’s Boiler, Inc. to discuss your boiler options and finding a boiler that will accommodate your company’s needs. We have decades of experience in boiler sales, leases, installation, repair, and education, and our team of dedicated pros is always on call to get every job done. We even offer emergency service 24/7, including weekends and holidays, to make sure our customers are covered when it matters the most. Visit our website or call us to schedule a consultation today.