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Knowing When to Replace Your Boiler's Burner

Tip Sheet: May 2012

Key Facts

  • The burner is the true driver of fuel use and costs in a boiler
  • After about 20 years, the burner loses its ability to keep tight control on fuel-air ratio
  • Replacing an old burner can reduce fuel usage by 5 to 10 percent


The burner is the true driver of fuel use and costs in a boiler. After about 20 years of service, linkage joints, cams and other moving parts wear out, and the burner loses its ability to keep tight control on the fuel-air ratio.  


The result is commonly referred to as "hysteresis," or the inability of the burner to repeat desired excess air levels across the firing range for optimum combustion. Higher excess air means lower combustion efficiency. And, a legacy burner can suffer from a whole host of other issues, including plugged or deteriorated nozzles and gas orifices, and deterioration of other combustion head components responsible for proper fuel and air mixing.  


All of this results in unburned fuel (CO, hydrocarbon, etc.) and higher-than-required excess air levels, leading to poor performance, an overall reduction in efficiency and higher operating costs.  


If a current burner has too many worn-out parts or outmoded technology, adding new controls is probably not going to fix these underlying issues. The optimum solution is to replace the old burner with a new one that features advanced controls, higher turndown capability and lower excess air requirements. Depending on a variety of factors unique to the boiler system, replacing an old burner can reduce fuel usage by 5 percent to 10 percent.  


Additionally, replacing an old burner is a wise choice due to today’s stricter environmental standards. More than likely, financial penalties for violating EPA or Air Quality Management District standards outweigh the upfront costs of replacing an old burner with a newer model.  


When you decide it is time to replace the burner, Cleaver-Brooks has a solution.  


For large burner and custom application needs, Cleaver-Brooks offers its industry-leading NATCOM line of burners. Industrial register and duct burners are available with capacity ranges from 20 MBTU to 600 MBTU that fire fuels such as natural gas, waste stream gas, hydrogen, digester gas, refinery fuel, crude oil and waste oil. NATCOM burners can meet emissions levels to <9 ppm NOx.  


For any commercial burner application or need, Cleaver-Brooks offers its ProFire® line of products. These products include high-efficiency, low- and ultra-low emission burners designed to accommodate stringent emission requirements. Cleaver-Brooks multi-fuel burners are capable of NOx levels of <9 ppm depending on burner type and application.  

Many Cleaver-Brooks burners are adaptable for retrofit on existing Cleaver-Brooks boilers as well as boilers from other manufacturers.