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Steam Solutions for Facilities with Limited Natural Gas Supply or Stringent Emissions Regulations

Tip Sheet: November 2012

Key Facts

  • Electric boilers can achieve up to 99.9% efficiency
  • Electric boilers are compact in size and operate quietly, which make them a good choice for hospitals and schools
  • Some companies operate a hybrid gas-fired/electric boiler system and run the electric boilers during offpeak hours at reduced rates

Pictured: An Electrode boiler with Hawk control at Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Ore. Installation of this Electrode boiler reduced the factory’s fuel consumption by 80%.


Many companies today are taking a closer look at electric boilers for a variety of reasons. First, with their high turndown ratio and quick response time, electric boilers can achieve up to 99.9% efficiency. In addition, because there is no internal combustion, they produce zero emissions and do not require a stack. And, because they have fewer internal components, electric boilers require less maintenance than firetube boilers. Lastly, electric boilers are compact in size and operate quietly, which makes them an ideal choice for hospitals and schools.   

While it may not make economic sense for a facility to run electric boilers all the time, some facilities find that a hybrid system is advantageous. In many geographic areas, the local electric company offers reduced rates during off-peak hours, so a facility will run a gas-fired boiler during the day and an electric boiler at night. Switching back and forth between gas-fired and electric boilers gives these facilities a financial edge. This is especially true in areas where hydropower is available, predominantly in the northern United States and throughout parts of Canada. Facilities in these regions find that running electric boilers can be less expensive than running gas-fired ones.   


In areas where there is no natural gas supply available, around the mountain ranges of Washington and Oregon for instance, electric boilers are common. Facilities in these areas must choose between electric and fuel oil boilers, and often facilities discover it is cheaper to run on electricity than it is to run on fuel oil. Recently, Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) in Tillamook, Ore., found this to be true.  


In 2008, TCCA was operating two 700 HP firetube boilers that burned No. 2 oil. The instability of oil prices was driving up the facility’s energy costs, so the farming cooperative wanted to explore its options. There is no natural gas pipeline penetrating Tillamook’s mountainous region, so TCCA installed a 25kV Cleaver-Brooks electrode boiler. Not only did the unit reduce fuel costs and emissions, but the farming cooperative reported that the electrode boiler paid for itself within two years.  

In addition to cost containment, reducing emissions is another driving factor for electric boilers. Facilities that operate where there are strict emissions regulations, or those that have a tiered cost structure for fuel usage or boiler run-time, should consider an electric boiler. This solution enables the facility to get the steam it needs while staying within the EPA requirements. Often, there are emissions credits available too, so be sure to take advantage of this economic incentive.