Every dollar saved in operating costs improves the bottom
line of a business. This improvement means more money
in your pocket to potentially invest in your facility, to pay your
people or to save for the future. So why not consider projects
that improve today’s operation, reduce cost for the life of the
equipment and qualify for incentive funding of up to $500,000?
Utility companies, such as NICOR, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, and
Ameren, offer millions of incentive dollars to encourage efficiency projects.
You’ve paid into the incentive program as a portion of your monthly bill. Let’s get
some of that money back and put it to work for you. Here are some of the most
common natural gas efficiency projects to help reduce energy usage.
Boilers provide either hot water or steam to a facility, which is typically used for
an industrial process or heating the space. Usually, the heat source for the boiler
is a natural gas fired burner. With regular maintenance, the boiler can run at
optimum performance for as long as possible, typically 15 to 30 years. To help with
efficient operation, many incentive opportunities are available for boilers and their
Ideally, burner tune-ups are performed every year and many gas utility companies
offer rebates that can be claimed every three years. While each utility has their
own checklist for tune-ups, the requirements typically include:
• Test and record combustion efficiency with flue gas analyzer before changes are made
• Inspect and clean burner
• Inspect, clean, and repair (if necessary) the combustion chamber refractory
• Check for proper venting
• Verify adequate supply of combustion air
• Inspect door gaskets and seals
• Inspect all manways, including gaskets
• Inspect safety controls and verify proper operation
• Inspect piping and insulation
• Adjust burner air/fuel mixture for optimal operation
• Test and record combustion efficiency with a flue gas analyzer after changes are made

Boilers can only run as well as the burners perform. Remember, the burners precisely
mix air and fuel to achieve the best burn. So, it’s critical to have well-engineered
burners that have an excellent flame pattern with good heat distribution. It’s also
worthwhile to have features that provide better control of the burner. Let’s review
a few of the key items.
The ability to “turn down” burners to a low flame reduces cycling of the boilers
and provides more controlled response to system demands. If boilers get too
warm, even at the lowest setting, the burners must turn off to avoid overheating.
But, every time burners turn on, a mandatory amount of fresh air must blow
through the boiler, to be sure it’s safe to re-ignite the flame – known as a purge
cycle. This purge air is normally air from the boiler room or the outdoors and it
cools down your boiler every time it starts up. When you consider the reduced
number of purge cycles, the finer control and the avoided wear and tear on the
equipment, a high turn down burner is usually a good choice.
The proper amount of air and fuel is essential for burners to operate properly.
While annual tune-ups make the best of burners, there is only so much that can
be done if mechanical linkages exist between the air and fuel valves. As the boilers
adjust from low to high flame, there are usually opportunities for better operation
if the air and fuel have independent adjustment. By replacing the mechanical
swivel joints with linkage-less controls (direct drive Servo Motors), that next step
in efficiency can be had.
For the ultimate in burner control, an O2 trim system can be used to continuously
fine tune the burners. An oxygen sensor is added to each boiler’s exhaust stack
and a controller constantly reads the emissions of the boiler to adjust the air and
fuel for the optimal burn. This upgrade is usually well-suited for very large boilers
where small improvements can mean big savings.
Like most other building components, boilers and burners have a finite life
expectancy. While maintenance maximizes this lifespan, the day will come when
the best option will be boiler and/or burner replacement. Use this opportunity to
install an energy efficient burner – one that could save thousands of dollars in fuel
costs every year. A new high efficiency burner can always be installed on an older
boiler that was well maintained. A boiler life study is an easy way to determine the

Keep in mind that utility companies differ as to how they incent for replacements.
With some programs, it requires a custom application, while with others it is a
prescriptive job. Use experts that have experience with the programs to be sure
you get the opportunities you deserve.
Steam traps are automatic valves that release condensate while minimizing live
steam loss. They are part of a system to provide intense heat where needed, often
over a great distance. As with other components, they need regular maintenance
with repairs or replacements over time. An improperly functioning trap either allows
live steam to escape or fails to release condensate. They can cause energy loss,
elevated operating costs and an imbalance to the system. Fortunately, utility companies
incent for surveys, as well as for repairs and replacements of steam traps that
have failed open.
These tests are performed when the system is running and producing steam. Each
trap is inspected through any or all of the following methods:
• Visual – looking for live steam at the vent for the condensate return tank
• Thermographic – temperature readings taken with a thermal imaging camera
at each trap
• Ultrasonic – listening to the sound each trap makes to indicate the unnecessary
flow of steam
All the traps in the system should be identified and tagged as they are inspected.
A full report with pictures lets owners and engineers know the health of their system.
Future cost savings as well as the ability to prevent potential catastrophic failures
are the greatest benefits to having a steam trap survey and inspection completed.
Steam traps can be repaired or replaced when the system is off-line or if there
are valves that isolate the failed traps. In many cases, repair kits can be purchased
to restore existing traps to like-new condition – a great cost-saving option. In other
cases, the traps may be relatively low cost and replacement should be an option
to consider.

Pipe insulation helps prevent heat loss, reducing the load
on equipment and loweringenergy usage. It also provides
a measure of safety by protecting people from potentially
dangerous hot surfaces.

Also known as variable speed drives, these electronic components
vary the output speed of a motor. This means that when loads are
lower, the motor will slow and energy consumption can be reduced.
Potential uses are for burner air supply fans and hot water loop pumps, just
to name a couple of examples.

Energy audits and feasibility studies can let businesses know where efficiency
opportunities exist. The expert looks at all variables specific to your site, considers
good practices and personal experience, and then creates a plan to make the most
of your savings. Oftentimes, a study can provide the road map to short-, medium-,
and long-term projects to ensure the future of your operation.
There are many options and the key to incentive funding for any of these projects
is that efficiency must be improved. Rebates are offered on a first come/first
served basis and pre-approvals are often required. The sooner projects are initiated,
the better the chances for securing funds. While all of the programs are similar,
each utility company has its own list of rules for the customer to follow. This is
where we can help.
American Combustion Service, Inc. has the knowledge, experience and skill to
accomplish projects funded with help from incentive programs. We have recovered
well over $1,000,000 for our clients – and that doesn’t include the hundreds of
thousands of dollars saved each year in energy costs.