Gas Technology Institute: A Better Boiler

Improvements to old-fashioned gas boiler technology are increasing factories' fuel efficiency

Innovation is usually associated with high tech. But an industry-financed nonprofit has proved it's possible to make advances in a technology that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. The Gas Technology Institute has figured out how to boost the efficiency of factory-scale boilers, which could lower commercial energy bills 10% or more. The Des Plaines institute started the project after the Energy Dept. reported in 2000 that the U.S. had 10,000 industrial boilers typically running at 75% efficiency. Conventional boilers lose energy by letting condensed steam drain out. The new boiler uses tiny pores that allow the water to flow back into the boiler. Because the water is still almost boiling hot, its recirculation raises the boiler efficiency to 95%. The first of these "super boilers" was installed at Specification Rubber Products in Alabaster, Ala., two years ago. Since then, the factory's natural gas bill has fallen 13%, and its water usage is down 20%. Curt Bermel, the institute's manager of business development and of research and development, says that the new technology should pay for itself in 18 months.

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