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Understanding Combustion Analysis: What a Combustion Analyzer Tells You

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Operating heavy machinery like boilers, heaters, and furnaces requires diligent monitoring to ensure efficient, safe, and compliant performance. This is where combustion analyzers come in. As an expert integrator of emissions monitoring solutions with over 20 years of experience, Highmark Analytics knows that the right combustion analyzer provides invaluable insight into combustion efficiency and safety. Continue reading to explore what combustion analyzers measure, how the readings should be interpreted, and what actions operators should take based on the data. Whether you’re looking to improve efficiency, meet emissions regulations, or ensure workplace safety, understanding your combustion analyzer is the critical first step.

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The Core Measurements

Modern combustion analyzers are equipped with an array of sensors to measure key parameters. While options exist for more advanced units, most combustion analyzers provide real-time readings on:

  • Oxygen (O2) – Ensures adequate air for efficient combustion
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) – Signals incomplete combustion
  • Combustibles (CO + H2) – Combined reading to detect insufficient combustion
  • Temperature – Indicates heat availability and losses

These four measurements give operators the essential data to optimize efficiency, identify issues, and ensure safety. Let’s look at how to interpret each reading.

Reading Oxygen – Balancing Air

The oxygen reading provides immediate insight into combustion efficiency and safety. Too much oxygen indicates excess air that absorbs heat and reduces efficiency. Dangerously low oxygen risks incomplete combustion and hazardous gas accumulation. Compare your oxygen reading to your burner’s recommended range – usually between 2% to 4% for boilers and 4% to 10% for heaters and furnaces. Work with Highmark Analytics to fine-tune based on fuel type for ideal efficiency.

Monitoring Combustibles – Staying Safe

The total combustibles reading detects the combined accumulation of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) gases – byproducts when fuel doesn’t fully combust. Even low single or double-digit parts per million (ppm) combustibles indicate incomplete combustion. If combustibles rise continuously, it likely signals insufficient air for the fuel input. However, any gradual increase warrants further investigation into equipment wear or failure. Consult Highmark Analytics early on for professional guidance. Our team can troubleshoot issues like:

  • Air infiltration leading to excess air and cooling
  • Control valve failures providing inconsistent fuel flow
  • Leaking gaskets or seals allowing air intrusion
  • Worn or fouled burner components

Getting to the root cause of rising combustibles quickly is key to restoring safety and efficiency.

Tracking Temperature – Locating Losses

The combustion analyzer’s built-in thermocouple tracks inlet air temperature versus exhaust temperatures. Performing a flue gas analysis determines your net system efficiency by revealing how much heat actually transfers into your machinery versus getting lost out of the exhaust. While expecting some loss is reasonable, you likely have room to lower excess air and enhance heat capture. Highmark Analytics can holistically assess your burners, controls, and systems to curb losses. Our team will evaluate:

  • Burner sizing and placement
  • Integrity of insulation
  • Condition of heat transfer components
  • Flue gas volumes and velocity

Then, deliver data-backed recommendations tailored to your equipment.

Configuring Alarms & Using Data

Getting readings on oxygen, combustibles, and temperature means nothing without properly configuring alarm thresholds and action plans. Highmark Analytics draws from decades of experience to provide consultation services on how to:

  • Set your oxygen alarm to avoid falling below minimum safe percentages based on your fuel type
  • Choose a low ppm combustibles alarm limit that gives early warning without excessive nuisance tripping
  • Determine the acceptable differential between inlet air and exhaust temperature

We also offer solutions to record data for tracking over time. Highmark Analytics has you covered whether you need local data logging or seamless software integrations for real-time visibility. Our services include:

  • Touchscreen interfaces for clear on-demand analytics
  • Cloud-based data storage for remote monitoring
  • Custom reporting to spot efficiency loss trends
  • Automated analytics to catch anomalies

This creates accountability within your team to respond to alarms while giving leadership data to drive capital and operational decisions.

Monitoring Efficiency

While some heat loss is unavoidable, analyzers reveal how much more heat you can capture. By comparing inlet air to exhaust temperatures, our engineers perform flue gas analysis to pinpoint savings opportunities. Upgrading old insulation, redirecting airflow, adjusting stack dimensions, and replacing worn burner components have yielded some sites 10% to 25% fuel savings. Finding the source of loss is the critical first step – then we size solutions. These system assessments pay dividends through enhanced safety and reduced expenses.

Adding Toxic Gas Monitoring

For facilities needing to meet regulatory emissions limits, upgrading to integrated toxic gas sensing can simplify compliance. We offer analyzers featuring built-in sensors for gases like:

  • Nitric & Sulfur Oxides (NOX / SOX)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Hydrocarbons (methane, oils)
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

These streamline monitoring, alarms, and reporting for regulated toxins and greenhouse gases using the same user-friendly interfaces as standard analyzers.

Upgrading Your Analyzer

If you currently lack a combustion analyzer or have an older unit, upgrading now is likely your most cost-effective option. Simply put, combustion analyzers pay for themselves by unlocking combustion efficiency and safety. New touchscreen interfaces for clear real-time and historical visibility make decision-making easier.

Reach out to Highmark Analytics to explore analyzers like:

  • Next-generation Emerson CWD700 for automated oxygen trim control
  • Portable TESTO 350 Analyzers to tackle fieldwork
  • Custom-built systems with toxic sensors to meet specialized needs

With flexible purchase, rental, and service programs available, upgrading needn’t break budgets. Our team draws from extensive first-hand product experience to ensure you get set up with the right analyzer for long-term success the first time.

Quality Combustion Analysis in Your Hands

Understanding what your analyzer tells you transforms meaningless numbers into actionable insights for efficiency, compliance, and safety. As your knowledgeable partner, Highmark Analytics strives to place tailored solutions in your hands through:

  • Clarifying analyzer selection for your specific fuels and needs
  • Providing cost-effective purchase or rental options
  • Configuring proper sensor ranges, alarm limits, and data integrations
  • Offering responsive field service, repairs, calibration
  • Conducting periodic efficiency audits to unlock savings

Want to improve your combustion monitoring? Contact Highmark Analytics to explore your options with a solutions-focused partner. Our decades of hands-on emissions analysis experience mean in-depth guidance tailored to your operations. Connect with one of Highmark Analytics’ combustion efficiency specialists today for a complimentary site assessment and analyzer selection consultation.