Saturday, October 17, 2015

Combustion Efficiency

Fall tune up season is here. A seasonal check on a gas or oil furnace should include a check of the combustion process. To do a good job you really need to measure the combustion efficiency. To measure combustion efficiency you need to take two temperature readings and one flue gas reading.  The temperatures are the flue gas temperature and the ambient temperature around the unit. You subtract the ambient temperature from the flue gas temperature to get what is called the net stack temperature. The flue gas reading can be either CO2 or O2.Generally oxygen is preferred. For a gas furnace, perfect stoichiometric combustion produces 12% CO2 in the flue gas. The CO2 percentage drops off if the process is either too rich (too much fuel) or too lean (too much air). At the perfect stoichiometric point the O2 will still be 0% because all of it is being used in the combustion process. As excess air is introduced into the process, the O2 begins to rise due to the oxygen content in the air that was not used in the combustion process. Excess air is introduced to insure complete combustion. Note that complete combustion is not the same as perfect combustion. In perfect (stoichiometric) combustion, ALL the fuel and ALL the oxygen are used up, producing ONLY carbon dioxide and water. In complete combustion, all the fuel is used up, but not necessarily all the oxygen. Lack of combustion air produces incomplete combustion. Incomplete combustion leaves some unburned carbon and carbon monoxide. Excess air is introduced on purpose to prevent the production of soot and CO in the flue gas. The figure below shows the relationship of CO2, CO, O2 , and excess air. Next week we will discuss some of the ore practical aspects of measuring the combustion process.

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