Advantages And Disadvantages Of Fire Tube Boilers

In this article, I will share the advantages and disadvantages of fire tube boilers.


Before I begin sharing with you the pros and cons of fire tube boilers there is something you should know about this kind of boiler.


Fire tube boiler works with the same principle that a heat exchanger uses.


You can check the working principle of an economizer in the article below.


You might like this: Boiler Economizers: Function, Types, Design And Operation


In a fire tube boiler, the combustion gasses are inside the tubes and water to be heated surrounds these tubes.


The tubes that carry the combustion gasses are routed to the boiler water.


You might like this: Boilers: Components, Types & Working Principle


This type of boiler has its advantages and disadvantages that I want to share so that you know if it’s the right boiler for you.


It’s a piece of important information to have at your fingertips since there are always some requirements a steam boiler should have before considering putting it into use.


You might like this: 6 Requirements Of a Steam Boiler


Advantages of fire tube boilers

1. The initial cost of the fire tube boilers is lower.

This is one of the advantages of fire tube boilers.


When I talk about the initial cost of the boiler, it’s the amount of money that one needs to invest in these boilers.


They are cheaper when you compare them with water tube boilers.


When it comes to the prices, they are about 50 or 60% cheaper compared to water tube boilers.


This is an amazing advantage especially when one is on a tight budget.


2. They are compact.

Fire tube boilers are compact, which is one of the advantages that makes them convenient is small plants.


The small size of the fire tube boiler allows it to save huge space in the plant that can be used for something else.


No one wants a boiler occupying the whole plant when it’s installed.


The compactness of this boiler makes it easier to install it and put it in operation in a short period.


The other benefit one can get from the compact design of the fire tube boiler is the low expenditure on the mountings, accessories and the steam distribution system.


You might like this: 6 Design Requirements Of Steam Distribution System


Fewer boiler mountings and accessories will be needed if the size of the boiler is relatively smaller compared to when it’s huge.


Also, when it comes to the steam distribution system, shorter steam pipes are going to be connected which also saves a lot of money and time used to set up the fire tube boiler.


3. It’s easier to maintain fire tube boilers.

For the prolonged life of any type of boiler, maintenance is one of the important things that should be put into practice.


Maintenance of the boilers isn’t a joke, especially if the boiler is huge and has many complicated parts.


When there is an issue, it will take a while for the operators to notice where the fault is coming from.


This tends to make maintenance harder.


But with a fire tube boiler, you have the ease of maintaining it without the hassle of any kind.


The main reason that makes it easier to maintain the fire tube boilers is their simple design.


when it comes to cleaning, you deal with the shell easily since it’s located outside the unit.


It’s very easy to identify any faults in the boiler since there are not any complex parts attached to this type of boiler.


4. Simple operation.

The operation of a fire tube boiler is simple which makes it easier to start and stop the boiler.


If it’s easier to operate a fire tube boiler, this means if there are any accidents, they can easily be mitigated because you don’t need the whole boiler manual by your side to shut down the boiler.


Simple operation of the boiler also saves so much time when it comes to the quick start of the boiler.


We don’t have the whole day in the plant to start a boiler.


The simple operation is an advantage that will increase productivity when it comes to steam generation.


5. Easily meets the fluctuations demands.

When using a steam boiler, what we all care about the most is the steam generated.


If the boiler can easily meet your demands then you are good to go. We all want a boiler that can handle the fluctuation demands.


With a fire tube boiler, it’s easier to meet the fluctuations demands of the steam needed since it’s easier to increase the amount of heat needed by just increasing the combustion gasses in the tubes and they also have large storage water capacity thus small steam pressure changes can be met immediately.


It’s very different when you compare it with a water tube boiler; adding more water in the water tube boiler to meet the demands will necessarily require an increase in heat produced.


So, it will take quite a time for the water tube boiler to adjust to the demands since adding water to the tube slightly lowers the temperature and pressure of the steam generated.


6. Fire tube boilers are safe to use.

Safety is our number one priority when it comes to the operation of boilers. Their accidents can be a huge disaster.


One of the essential advantages of using a fire tube boiler is safety.


Fire tube boilers have low controllable steam pressure and this is what makes them safer.


The other thing is that the fire is inside the tubes, which significantly reduces emissions and fire accidents.


This is an advantage that we should all look up to when we want to put the fire tube boiler into use.


This makes them high preferably for commercial, domestic and industrial use.


Disadvantages of fire tube boilers.

1. Lower capacity and efficiency.

This is one of the disadvantages of using a fire tube boiler. To be honest, the fire tube boiler has a lower capacity when it comes to the steam generated and its overall efficiency.


The quality of steam produced is quite lower when you compare it with a water tube boiler.


This is why it’s not used in large plants because it can’t provide the quality of steam needed.


Fire tube boilers have low steam pressures and this is not enough to handle big loads.


The overall efficiency of the fire tube boiler is about 75% and this won’t work in plants that require higher efficiency.


2. Limited heat transfer.

When using a steam boiler, the heat produced by the fuel system should be maximized and that is why we use air preheaters and feed water heaters.


You might like this: Feed Water Heaters: Functions, Types, Advantages And Operation and Air Preheaters in Steam Boilers: Function, Types and Working Principles


We can’t allow heat to escape into the atmosphere because it would cost us a lot.


Fuel is expensive and employs practices that will enable us to reduce the operation cost of the boiler.


When using a fire tube boiler, this is one problem that you are going to experience; the heat transfer won’t be maximum and you will have to suffer some energy losses.


The main method of heat transfer that the fire tube boiler uses is conduction.


It doesn’t utilize radiation at all, where we also have a significant amount of energy being lost.


You might like this: Type Of Heat Losses In a Steam Plant (+How To Minimize Them)


3. Takes time for the steam pressure to build up when starting up.

This is another limitation when it comes to the operation of fire tube boilers.


I earlier mentioned that fire tube boilers have a large storage capacity of water.


This may seem a good thing when we look at the side of boiler water storage.


But when we come to the steam pressure build-up is a problem that we can’t avoid.


It’s easier to start up the fire tube boiler, but it takes time for the steam pressure to build up because of the large capacity of water being heated by the tubes.


In general, the fire tube boiler takes about 15 minutes under full firing conditions when the steam valve is closed for the steam to be generated.


If you ask me, that is a quite long time especially when we compare it to the water tube boiler which on average takes about 7 minutes.


So, if you want to go for fire tube boilers, then this is something you should keep in mind.


4. Regular maintenance.

Regular maintenance is an issue that one will have to deal with when a fire tube boiler is put into use.


The tubes will have to be checked frequently to ensure that they are in good working condition.


It’s very easy for accidents to happen if the tubes have any faults because they carry the combustion gasses.


Also, the tube leaks can damage even the entire boiler unit if not taken care of early in advance.


The burner will have to be checked and cleaned regularly because a slight decrease in heat production from the burner will completely lower the steam pressure.


Water treatment is very essential and it should be done every time to avoid scaling since the tubes are usually in contact with the water being heated.


You might like this: Feed Water Treatment: Types And How They Work


Without proper maintenance, the fire tube boiler will be of no use in less than 12 years.


5. Limited control of the steam produced.

It’s quite hard to control the quality of steam produced by a fire tube boiler because of the limited control this type of boiler has.


Their design structure doesn’t offer a huge control over the steam produced.


This limits the quality of the steam produced and does even meet the demands that are required by certain processes in the plant.


Final thoughts


What an amazing time I had researching and coming up with this detailed article about fire tube boilers.


It’s interesting when you come across so many facts about the type of boiler you want to use.


The fire tube boiler tends to be popular in many small industrial uses but they do have their limitations.


It’s hard for these types of boilers to meet larger demands when needed because of their low capacity and efficiency they have.


Though, you can tackle this by installing a wet steam accumulator if you have the chance to do so.


You might like this: Wet Steam Accumulator: Design, Requirements, Operation and Advantages


But if you want a boiler with high efficiency then you should go for a water tube boiler instead of a fire tube boiler.


If your demand for high-pressure steam is not that huge, a fire tube boiler seems to be a good one for you.


Thanks for reading, if you have questions you should leave a comment or say hi. See you in my next article.


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