When searching for a steam source solution for your business, you probably have come across two common systems that sound similar: electric steam generators and steam boilers. Although they both produce steam for a variety of uses, there are many differences between the two systems, especially with the way they operate. Understanding these differences and the design of both systems will help you determine the right one for your process needs.
The Difference Between a Steam Generator and a Steam Boiler
To better understand the differences between a steam generator and a steam boiler, take a closer look at each system and its operation specifics.
What Is an Electric Steam Generator? How Does It Work?
Electric steam generators heat water to produce steam in a single vessel under forced pressure. A pump sends feedwater to the chamber containing submerged heating elements. Using this single pressurized chamber, incoming water is converted into steam when heated to boil under pressure.
Steam generators are ideal for on-demand situations. They are smaller and easier to start up compared to steam boilers and, thus, may be used as auxiliary boilers. Generators usually do not have the same maximum capacity as fuel fired boilers, so they are best for applications that require point of use dry steam.
What Is a Steam Boiler? How Does It Work?
Steam boilers are large pressure vessels where water is heated to its boiling point via complex fuel systems. Two main types of steam boilers are fire-tube and water-tube boilers. In general, water is heated to its boiling point via the combustion of fuel blown through multiple tubes submerged in water. The heat produced during this process is then injected into the system as steam. Steam will then flow through pipes to the equipment being heated.
Steam boilers are often used in comfort heating and maintaining industrial process temperatures.
As we discussed above, the most notable differences between a steam generator and steam boiler include
Why Use a Steam Generator Over a Steam Boiler?
Many smaller processes that use steam do not need a large boiler. For those smaller processes, an easily portable steam generator would be the best tool for the job. A few of the top reasons to use an electric steam generator instead of a fuel fired steam boiler include:
- Safety: Electric steam generators use no combustible fuel, therefore are not subject to major failures as fuel fired boilers are. Fossil fuel fired boilers can suffer failures from low conditions, poor water treatment, improper warm-up, pulling a vacuum, flame impingement, severe over-firing and even outright explosions.
- Portability: Steam generators have a smaller design that allows them to be used when facilities have limited space. Electro-Steam’s small-scale generators are portable and do not require extensive installation, such as boiler rooms and long steam lines
- Energy efficiency: Electric steam generators consume no energy while idle. When operational they only cycle when steam is needed. This is especially helpful in warmer months when full power may not be necessary. Fuel fired boilers require much more energy to run at full strength and, due to its larger design and extensive piping system, cannot easily be turned off and on and constantly burn fuel even when steam is not in demand
- Quick start: A steam generator’s compact design, single chamber, and relatively lower water demand allow these systems to achieve rated output in only minutes from a cold start, as opposed to boilers that can take hours. This quick-start capability makes a steam generator ideal for emergencies and instances where steam may not be needed for lengthy periods of time, such as pilot plants, labs and process testing.
- Cost: Installing a steam boiler system at your facility can be time-consuming and costly. Steam generators cost much less than a full-scale fuel fired boiler system, so they may work better for applications that do not require high levels of steam like those produced by boilers
Contact Electro-Steam Today
The winner of the steam generator vs. steam boiler debate will depend on the application and your facility’s energy production needs. We hope this short post will be helpful when deciding which system is right for you. Electro-Steam’s units are suited for both smaller steam required applications and large ones, in which boilers are used. If you have questions about or need information about our steam generators and steam boilers, contact Electro-Steam today. The Electro-Steam team will work with you to determine the system that will best fit your needs.