Working Principle

Both gas and oil fired boilers use controlled combustion of the fuel to heat water. The key boiler components involved in this process are the burner, combustion chamber, heat exchanger, and controls.

The burner mixes the fuel and oxygen together and, with the assistance of an ignition device, provides a platform for combustion. This combustion takes place in the combustion chamber, and the heat that it generates is transferred to the water through the heat exchanger. Controls regulate the ignition, burner firing rate, fuel supply, air supply, exhaust draft, water temperature, steam pressure, and boiler pressure.

Hot water produced by a boiler is pumped through pipes and delivered to equipment throughout the building, which can include hot water coils in air handling units, service hot water heating equipment, and terminal units. Steam boilers produce steam that flows through pipes from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, unaided by an external energy source such as a pump. Steam utilized for heating can be directly utilized by steam using equipment or can provide heat through a heat exchanger that supplies hot water to the equipment.

A boiler is an enclosed vessel that provides a means for combustion heat to be transferred to water until it becomes heated water or steam. The hot water or steam under pressure is then usable for transferring the heat to a process. Water is a useful and inexpensive medium for transferring heat to a process. When water at atmospheric pressure is boiled into steam its volume increases about 1,600 times, producing a force that is almost as explosive as gun powder. This causes the boiler to be an equipment that must be treated with utmost care.

The boiler system comprises of: a feed water system, steam system and fuel system. The feed water system provides water to the boiler and regulates it automatically to meet the steam demand. Various valves provide access for maintenance and repair. The steam system collects and controls the steam produced in the boiler. Steam is directed through a piping system to the point of use. Throughout the system, steam pressure is regulated using valves and checked with steam pressure gauges. The fuel system includes all equipment used to provide fuel to generate the necessary heat. The equipment required in the fuel system depends on the type of fuel used in the system.

The water supplied to the boiler that is converted into steam is called feed water.


The two sources of feed water are:

  1. Condensate or condensed steam returned from the processes and
  2. Makeup water (treated raw water) which must come from outside the boiler room and plant processes. For higher boiler efficiencies, an economizer preheats the feed water using the waste heat in the flue gas.