All over U.S. consumer media, reports have been consistently warning of rising fuel costs, including oil and natural gas. Contractors and their customers in the Northeast and New England states, many with oil-fired furnaces and boilers, are no strangers to the fuel’s fluctuating prices.

While its costs have been relatively low and stable within the last few years, the price of fuel oil is once again moving upward. This could present an opportunity for contractors who hope the increases will sway consumers to upgrade their heating equipment.

It really opens up opportunities for inventors like Garry O. Hanson, of HVAC Consultants, Inc., Florence, KY. Hanson, in conjunction with the Patterson-Kelley Co., has designed and developed a pulse-combustion, oil-fired commercial hot water boiler.

Pulse Background

Pulse combustion gas-fired heating products are not new to the comfort heating market.

According to Hanson, Hydrotherm, Inc., first introduced a line of gas-fired, pulse-combustion boilers in 1979. “Following this event, in 1982, Lennox Industries, Inc., started manufacturing and marketing several models of gas-fired, warm-air furnace models utilizing pulse combustion technology,” Hanson said.

In 1989, Fulton announced gas-fired pulse-combustion boilers for the commercial hot water boiler market.

Hanson said that “This presented a void, a missing link, a less-than-entirely fulfilled application of the advantages of this technology to oil-fired heating appliances.” In short, there were no oil-fired pulse-combustion boilers or warm air furnaces. He decided to work towards filling that void.

New Product for an Old Market

Two models of these commercial hot water boilers are currently in production, and are being marketed at heating input rates of 350,000 and 500,000 Btuh. The product has several features of interest to contractors and technicians.

  • Hanson said that the boilers’ use of pulse technology offers “extremely high combustion efficiency.”
  • That same efficiency also “reduces the probability of sooting found with ‘bad oil’ and adverse field conditions.” And with oil costs on the rise, the probability of bad oil entering the market could rise, too.
  • “When demand gets high, some refining techniques may be short-circuited,” Hanson commented. “Bad oil is difficult to combust. The pulse process can combust more cleanly.”

  • Also from a service and maintenance point of view, “After thousands of cycles, the heat exchanger is very clean,” Hanson said. “The pulsing action — acting like a pulse jet, 70 times per second — has a scrubbing action on the heat exchanger.”
  • The unit’s sealed combustion design adds further to its efficiency because the boilers do not take air from the conditioned space, Hanson said. It also means the combustor is completely isolated from the conditioned space, adding to safety. The source for combustion air and the termination for the flue gas exhaust can either be at a side wall or at the roof.
  • The unit’s intelligent control system allows monitoring and resetting from a local or remote location.
  • The boiler is also said to be quiet in operation, making it suitable for applications such as churches and nursing homes.

  • Dual Fuels; Furnace Too

    Hanson pointed out that the unit could easily be designed to also fire on gas; that a unit specifically designed for gas could not operate with oil as fuel, but that this new unit, designed for oil, can work both ways and be fueled with natural gas.

    “It can also be designed to switch fuels according to the utility rates,” he commented. “In the commercial market, customers can get a cost break if the unit has the ability to switch to an alternate fuel — a sizable reduction in rates.”

    Hanson, who has 32 years’ experience in the technical management, design, and development of forced-air furnaces, boilers, and solar energy systems, holds a patent for a dual-fuel gas or oil-fired, pulse-combustion furnace. Like the boiler, it will also be able to combust oil and gas.

    “The pulse combustion process does not really care if it is air or water on the other side of the combustor,” Hanson said.

    Sidebar: Oil Survey: Price Spikes Looming

    LAKEWOOD, NJ — Spot prices for key refined products in the next year will most likely surpass record numbers seen in the last eight months, according to a recent sampling of supply executives contacted by OPIS Energy Group, a firm that tracks and analyzes U.S. petroleum prices and trends.

    OPIS said it surveyed independent refiners, traders, schedulers, and buyers just before the Strategic Petroleum Reserve crude sale was announced. There was a great degree of variance in where these respondents see prices in the winter of 2000-01; extreme volatility could be a fixture for many months.

    Most disturbing, perhaps, is the fact that more than 70% of the survey respondents say that the oil industry is “not adequately prepared” for this winter.

    Few executives see an easy solution. One supplier suggested that “allocation right down to the consumer level is almost a certainty,” reported OPIS. Others suggested that the “high prices will cut into demand” and the free market will go to work. Still others said it is already too late to address problems brought on by months of inadequate stock builds.

    More than 40% of those surveyed believe that wholesale heating oil prices will eventually spike above $2/gal in the upcoming winter. A smaller group maintains that $1/gal numbers seen in mid-September may be higher than any of the numbers likely in the next 12 months.

    Publication date:10/16/2000 Web date: 06/11/2001