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In a firetube boiler, hot combustion gases pass through long, small-diameter tubes, where heat is transferred to water through the tube walls. Firetube boilers are categorized by their number of “passes,” or the number of times that the hot combustion gases travel across the boiler heat-exchange surfaces. For example, a two-pass boiler provides two opportunities for hot gases to transfer heat to the boiler water. Hot combustion gases enter the tubes in a turbulent flow regime, but within a few feet, laminar flow begins and a boundary layer of cooler gas forms along the tube walls. This layer serves as a barrier, retarding heat transfer.
AFE-Turbulators, which consist of angular metal strips, are inserted into the boiler tubes to break up the laminar boundary layer. This increases the turbulence of the hot combustion gases, and the convective heat transfer to the tube surface. The heat is distributed more evenly and the boiler retains the heat longer, thus increasing off-time and decreasing running time. The result is improved boiler efficiency and a substantial fuel savings.
AFE-Turbulators can also balance gas flow through the tubes by installation of longer turbulators in the uppermost tubes. This practice increases the effectiveness of the available heat-transfer surface by eliminating thermal stratification and balancing the gas flow through the firetubes.
Originally called the Smick Turbulator, named after inventor Bud Smick, the patented AFE-Turbulator represents a technological advance because of its adjustable angles which can be altered, as can the thickness, width and length of the turbulator to suit over 140 different applications. Unlike other technologies, the AFE-Turbulator does not have to be specially positioned in the boiler tube.