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Old boiler room equipment

Smith19Smith19 Member Posts: 75
Okay, So I've seen a strange old system, and I'm looking for some explanation. It's from 1951, and has got three of these massive old Birchfield boilers. It's a classic two pipe steam system from that era. This I understand. However, the boilers have old Ray rotary burners. Can anyone explain these things? They look incredibly inefficient. They burn crude oil, (not no.6) and require air atomization. However, the combustion atomizing air is derived from the building's pneumatic controls. (???) that doesn't seem right. Any thoughts?



  • meplumbermeplumber Member Posts: 678
    Ray rotary burners

    Sorry for the delay Smith, I have been on the road working for a few weeks.

    These rotary cup burners were the common method of burning heavy oil from the late 30's till the mid 60's.  The pump pressure required to atomize heavy oil is huge.  Like 250-300 psi.  The oil pumps of the era were not capable of producing this pressure reliably (still aren't really), so external atomizing air was the preferred method.  This method is still employed on occasion with Tar Sands burners.  Quite often, there would be a compressed air plant within the boiler plant.  The secret and often problematic issue is that the air had to be dry.  Very dry.

    These old burner setups were not very efficient, but remember that oil was dirt cheap at that the time.  Reliability was the name of the game.

    If you can keep it running, it will last forever.
  • Smith19Smith19 Member Posts: 75
    I'm just concerned about using control air from the building. Also not interested in burning such a dirty fuel for the foreseeable future.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,327
    You'd probably have to replace the burners. Fortunately, oil burners have gotten a lot better since those Rays were installed, and you can now get powered gas burners that will replace an oil burner.

    Not familiar with Birchfield boilers- what type are they? Cast-iron? Steel?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
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  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 2,362
    Are you sure they are rotary burners? I think not. A rotary burner can be swung open and has a spinning cup driven by the motor to atomize the oil by centrifugal force . It could be direct drive or belt drive. the oil pump is usually integral to the burner. A rotary burner usually has a damper located under the burner--an air opening in the boiler front plate for combustion air.

    If you have compressed air going to the burner it is probably a Ray air atomizing burner They can be used for #2-#6 fuel oil. It has an oil nozzle with two pipes, one for compressed air and one for oil. they usually use there own air compressor located near the burner but could use plant compressed air. The Ray air atomizer also swings open.

    Got any pics?
  • Smith19Smith19 Member Posts: 75
    It's a ray rotary burner, with all the features you describe. A line from the back of the boiler room where the control air compressors are is feeding the oil line with control air. Birchfield boilers, at least in our case, are large scotch box style steel boilers, very similar to what's in my profile pic.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 2,362
    Well, Ray made plenty of rotary's I just can't think of a reason to used compressed air with a rotary burner. I grew up on rotarys, not many of them around anymore.

    Preferred Utilities in Danbury, CT still makes rotary burners with a forced draft fan "inject aire" burner.
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