How Indirect Fired Heaters are Helpful in Industrial Heating Systems

Indirect Fired Heaters

22 Feb
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Choosing the right heating solution for your industrial space isn’t an especially difficult choice: Most heaters are either direct-fired or indirect-fired, and they will generate as much heat as their maximum factory specifications will allow. 

That being said, there are certain benefits to choosing an indirect-fired heater over a direct-fired heater that most business owners may not be aware of when installing a new system. Here’s an overview of why indirect-fired heaters are the smart choice for your industrial space and the unique benefits they offer.

Direct-Fired vs. Indirect-Fired: What’s The Difference?

Direct-Fired Heating

It’s all in the name: direct-fired heaters heat up air by burning combustible fuel. To distribute heat throughout a structure, air is forced over the open flame and vented out via internal components. There’s no need for heating ducts unless the hot air needs to travel a long distance, and even if you do have ductwork there’s only minimal risk that air will carry fumes or exhaust. 

The drawback of a direct-fired heating unit is they aren’t suitable for tightly sealed spaces or for use near flammable materials. The open flame, exhaust and fumes produced by direct-fired heaters can pose both an air quality and fire safety hazard. Furthermore, direct-fired heating spaces require an air exchange system or and/or an exterior door/window that can be opened to vent the space in an emergency. 

While the likelihood is small, there is still a risk that fumes or exhaust could be leaked into the ventilation system. Finally, direct-fired heaters produce warm, dry air, but they aren’t suitable for maintaining specific humidity in an enclosed space when exterior humidity is high. 

Indirect-Fired Heating

Like oil or gas-burning home furnaces that use a chimney, indirect-fired heaters use a flame in a burn chamber to increase the temperature of a heat exchanger. The indirect-fired heating system draws in cool air via two different chambers, passing it over and around the heat exchanger to raise air temperature without ever coming into contact with the open flame or fumes. This warm air is then pushed out into the ventilation system to maintain consistent temperature and humidity. 

Like direct-fired heaters, indirect-fired heating has its drawbacks, too. The units tend to be a slightly more expensive to maintain due to the added complexity of the heat exchange system, and they do take up more space. It’s also worth noting while they run cleaner than direct-fired heaters,  indirect-fired heaters need an exhaust hose vented to the outside from the burn chamber if they are oil or gas powered. That being said, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages for industrial spaces.

Benefits of Indirect-Fired Heaters

High Quality, Safer Air

Thanks to the heat exchange system, indirect-fired heating produces clean air pulled from an outside source. When paired with a high-quality filtration and ventilation system, there is zero risk of exposure to pollutants, combustion by products or fumes within the space or building you are heating. Choosing indirect-fired heating is always going to be the best option where you deal with combustible materials or areas that require air-tight seals with pollutant and contaminant free air. Moreover, they are also easier to integrate with existing HVAC systems.

Humidity Control

The ability to manage or eliminate moisture in a building or space is essential to many commercial and manufacturing facilities. Direct-fired heaters do not allow for complete humidity control because they pass exterior intake air directly over the heat source and out into the workspace. The heater may dry the air out completely, but if especially humid weather conditions are at play, excess moisture may be pulled in with the hot air. 

Indirect-fired systems can completely eliminate all humidity thanks to their heat exchange system, allowing facilities to maintain zero humidity or controlled humidity environments. In spaces like warehouses or manufacturing storage areas where materials need to be kept at a constant temperature and humidity, indirect-fired heating is always going to be the best choice.

Energy Flexibility and Savings

Direct-fired heaters are dependent on oil or gas to increase air temperature. Not only does this increase the carbon footprint of a workspace or facility, but it also means heating is only possible if fuel is readily available. It also puts businesses at the mercy of the fossil fuel market and the weather, making it difficult to budget for energy costs each year.

Conversely, indirect-fired systems can run on oil, gas or electricity. There are even systems designed to run primarily on electricity with a fuel oil or propane backup system in the event of a power outage. Combined with an alternative energy source like wind or solar power, you can easily maintain temperature and humidity all year long in any weather. 

Why Indirect-Fired Heating Is Ideal For Industrial Spaces

No matter the type of raw material used or the product produced, maintaining consistent temperature and humidity at all times is critical to any industrial process. Direct-fired systems are limited to spaces that can be easily ventilated and must be kept well away from combustible materials. While they have a few advantages like better fuel efficiency and lower operating temperatures, they are unsuitable for many industrial spaces due to their ventilation and proximity safety requirements.

Using indirect-fired heating is always going to be the ideal choice because of its energy versatility, heat exchange system, and superior humidity control. There are some drawbacks:  indirect-fired heating carries the potential for up to a 20% energy loss in the thermal exchange between the heating chamber and the heat exchange system. Additionally, the unit must be installed in a location where a ventilation hose can be run to vent the exhaust from the combustion chamber. Despite these minor mitigating factors, indirect-fired heating remains the best option for heating industrial spaces.

Final Thoughts

All in all, choosing the best heating solution for your industrial space isn’t a complicated process. That being said, the benefits of choosing indirect-fired heating over direct-fired heating for industrial spaces are clear: better air quality, better energy flexibility, and better environmental control for enclosed spaces. 

Are you a Texas-based industrial facility owner or manager needing a temporary heating system? Preferred Climate Solutions has the resources and expertise to help you choose the perfect portable indirect-fired heating system for your industrial operation. Contact us today for a free consultation and estimate.

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