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Boiler BTU's & PSI


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I'm opening a new distillery and I was just surprised by the price of steam boilers. I'm hoping you guys can provide some insight. I searched the forum but couldn't get a clear idea so I'm posting for the first time!

After doing a quick search I found some 1,000,000+ btu boilers for about $15k. But after talking to a local engineer he quoted a 1,000,000 btu at $50k. The pot still I'm looking at is 250 gallons and the specs say 500,000 btu's should work. So, I can go smaller than 1,000,000, down to 500,000 but that means I won't be able to run the still and the cooker at the same time.

So, my question is what am I missing? Why are these prices so different than what I was finding? Does it have something to do with PSI or.... Are the makes & models I was looking at insufficient for my purpose, or inferior in some way? I'm looking at Utica Boilers and other manufacturers like it.


Thanks for any and all help.


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50k seems high, at least without installation costs. I have gotten pricing for this size also and can say I have seen pricing range from about 15k for a similar cast iron system that you linked to, to around 63k for a Clayton steam generator with various pricing in between. It seems to me that plenty of breweries have gotten by just fine with these cheap cast iron boilers but I don't know what kind of life span you will get out of them since I don't think they are usually considered good for process steam. Realize that in addition to the boiler you need a feed system, blowdown separator, and ideally a chemical treatment and pretreatment system which some quote with their boiler and some don't. Install is expensive too. You can try to do this yourself as I believe many municipalities don't require a licensed person to do this work, but I am not sure I would recommend this. For 250 gallon system though 500k BTUs should be fine. Use water for instance to figure your heatup. 250 gallons x 8.34 pounds/per gallon*delta temperature change (say 125) which is only about 260k btu's to heat in 1 hour or about 350,000 in 45 minutes. From that point you can figure your running BTUs roughly from manufacturer's specs. Say they say a strip takes 3 hours. 10 percent beer says you have 25 gallons pure ethanol in a full load. This gives you about 71 gallons of 70 proof low wines (latent heat maybe 2/3s water, 1/3 ethanol, maybe a chemist can say if this basic idea makes sense). Take a heat of vaporization necessary to vaporize this much and divide by 3 hours and you have your running BTUs (this all assumes no loses which of course isn't the case). Do the math though and you can see that worst case you stagger your startup time by at most 45 minutes and you can heatup one vessel and run spirit on the other with no problems. I have no idea what a 500k BTU boiler costs but I'd say a nice 1 million btu is around 30k, and going up in down in size usually isn't a huge or proportional difference from what I have seen. Good luck.

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Find a good boiler service company, and buy a used boiler. Boilers are a lot like cars, the first buyer pays a premium, while a good used one that has been well maintained should save you a good deal of money. I picked up a boiler last week from a company that sold me a 20 HP (837,000 BTU) Hurst vertical boiler, they they maintained yearly from new in 1999 until 2011 when it was pulled out of service. Including the blow down tank and boiler feed pump and tank it was about $8600. Additionally, by going with an older model I was able to save extra since I don't have to meet new Boiler low NOx requirements in Texas. He is refreshing the unit up this weekend with paint and and tuning the power flame before deliver in a week or 2, and will guarantee the unit free of any issues for the first year with no cost service & parts.

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Wow, this is great information. Thanks everyone.

I talked to my contact who is a technition with this boiler supplier/install/maintanence company and told him that $50k was more than i was expecting and that 1,300k btu's is more than i need. I told him my requirements which we calculated to be at 15HP minimum and 20HP on the upper end. He said he would talk to his sales guys and also find out what used stock they have on hand to see what they can do for me.

I'll keep you posted.

@Hypnopooper: It sounds like you really scored with that unit. I hope my contact can come back with similar results.

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