There is no argument that gas mass flow meters are effective for combustion control and boiler control because of their fast response, wide turn down, and low-pressure drop. By controlling the air-to-fuel ratio in industrial boilers, steam generators, furnaces, ovens, smelters, and process heaters, the flame burns more efficiently. In this case, less energy is consumed, and byproducts of combustion, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulates are reduced.
In a recent advertisement for a popular boiler flow meter (advertised for “Light-Industrial” applications), the manufacturer claimed that since 2006 fifteen thousand units have been installed to measure natural gas, methane, and propane. This piqued my interest, so I took my magnifying glass to this model and evaluated it against Sage Metering Thermal Mass Flow Meters.
Here I share my findings:
On physical inspection of the competitor’s Light Industrial Meter, it was clear that the meter’s most significant weakness is the fragile sensor, which can be easily damaged. The sensor is glass and ceramic, only 0.040” and housed in a 0.375” support. This is an axial style sensor that generally has poor temperature compensation and is prone to errors with even a thin layer of dirt buildup or oil. Historically, this sensor style has only been used in air and inert gas applications because it is so fragile. Furthermore, the thin probe (0.375”) protecting the sensor can easily be bent during the probe’s installation and removal.
All Sage Metering meters use rugged 316 stainless steel sensors and are over twice the diameter (0.083”) of the Light Industrial Meter. They are also housed in a heavy-gauge (0.500”) probe, which protects the sensor.
Even though the meter is designed to measure natural gas flow and consumption, the Light Industrial Meter manufacturer generally uses air as a correlation gas for the initial calibration. The downfall, of course, is that accuracy is compromised. There would be a significant upcharge if the actual gas were used.
The manufacturer of the Light Industrial Meter also claims that the meter can be calibrated onsite; however, the meter doesn’t detect when a sensor is dirty. In this case, as noted earlier, the flow readings would be inaccurate, and there is no way of alerting the user. Whereas the Sage Metering technology uses an easy in-situ calibration and verifies if the sensor has drifted, shifted, or is dirty.
The Light Industrial Meter is powered by a nonstandard power supply (15-18 VDC). To make the unit operational in an industrial environment, a new power source would need to be created (or a 24 VDC option would have been required at an additional cost).
Another noteworthy comparisons are that the Light Industrial Meter has a quicker response time than the Sage Metering counterpart. This is due to its tiny thermal mass that is associated with the tiny sensor. However, the downfall of such a small sensor is that it is extremely fragile, an unwelcome design feature for installation in a volatile environment.
Boiler Flow Meter Cost
While the Light Industrial Meter appears to be less expensive at first glance, when you adjust for the expense of generating a nonstandard power source, the price difference between the Sage Clear (closest to the Light Industrial Meter’s specifications) is negligible. Most importantly, if its probe or sensor were to be damaged, the cost of replacement is more than 50% of the cost of a new meter!
When considering the pros and cons of two meters, the Sage Clear is the clear choice over the Light Industrial Meter. The Clear is more accurate; it verifies if the sensor is dirty and works on standard power. It also offers a remote style option, which allows electronics up to 1000 feet from the probe. Most significantly, though, the Sage Clear sensor is durable, which provides peace of mind that the sensor will not be easily damaged.
The Sage Clear has been replaced. See the Sage Paramount.