A high turndown, ultra low emission low-swirl burner for natural gas, on-demand water heaters
Previous research has shown that on-demand water heaters are, on average, approximately 37% more efficient than storage water heaters. However, approximately 98% of water heaters in the U.S. use storage water heaters while the remaining 2% are on-demand. A major market barrier to deployment of on-demand water heaters is their high retail cost, which is due in part to their reliance on multi-stage burner banks that require complex electronic controls. This project aims to research and develop a cost-effective, efficient, ultra-low emission burner for next generation natural gas on-demand water heaters in residential and commercial buildings. To meet these requirements, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) are adapting and testing the low-swirl burner (LSB) technology for commercially available on-demand water heaters. In this report, a low-swirl burner is researched, developed, and evaluated to meet targeted on-demand water heater performance metrics. Performance metrics for a new LSB design are identified by characterizing performance of current on-demand water heaters using published literature and technical specifications, and through experimental evaluations that measure fuel consumption and emissions output over a range of operating conditions. Next, target metrics and design criteria for the LSB are used to create six 3D printed prototypes for preliminary investigations. Prototype designs that proved the most promising were fabricated out of metal and tested further to evaluate the LSB’s full performance potential. After conducting a full performance evaluation on two designs, we found that one LSB design is capable of meeting or exceeding almost all the target performance metrics for on-demand water heaters. Specifically, this LSB demonstrated flame stability when operating from 4.07 kBTU/hr up to 204 kBTU/hr (50:1 turndown), compliance with SCAQMD Rule 1146.2 (14 ng/J or 20 ppm NOX @ 3% O2), and lower CO emissions than state-of-the art water heaters. Overall, the results from this research show that the LSB could provide a simple, low cost burner solution for significantly extending operating range of on-demand water heaters while providing low NOX and CO emissions.