Making industrial furnaces more energy-efficient 01 September 2023

Here, Chris Johnson, managing director at specialist bearing supplier SMB Bearings, explains why investigations in research and development with the aim of creating more energy-efficient solutions in industrial furnaces should include high-temperature bearings which are crucial in order to achieve such efficiency.

Even as countries strive to meet climate goals and reduce their carbon footprint, the current rate of improvement is not sufficient to meet the targets set out by the Paris Agreement. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2022 the global economy used energy 2% more efficiently than it did in 2021. While this is an improvement, there is still some way to go and energy efficiency improvements need to average 4% a year this decade to align with the IEA’s Net Zero Emission by 2050 Scenario. 

This increasing emphasis on reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption, there is a growing demand for energy-efficient industrial furnaces. As a result, manufacturers are investing in R&D to develop advanced furnaces that consume less energy, emit fewer pollutants and ensure better combustion efficiency.

High-temperature bearings

Industrial furnaces operate at extremely high temperatures and often in harsh environments, which can cause significant wear and tear on the machinery. Bearings are a critical component of these machines, as they help to reduce friction and wear between moving parts. However, at high temperatures, traditional bearings can fail, causing damage to the furnace and reducing its efficiency.

High-temperature bearings are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and harsh environments, making them the ideal solution for industrial furnaces. Bearings are essential components in various mechanical systems, designed to reduce friction and wear. The materials used for manufacturing bearings depend on the temperature requirements of the application. For temperatures up to 150°C, chrome steel bearings are suitable when paired with an appropriate lubricant. Meanwhile, 440 grade stainless steel bearings can withstand temperatures of up to 300°C with the right lubrication. Beyond these thresholds, alternative materials must be employed.

At higher temperatures, full ceramic bearings without ball retainers, also known as full complement bearings, are utilised. These bearings find application in temperatures above 300°C, as well as in situations where lubrication poses a challenge, due to contamination, for example.

By employing high-temperature bearings, manufacturers can effectively minimise friction and wear, resulting in reduced energy consumption and enhanced operational efficiency. The selection of the appropriate bearing material ensures optimal performance and reliability in diverse temperature environments.

Driving factors

The demand for energy-efficient furnaces is growing rapidly, driven by a range of factors. One of the most significant drivers is political, with governments around the world setting ambitious climate goals to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. This has led to increased regulations and incentives for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency.

Another factor driving demand is the growing industrial sector, particularly in countries such as China and India. As these countries continue to develop, the demand for energy-efficient furnaces will increase, as manufacturers seek to reduce costs and improve their efficiency further.

Finally, technological advancements are also driving demand, with new materials and designs being developed to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. High-temperature bearings are just one example of this, with manufacturers investing in R&D to create new and innovative solutions.

Benefits of investing

Investing in high-temperature bearings offers a range of benefits for businesses. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, they can also help to extend the life of the furnace, reducing maintenance costs and downtime.

“SMB Bearings understands the importance of high-temperature bearings in making industrial furnaces more energy-efficient. That's why we offers a range of high-quality bearings specifically designed for use in high-temperature environments. The bearings are made from the highest quality materials and are rigorously tested to ensure they can withstand extreme temperatures and harsh environments. They are offered a range of sizes and designs to suit a variety of applications, from small furnaces to large industrial plants,” states SMB.

Becca England Assistant Editor t: +44 (0) 1727 615 413

Becca is the latest member to join our team and is eager to get stuck into the world of fasteners. She brings an enthusiastic and fresh outlook on what we do editorially and will be leading our social media activity – including sourcing material, editing articles and posting online.