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& Safety Issues

Richard J. Martin | Martin Thermal Engineering | 310-937-1424 |

Furnace Safety Q&A (part 2)

Dr. Martin is not a representative of NFPA. He is a committee volunteer and
his opinions may or may not reect the ofcial position of NFPA.

Questions resume where we left off last month.

Q: Does NFPA 86 require two Safety Shutoff Valves
(SSVs) in series, or does it require the so-called
double-block and vent arrangement?
A: NFPA 85, the Boiler and Combustion Systems Hazards Code,
requires a double-block and vent on each main and pilot burner
and has done so since the 1970s or sooner. Since the 1980s, however,
NFPA 86 has only required two block valves in series. NPFA 86 is
silent on the use of an automatic vent (or bleed) valve between
the pair of block valves, although a manual test valve is required.

Q: Is proof-of-closure required on
pilot-burner SSVs?
A: Possibly. A better question is What size
burner does not require proof-of-closure
on its SSVs? NFPA 86 does not differentiate
between burners with different intended
functions (i.e. pilot versus main). However, it
does impose fewer requirements on smaller
burners because the risk is lower. When the
ring rate of a burner system exceeds 400,000
BTU/hour, at least one of the SSVs must be proved
closed prior to each ignition attempt. Many pilot
burner systems are smaller than this threshold.

Q: Will conduit seals be necessary at

pressure switches even though the
pressure-switch housings are vented to
A: Section 501.15 of the National Electrical Code
(NFPA 70) provides guidance for seals in conduit
and cable systems. The new NFPA 86 requirement
states: Where seal leakage or diaphragm failure in a device can
result in the ow of ammable gas or ammable liquid through a
conduit or cable to an electrical ignition source, a conduit seal or a
cable type that is sealed shall be installed. Thus, if a housing vent
eliminates the possibility of gas or liquid owing through a conduit
or cable, then conduit seals are not required.

Q: The requirements for purge, safety ventilation,

combustion safeguards and safety shutdowns are
confusing. Can you clarify?
A: Purge is sometimes confused with safety ventilation, but
the concepts are distinct and addressed separately in NFPA 86.
Requirements for safety ventilation specify a minimum airow to

26 August 2010 -

ensure that ammable vapors evolved from the work being heated
in the oven never build up and approach explosive concentrations.
Requirements for purge address the need to remove ammable
gases and vapors that may have entered the combustion chamber
prior to lighting the burners.
Combustion safeguards and safety shutdowns are also related
but distinct concepts. A safety shutdown occurs when a safety
device initiates action (e.g., opens a switch) that causes the furnace
operation to stop by shutting off all fuel and ignition energy. Low
fuel-gas pressure, high furnace temperature and insufcient airow
represent potentially unsafe conditions that can be monitored with
a safety device. A combustion safety is one form of safety device
that senses the presence or absence of ames and de-energizes the
appropriate fuel SSVs in the event of ame failure. Flame failure may
require a complete safety shutdown of the entire furnace or might
only require closing a single SSV that supplies the affected burner.

Q: Does the new standard permit the use of a SafetyIntegrity-Level (SIL) rated PLC instead of a hard-wired
Burner Management System (BMS)?
A: There are two fundamentally different paths to compliance with
NFPA 86 safety requirements: performance-based and prescriptive.
Most users will nd it easiest to implement the prescriptive requirements for furnace safeguarding as detailed
in Chapters 6 and 8 of NFPA 86. For logic systems,
there are now four solutions to choose from: (a) a
hardwired system of safety interlocks, often using a listed BMS, that initiates a safety shutdown
upon activation of any interlock; (b) a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) listed for combustion safety service; (c) a general-purpose PLC
modied to incorporate a prescriptive list of selfchecking features; or (d) a safety-rated PLC that
automatically adheres to all or most of the selfchecking features enumerated but is not necessary listed for such service.
Knowledgeable users may elect to implement a performancebased solution to furnace safeguarding instead of adhering to all
of the prescriptive requirements. However, alternate systems must
be approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). For such a
system, AHJ review should be based on an overall risk analysis, the
safety integrity levels selected and a verication of each instruments
safety integrity level. With AHJ approval, a performance-based
system can meet the equivalency provision of NFPA 86 without lineby-line adherence to the prescriptive requirements in the standard.
ANSI/ISA 84.00.01, Application of Safety Instrumented Systems for
the Process Industries, provides requirements and methods for
selecting and installing safety-rated PLCs and related sensors. IH