Important Considerations for a Design of Boiler Rooms in Distilleries

example of a steam boiler used in a distillery

Location, Location, Location

Ideally, the location of a boiler room in your distillery wants to be as close to the equipment that it is serving as possible.  In general, this means as close to your still and fermenters as possible. This is meant to minimize the distance that steam, cold water, etc. needs to travel to get to and from your equipment, which reduces piping costs and heating/cooling loss. There isn’t a well-defined rule about proximity to equipment, but it is an important design consideration.

Boilers don’t necessarily need to be in a separate room from the distilling equipment, but often are.
Some important considerations regarding a separate boiler room include:

Cleanliness- Distillation & Fermentation can be rather wet processes, so it may be a good idea to keep boilers & other equipment separated.
Noise- Boilers, air compressors, & ancillary equipment can often be noisy.
Heat- Boilers put off significant heat, and can make the environment uncomfortable to be nearby.
Combustion- While there are safe ways to have combustion nearby your flammable liquid production (i.e. your still), it is generally a good idea to keep these 2 ingredients separated.

Boiler rooms need to have combustion air coming in from the outside as well as exhaust flues for fuel burning to release outside. Because the boiler room has connections to the outside, you generally want to place it near an exterior wall, or have available routing to the roof.

Certain equipment inside the boiler room will release some water at times, so a small floor drain is usually required. In existing buildings, be aware of the existing location of underground sewer lines and how a new drain will be able tie into the existing system. Distance from the existing sewer lines and depth of the existing sewer line both play a role, as sewer lines usually slope at about ¼” per foot.

example of a boiler room plan

Area

For small to medium craft distilleries, with production space ranging from approximately 1000-5000 square feet, we see boiler room areas ranging from approximately 130-270 square feet. This is 5%-12% of this area required for this room, with a higher percentage in the smaller distilleries, where the overall space is smaller, but the mechanical/boiler needs are still relatively large.  The size of the room varies greatly based on still size, fermentation & mashing processes, and overall process decisions.

The physical size of equipment in the boiler room, as well as clearances for equipment need to be taken into consideration. The boiler itself is usually the largest piece of equipment and usually has the largest clearances, with at least one or all sides needing access, of generally 2’-3’ clearance. The sizes and clearances of the boiler and all equipment vary quite greatly and will need to be analyzed on a case by case basis as equipment is selected.

boiler room in the corner of a production space

inside a boiler room

Equipment in the Boiler room

Most distilleries will have the following equipment in the boiler room:

Very Likely:
-Steam Boiler
-Boiler Feedwater Tank
-Blow Down Separator

Somewhat likely:
-Domestic Water Heaters
-Instant Water Heaters

-Process Water Heaters
-Instant Water Heaters

-Chiller Ancillary Equipment
-Glycol Feed Tank
-Brine Storage Tank

-Air Compressor

Less Likely:

-Water Entry Filtration (i.e. Reverse Osmosis Filtration)
-Hot or Cold water storage tanks
-Heat Exchangers
-Expansion Tanks

The boiler is usually sometimes required to be in separate room, so it is most logical that much of its ancillary equipment, such as the feedwater tank and blowdown separator be near it. Not all equipment is necessarily located inside the boiler room, but for the convenience of having all the “back of house” equipment in one place, it is often a good idea. The boiler room can sometimes serve as a sort of utility room, and can also have some electrical equipment in it if need be. Boiler rooms are not supposed to be considered storage though, and should not have any combustible storage in them.

Building Heating, Ventilation, & Cooling (HVAC) is always located in a distillery boiler room, but can be. HVAC equipment that provides general heating and cooling for the building is often located outside, on the roof or adjacent to the building.

Most distilleries use a chiller to provide cooling to the still and fermenters. Chillers are usually outside, as they put off a significant amount of heat. They are usually on the roof or adjacent to the building. Depending on the chiller system, there are some pieces of ancillary equipment that goes inside, which can be in the boiler room.

Alternatives

Some small distilleries that are tight on space can use electric stills, but often still need some hot water needs for mashing. This is often done by using instant water heaters and storage tanks. There are many ways to bring heat to your still, but steam is the most common.

While chillers are often used for cooling, in certain climates (more dry usually), evaporative cooling methods can be used to provide cooling to stills and fermenters. Evaporative coolers are located outside.

Additional Design Considerations

Since the walls are often built before the equipment is delivered to the building, we often design larger doorways to allow large pieces of equipment to be brought in to the room. This is often two 3’ wide double doors. This also allows easy removal/ replacement of equipment in the future when needs might change.

Who designs the boiler room?

A well-designed boiler room and distillery is the result of proper planning and an experienced, well-coordinated team. It involves proper selection of equipment to support your distillery process, usually with a knowledgeable mechanical engineer and architect. A mechanical engineer, when given the basic parameters of the process heating and cooling needs, will be able to resolve the technical aspects of the boiler room and equipment.

inside a boiler room that uses instant hot water heaters

 

boiler room plan example

 

Article by:

Matthew Taylor-Rennert

Dalkita Architecture & Construction

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