Boilers & Hydronics

Smart Boilers Help Consumers Save Money, Increase Comfort

Boiler Tales and Other Hydronic Applications

March 4, 2013
Trans

From residential to commercial to futuristic, these wet heat applications provide a quick look at what contractors are specifying for some of their boiler customers. The first application is in a ranch-style home built in the 1950s. The second spotlights a smart condensing-boiler system for Walgreens. The third application finds the contractor on an old movie set installing a hydronic system complete with a command center. What more could a hydronics professional ask for?

Comfort and Efficiency Retrofit

When Jim Blake renovated his 1958 Capanelli-style ranch home in Danvers, Mass., he had a wall-mounted Rinnai condensing-gas boiler in-stalled. The new boiler, a Rinnai Q Series, had a 96.5 AFUE rating, which, according to Blake, helped lead to a significant reduction in fuel bills.

The boiler wasn’t the only item Blake replaced. His old boiler was the source for both the radiant floor heat and domestic hot water. This time, Blake chose to install a tankless water heater from Rinnai to accompany the boiler.

Thanks to the boiler and tankless water-heater unit, his house is operating more efficiently, resulting in cost and energy savings.

“My house has never been more comfortable,” said Blake. “If I’d owned the Rinnai boiler in 2008 and 2009, I’d have saved 53 percent on fuel.”

In addition to fuel savings, Blake also reduced his carbon footprint. According to the company, the Rinnai Q Series boiler series has helped reduce emissions of CO2 greenhouse gases by 3.5 tons, year over year.

Facility Management

The facility management team at Walgreens corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., set out to replace the campus’s existing boiler system as part of an efficiency upgrade. After seeing first-hand the size and efficiency of another property’s condensing boilers during a tour, organized by the Northern Illinois chapter of the International Facility Management Association, Bill Lewis, Walgreens manager of building operations, initiated the boiler replacement.

“Our system was comprised of three low-steam pressure boilers that were nearing the end of their life spans, operating with roaring noise levels and high energy costs,” he explained.

Lewis tasked HVAC technician Sam Jones and HVAC foreman Tim Spulak with researching the feasibility of replacing the existing equipment with condensing boilers. The new system would need to efficiently provide heat for the central plant as well as four five-story buildings, spanning 364,000 square feet of office space.

After researching several models, the team chose the Crest Condensing Boiler from Lochinvar. The team worked with Rick Butler, district sales manager for Lochinvar, to secure four 3.5-MMBtuh Crest boilers.

“The Crest was relatively new to the market when I first began discussing this project with the Walgreens team, and this was actually the first Crest installation in the Chicago area,” stated Butler. “It was clear that Crest could offer a high-efficiency, low-maintenance alternative.”

Emcor Services Team Mechanical, based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., was selected as the design build contractor on the job.

In addition to receiving considerable rebates from the local gas company, Walgreens experienced significant reductions in its natural gas utility bills; even though an additional 180,000-square-foot building has since been added to the heating system.

“This system is heating a substantial footprint of the campus, spanning about 16 percent of our total square footage,” noted Lewis. “Systems like this make good fiscal sense, and we’re looking at the possibility of incorporating this into other buildings as well.”

Futuristic Boiler Controls

The Sculptured Home, a Colorado house featured in Woody Allen’s 1973 sci-fi comedy “Sleeper,” recently underwent a green makeover that made its HVAC system as futuristic as its architecture.

The home’s current owner, Larry Winkler, purchased the 7,500-square-foot structure in 2010. After realizing that it was operating inefficiently, losing up to 60 percent of its heat every hour, he decided to transform it into an energy-efficient smart home. Now, not only does the remote-controlled house coordinate its lighting, audio/video, and security systems from flat-screen TVs in a state-of-the-art utility room, it also uses the same technological approach for its boiler system.

Winkler hired Mark Eatherton of Mark Eatherton & Associates in Denver, to modernize the spaceship-shaped home’s boiler system and improve its insulation. Eatherton chose to install two 285,000-Btuh Knight wall mount heating boilers. According to the company, the fully modulating Knight adjusts heat output according to demand, offering up to 99 percent thermal efficiency.

The two boilers service 16 different radiant loads — 11 zones of baseboard heat emitters, four zones of radiant in-floor heating, and one snow-melt zone servicing the driveway. Knight’s Smart System operating control features three set-point temperature inputs, all of which are utilized to exact efficiency.

With his new system, Winkler can monitor the temperature of the boilers, outside air, and domestic hot water from an LED TV in his command center. The Smart System software, which is installed on a dedicated PC connected to the TV, provides graphs with minute-by-minute data and allows for reprogramming of boiler set points. Winkler also has the system programmed to send an alarm to his smartphone should any issues arise with the boilers.

Publication date: 3/4/2013 

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