NEWPORT, R.I. — From the outside, the 1920s villa in the seaside community of Newport, Rhode Island, appears as any other historic home in the neighborhood. But inside the 15,000-square-foot house, the heating system is state-of-the-art — complete with Wi-Fi and remote programming capabilities — powered by a Bell & Gossett (B&G) pump system.

The old cast-iron steam boiler was obsolete and expensive to run, costing the homeowners $20,000 a year in oil alone. Property caretaker Jeff Ward started investigating options to convert the system from steam to hot water, downloading manufacturers’ manuals to compare and contrast pumps for the system. He set up a beta test in the house to find the most effective and energy-efficient model by measuring output through an ammeter.

B&G’s ecocirc vario circulator pump met Ward’s criteria, due to its electronically commutated permanent magnet motor designed specifically for hydronic systems. In Ward’s test, the ecocirc heated the room while operating at just ¼ of an amp and it maintained consistent pressure.

The ecocirc offers a number of advantages. First, it uses minimum wattage at maximum speed, resulting in energy savings of roughly 30 percent, said the company. In addition, its variable speed capabilities allow it to adjust to demand instead of running at maximum speed at all times, to provide reduced energy usage.

While proper pressure within the system was a primary consideration, the ecocirc also proved it could handle the long heat runs in the 20-room house, another priority for Ward.

Steve Graham of local B&G representative Fluid Industrial Associates Inc. (FIA) helped marry the new circulator technology with the home’s existing radiators — 67 in all. “It was a challenge to reuse the radiators and run new piping without it becoming a major construction project,” said George Carey, FIA vice president. “But aesthetically the radiators fit the look of the house and the homeowners wanted to keep them.”

The process of disassembling and cleaning all of the radiators took two years. Crews had to work around some of the complicated plumbing features of the house, such as two of the radiators being located behind built-in bookcases. Specialized tubing connects the radiators and the 25 ecocirc pumps, now in a centralized location in the house, to the new modulating gas boiler.

The old boiler was only part of the home’s heating problem. Previously, there were only two zones to control the temperature in the house. The new system, installed by Steve Antoch of A&L Plumbing and Heating, features 34 zones and has Wi-Fi capability. Now, while the homeowners are out, they can send a text to Ward, who can program the system remotely so they arrive to comfortable temperatures inside the house.

Another key feature of the system is its outdoor reset, which takes into account the outdoor temperature when heating the water. For example, water is heated to 180°F on a 10° day but only needs to be heated to 110° on a 50° day.

The new system is already paying dividends, with fuel costs dropping about 80 percent in just a few months. “This is the fastest payoff ever,” Ward said. “We don’t need oil anymore.”

Contrast that with the carriage house on the property, which is still fueled by an outdated system, and costs about four times as much to heat than what it now costs to heat the main house.

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Publication date: 2/16/2015

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