HUNTSVILLE, Texas — High-efficiency water heating and air heating units are on their way into every institution in the country.

Widespread concern for the environment and local concern for each institution’s economic well-being are expected to bring such changes, sooner or later. In many states, the government is already moving to regulate the environmental part of the equation into reality for public institutions.

When changes of this sort have been made in response to mandated requirements, costs escalate. Inevitably, some equipment has to be replaced before its life-span is complete. Planned maintenance is replaced by crisis-mode reaction.

In an institution that includes athletic facilities, classroom buildings, residence halls, dining halls, etc., all of which have high-volume water heating requirements, the costs can be severe.

Planning for the inevitable

At Sam Houston State University, a state institution in Huntsville, Texas, plumbing manager-supervisor Paul Carpus saw these inevitable regulations coming, primarily as a result of his experience in other states where high-efficiency water and air heating were already required for government organizations.

Carpus recommended that, as aging water heating equipment across campus is changed out, it be replaced with state-of-the-art, high-efficiency units that would meet the coming requirements. Such a decision would take advantage of the immediate savings high-efficiency equipment brings, and allow for planned scheduling.

By operating under a planned project schedule, Carpus reasoned, the school could exercise better control over both equipment expenditures and installation costs, and spread costs across multiple years’ budgets.

When the school agreed, Carpus began interviewing manufacturers’ representatives. When the scope of the project was determined and the general equipment specifications established, requests for proposal went out and bids were submitted.

The final decision was to install water heating equipment from A.O. Smith Water Products Co. (Irving, Texas), using a combination of Cyclone XHE® high-efficiency water heaters and Legend 2000® hot water supply hydronic boilers, to meet the requirements of various venues. The equipment was supplied by Buyers Supply, Houston.

One important factor in choosing these water heaters and boilers was their ease of installation, since their direct-vent, sealed-combustion installation option would allow easier installation in buildings where sidewall venting was most practical.

Another deciding advantage was the efficiency of the Cyclones (94%) and Legends (90%), which exceed the 1992 federal requirements of 78%.

Installation savings

Carpus saved the school even more money by asserting that the maintenance crew could complete the installation of both the heaters and the boilers without requiring an outside installer.

For one project alone — the installation at Bowers Stadium, the university’s football stadium — this meant savings of the difference between the original project quotation, including installation, of approximately $134,000, and the final project cost of about $80,000.

The installation savings were a result of two interrelated factors: the ease of installing the equipment and the experience of Carpus, which gave the school confidence to attempt the installation.

The equipment manufacturer also supported the school’s installation team by providing maintenance training for both the Legend and Cyclone units at the company’s training center in Irving.

Phased installation

The first phase of the ongoing project began in late 1997 with the installation of equipment in two small dormitory buildings.

In each, two Cyclone XHE units were installed, each rated at 199,000 Btu with a 100-gal storage capacity. The two units supplied the dormitories and the Smith Cafeteria attached to them. The cost for each was approximately $3,500.

In 1998, two Legend 2000 LW-1000 units, accompanied by two 250-gal storage tanks, were installed at the school’s Belvin Cafe and the accompanying dormitory housing for up to 355 students.

Then, in early 1999, two 1 million-Btu Legend 2000 LW-1000 boilers were installed at the college stadium, along with three 500-gal storage tanks.

When school officials questioned whether the two units could produce the hot water needed for the crowds that fill the stadium during high traffic, John Cox, of A.O. Smith rep firm Hugh Cunningham Co., offered a dramatic demonstration. He turned on every hot water tap in the facility full blast and let them run. The hot water supply didn’t run out.

Currently in progress is the installation of Legend 2000 units in the university’s Lowman Student Center. Five units are being installed: one LW750 750,000-Btu unit for water heating, and four LB1000 1 million-Btu boilers for hydronic heating. The installation is scheduled for completion in August.

For this project, because of its size, the university elected to use a local contractor, Baker Services Inc., to do the installation.

“One of the advantages of this equipment,” Carpus points out, “is that it allows us the flexibility of making that choice — our installation team or an outside installer. That allows us to plan the best use of both our budget and our staff time.”

Two more installations are currently scheduled, the health services facility and Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum, the university’s indoor sports facility. The intent is to continue right through the approximately 20 or so university buildings, putting high-efficiency units all over the campus.

Coordinated planning allows Carpus to review records of existing units and schedule them for changeout as they approach the end of their useful lives. This allows replacements to be budgeted year by year, and (as in the case of the stadium and the coliseum) for the cost to be allocated to the relevant department budgets.

The pursuit of efficiency

Professionals like Carpus and Cox know that the value of high-efficiency mechanical equipment has to be measured over time. Initial equipment costs are often higher than for lower-quality, less-efficient units.

Fuel costs — which arrive in one bill for the entire school, as they do for most institutions — do not yet allow the school to assess accurately how the new units compare with existing equipment.

Several gains were quite clear, however, from the start.

First, the capability of high-efficiency Cyclone units to be vented via PVC piping, without the need for a chimney, meant they could be installed in more convenient spaces by the school’s own maintenance team, reducing costs.

Second, by installing multiple, smaller water heaters and boilers linked in a series, the school eliminates the larger boilers subject to repeated boiler inspections that interrupt service.

And third, planning and scheduling a complete program to introduce high-efficiency equipment campus-wide prepares the school for the expected requirement of such environmentally friendly equipment in the future, while delivering cost savings of high-efficiency operation today.

Carpus and Cox agree that Sam Houston State University’s administration deserves credit for keeping those benefits in view while making its decision.

For more information on A.O. Smith water heaters and boilers, contact the manufacturer at 800-527-1953; 972-719-5960 (fax); (Web site).