Many people think heaters aren’t really a necessity in a place like Texas, but employees of Austin Jet International in Horseshoe Bay, located in central Texas, who work in a maintenance hangar facility would beg to differ. Thanks to four recently installed, gas-fired, infrared tube heaters from Space-Ray (Charlotte, NC), these employees are now in an improved work environment which has led to increased productivity and safety of the company’s maintenance operation, and all for a minimal cost of $7.50/hour.

Warding off the Cold

According to Bill Lucy, senior vice president and partner of Austin Jet, the four Space-Ray ETU200 infrared tube heaters, each with a 200,000 Btuh capacity, were installed in the 12,5000-sq-ft hangar at the Horseshoe Bay Resort Airport in January 1999 in order to be prepared for the few cold spells that this region of the country experiences each year. However, the anticipated limited use of the Space-Ray heaters has not been the case.

“You can imagine how cold it gets in a 140- by 85-ft, uninsulated metal hangar used to work on helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft,” Lucy said. “Instead of only using the heaters when the temperatures dip down into the teens and 20s as anticipated, we have found them to be very useful in the mornings when the temperatures are in the 40s. It only takes about 20 minutes to take the chill off since the units heat objects, not the air.”

And Lucy noted that this is enough to increase productivity tremendously since the employees are not freezing while they’re trying to work.

“We used to lose a lot of valuable work time during cold spells since we previously had no heating system in the hangar and the employees would lose time in the mornings just to try to stay warm,” he said. “We were losing work from 15 employees, eight hours a day.”

The Ins and Outs of Heaters

The four ETU200 infrared tube heaters, each with a 200,000 Btuh capacity, are mounted side-by-side above the main work area in the hangar. They can be manually adjusted to the desired temperature that averages 68˚F.

One key feature is the self-contained draft inducer, which pulls products of combustion through the combustion chamber for increased radiant efficiency and safety. A state-of-the-art step opening combination gas valve also provides for quiet ignition. Safety is enhanced by the closed combustion chamber design and direct spark ignition system with 100% safety shutoff control. Heaters are available in both natural gas and propane.

Space-Ray heaters are not affected by outdoor environmental conditions. Since the flame is totally enclosed in the combustion chamber, strong gusts of wind, which can develop when doors are opened, do not affect the operation of the heater.

The new units offer fuel economy and radiant efficiencies unsurpassed by conventional heating systems, the company claims. Annual fuel savings have achieved as much as 50% compared to other types of systems, according to the manufacturer. Some Space-Ray customers report fuel savings as high as 70% with a payback in less than one year.

Warmer Workers=Increased Productivity

The installation of the Space-Ray heaters on the 28 ft high ceilings of the hangar has turned things around for Austin Jet, Lucy noted.

“Not only have the heaters improved the working environment for the maintenance staff, but they have increased the safety of our maintenance operation since it is always more difficult to perform work on a cold-soaked aircraft,” he said. “The heaters have also eliminated delays due to cold weather when using temperature-sensitive products, such as paint and adhesives.”

In addition, Lucy said he has found the heaters to be very economical. “We have estimate the cost to be minimal for the time they are in use at $7.50/hour for all four 200,000 Btu heaters,” he said.

Lucy also found the Space-Ray heaters to be extremely easy to install and operate since the instructions were very easy to follow.

“This has been one of our best equipment decisions,” he said. “I only wish every project we undertook would go this smoothly.”

The Space-Ray heaters were purchased from Bolinger Sales Company, Fort Worth, TX. “Bolinger Sales Company worked with us to design the system, provide the technical expertise, and deliver the equipment on time and at a reasonable price,” Lucy said. “The heaters are working perfectly and the results are better than we anticipated. We are delighted with the Space-Ray installation.”