Internet-based controls eliminate boiler headaches and labor
Sometimes a heating problem isn’t so much mechanical as it is geographical. Just ask James Marsanico, general manager for Clearview Gardens, a sprawling 88-acre garden apartment complex in the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens, NY.
According to Marsanico, sheer acreage has always been his toughest challenge at this 1,788-unit complex, with its 35 separate boiler rooms. Over the years, Heat-Timer Corporation has helped Marsanico overcome this challenge by introducing him to its latest innovations in controls and communication.
Back In The DayClearview Gardens’ relationship with Heat-Timer began in the 1980s when excessive thermal shock, caused by manual on/off control of heating pumps, was costing the company thousands of dollars in boiler repair. Heat-Timer helped resolve these problems by installing motorized valves and hot water reset (HWR) controls. The HWR controls helped resolve the boiler problems by operating the system based on outdoor air temperature, as opposed to an indoor thermostat reading. This reduced the excessive on/off action of the pumps, and saved Clearview Gardens significantly in boiler maintenance.
When Heat-Timer first introduced Remote Communications in the 1980s, Clearview Gardens was one of the first complexes to use it. For the first time, personnel could monitor boiler systems in all 38 boiler rooms via phone line connection without physically traveling to each site. They could now access the boiler controls from a computer in their main office. Operations were further enhanced when Heat-Timer introduced a WindowsTM based upgrade called “Visual Gold.”
Marsanico was eager to try this upgrade, which allowed him to view and manipulate his boiler systems using user-friendly graphics as opposed to DOS-based commands. Visual Gold also provided easy-to-read charts and history reports that facilitated troubleshooting and temperature verification.
“The best part was that a picture of the control actually popped up on the computer screen, so it was like you were actually in the boiler room,” said Marsanico.
Internet-Based SystemVisual Gold was a powerful tool for multi-building property owners in the 1990s. For the first time, Clearview Gardens was able to monitor boiler systems, change settings, troubleshoot problems, and access operational and temperature histories from a single modem connection. Still, monitoring dozens of buildings via phone lines was time consuming.
Clearview Gardens improvised by installing a monitoring system that routed all alarms to a central board in the main office. If an alarm status occurred, it triggered a main relay that would light up the board to alert security to send maintenance to check out the problem. The alarms did not relay any specific information about the problem, and the system was often in disrepair due to the phone line connections.
These and other problems were fully resolved with the 2005 introduction of Heat-Timer’s Internet Control Management System (ICMS). Vincent Clerico, vice president of marketing for Heat-Timer, explained how Heat-Timer developed a custom monitoring system for Clearview Gardens using existing hardware from their original monitoring system.
“First, we took the main relay from their makeshift monitoring system and tied it into the ICMS. Then we developed a monitoring screen to replace the large lighted black board they had been using. Now, they can monitor all their buildings via a flat screen TV where each and every building is visually represented,” said Clerico.
In Real TimeWith real-time monitoring, Marsanico and other authorized users know immediately if an alarm status occurs and the nature of the alarm. For instance, if building C2 has a problem in the boiler room, a specific alarm is sent via e-mail or text message. The recipient immediately knows whether the alarm is related to a domestic water meter, a stack temperature, a low water cut-off, or something else.
This new, Web-based control offered Clearview Gardens many benefits, including enhanced speed, increased data storage, live data, integrated communication with a variety of network and wireless space sensors, and downloadable history reports.
With instant access to virtually unlimited operational data, Marsanico and other authorized users can continuously tweak the systems to maximize fuel efficiency.
“It is especially helpful on weekends when problems occur because the system immediately sends me a text message as well as an e-mail that lets me know what is going on in a particular boiler room,” said Marsanico. “Once I get the message, I can sit down at my computer at home or wherever and troubleshoot the problem. Most times, I can resolve a problem right there at the computer.” ES