A boiler retrofit, including the addition of zone control, cut the heating bills of this generator distributor in half.

When Modern Group Ltd. (a privately owned distributor of material handling, construction, and maintenance products in the Mid-Atlantic region) decided to improve energy efficiency at its world headquarters in Bristol, PA, facilities manager Joe Dutco approached area plumbing and heating expert K.E. Seifert, Inc. (Langhorne, PA) for a solution.

Having grown frustrated with high operating costs, lost revenues, and maintenance problems, Dutco tasked Bob Pietrangelo and his staff at K.E. Seifert with updating the HVAC system for Modern Group’s 65,000-sq-ft facility, which houses both offices and warehouse space.

Upon inspection, Pietrangelo and his team learned that the building was heated by a 40-year-old, 1.8-million-Btuh boiler that had been previously converted from oil to gas. Always running, the boiler featured a 1,000 ft, 3-in. constant loop of heated water. Heat was provided by a combination of hydro coils and unregulated baseboard and electric heaters. This aging system resulted in a lack of individual zone control, failing equipment, and inefficient heating and cooling.

Though the original assignment given to K.E. Seifert simply involved replacing the equipment for energy efficiency based on engineer-generated specifications, Pietrangelo and the team changed the entire scope of the job after examining the existing design and listening to the client’s wishlist of comfort requirements. They redesigned the entire HVAC system, properly calculating load requirements, providing individual area controls, and installing Lochinvar KNIGHT heating boilers for energy-efficient heating.

From Retrofit To Redesign

To ensure energy efficiency and customer satisfaction, the K.E. Seifert team completely redesigned the system by eliminating almost all of the existing piping and splitting it into zones with individual area controls for better control and efficiency. To conserve additional energy, unoccupied settings were also utilized.

Where there was once a single baseboard zone for 11 offices and three other areas of the building, they installed a new baseboard circuit with 14 separate zones, each with individual controls to allow for consistent, stable temperatures throughout the building. The first- and second-floor air handler circuits were split up, the bathroom areas were grouped together under a separate control circuit, and the lobby/atrium area was separated into its own circuit.

They eliminated the continuous perimeter 3-in. supply and return and brought each zone back to a central area in the boiler room. All new piping was installed above drop ceilings.

Properly Sized for a Perfect Solution

After discarding all of the provided design and load criteria, the K.E. Seifert team performed a proper load calculation and discovered that the true load requirement was actually 400,000 Btuh, or 30%, less than what they were initially told. This revelation, coupled with Pietrangelo’s experience with the Lochinvar KNIGHT Heating Boiler and knowledge of its advanced features, prompted the team to recommend two KNIGHT 399,000 Btuh boiler models rather than the originally specified 600,000 Btuh boilers recommended by a different manufacturer.

With up to 98% efficiency, The Energy Star-qualified KNIGHT Heating Boiler features a fully modulating 5:1 turndown burner to generate the precise amount of heat to provide a consistent temperature and keep fuel use to an absolute minimum. A sealed combustion direct-vent design allows flexibility in placement within a building, permitting air intake and exhaust runs up to 100 equivalent feet using PVC or CPVC.

Through the redesign of the HVAC system, K.E. Seifert was able to convert the boiler room at the Modern Group headquarters from a dirty, dungeon-like room to a clean, organized space that showcases the quality of the equipment and installation. Since Modern Group also sells, services, and installs commercial backup generators, they are now utilizing the remainder of this area as usable showroom for their generator controls and equipment.

In terms of energy cost savings, the KNIGHT has reduced the heating bill by more than half. In November 2007, Modern Group used 87.9 ccf to heat its facility, while only 32.6 ccf were used in November 2008. Since the degree days were the same for both periods, 44°, Joseph Dutko, director, safety and facilities for Modern Group, said, "It certainly looks like we have made the right decisions with the plumbing and heating equipment."

When the $153,000 in equipment and labor is factored in, the result is an energy savings of 63%, with a payback of under 10 years.