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Drop the diamond plate, show us the real savings.

Eric Aune 2

Drop the diamond plate, show us the real savings.

I received a text from my good friend Andy Mickelson a week or two ago that got me going. Andy and I talk fairly often, mostly about work and the day-to-day happening of self-employment. When my phone made that altogether familiar sound notifying me of a new message I reached into my pocket to see a picture of the electronic boiler display and a brief explanation. Here’s the picture:

Lochinvar Knight Mechanical Hub

SH Hours: 4042, SH Cycles: 3741

The following message was as follows: “Not bad for one year run time. Commercial kitchen with 80 gallon indirect and one old air handler for space heat.”  (Andy)

That’s crazy. I couldn’t wait for an answer to my next text so I called Andy right away.  After all, if  my math was correct the average space heating cycle for this kitchen was just over an hour (64 minutes + or -). Again, that’s nuts. By my estimation that boiler turned on in the fall, ran deep into ODR (as I know Andy is so well adept to programming his boilers, there’s no chance he was running it at set-point even with an air handler) and pretty much ran constantly until spring.

He quickly picked up the phone with almost a chuckle in his bold Montana accented voice, greeting me with a “What do you think of that for efficiency?” I had to laugh and ask immediately what kind of building this boiler was sitting in, assuming the worst, I asked if there was a lot of glass, maybe if the place wasn’t insulated or built around the turn of the twentieth century.  He immediately shot down my theory telling me it was a fairly decent log building (of course, this is in Big Sky™ country for heaven’s sake).  So what in the world was happening? Was this boiler even condensing? I mean there’s an air handler and DHW, its gotta be running hot, I asked him.

His response was what got me going.

“The boiler runs pretty much nonstop. I’ve got it set for 160F at design, except for DHW of course, and the Delta-t circ brings the return back at 135F so the thing rarely pulls out of condensing mode, expect for DHW of course.” (Andy)

We went on to talk more about the control programming and how Andy has the ramp-delay settings going so deep the boiler rarely fires above 50% input. This is a feature that has me sold on this particular control and boiler for so long now I can hardly remember how I used to put up with simple on/off parameters loosely tied to ODR. Andy is the one that finally explained to me this concept and how to push a system to its limit in order to keep the customer happy with low fuel bills and keep the customer calls to a minimum because they might not be happy with a boiler that seemingly never turns off.

Back to my original point.

The space heating (SH) runtime and SH cycles shown in the picture Andy sent me should be all that is needed to display the great work a skilled installer/tech/designer can do in the field. Instead of running contests showcasing the beautiful craftsmanship and overuse of diamond plate, why aren’t we holding contests proving the tremendous efficiency of a system with testimonials from their owners telling of the admiration due to the “boiler guy”?

I know such a contest wouldn’t be as sexy as some that are out there but, if you ask the people paying the heating bill, there’s little a pro photograph and perfectly symmetrical display of piping will do to lower the energy costs of a commercial kitchen or the comfort level of a custom vacation home. I’d challenge any manufacturer to join us here on The Hub to start such a contest; we can set it up (we have in the past and its still running quite successfully today). Let’s start showcasing how a well-designed change-out made the difference at the end of the heating season. Boiler owners certainly find those types of results sexy.


  1. Mike Bernasconi
    Mike Bernasconi12-31-2015

    What a great idea. What a set up by Andy. You are so right we install this great equipment and then don’t do the homework and spend the time to get the best results for the customer. This is the kind of contest that would really show what is posible.


  2. Andy

    Eric, thanks for the spotlight! I just thought about something else which we didn’t really talk about. Looking at the DHW run time and cycles, first off looks like a system which has fairly poor operation, 3339 cycles in 510 hours of operation. Do the basic math and you come up with 6.5 cycles per hour, not stellar. After some thought, I started breaking it down. If you divide the figure the total hours in a year @ 8,760, for the sake of argument, then divide that by 510 hours of run time, you end up with 1hr RT/17.17 hrs operation. Extrapolate that out to an even number of days and it results in about 7 hrs RT / 5 days of operation on average. During that 5 days there would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 45ish cycles averaging a bit better than 9 minutes per cycle. So you might ask so what? If you think about the DHW demands on gourmet kitchen which serves 3 meals a day @ a relaxed resort type setting, in addition to occasional catering, it brings to light the efficiency of the indirect tank. Not only to store a large volume of water with minimal standby loss, but also to very quickly recover that volume. In my days (and nights) of hanging out in mechanical rooms, I have had more occasions than I like to admit, to witness the shear inefficiency of a commercial water heater. You know the ones, the 100 gallon jobber which fires up every hour or so just to warm back up, burning maybe 100,000 btu or so in 10 -15 minutes, just for fun. Ultimately to me, it just beats in the reality of how important these new NAECA standards are, in addition to how grossly late they have been released. Even with the headaches they present, they are welcomed into my realm, besides they make the balance sheets look better!
    Carry on!

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