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:
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.