Radiant Opportunities

New developments in boilers, hydronics and radiant heating systems aim for greater efficiency in at least two ways: simplicity of installation and more efficient energy use. The results can be reduced labor costs for contractors and reduced fuel bills for consumers.

For example, in a collaborative effort with Weil-McLain, Hydrolevel Co., based in New Haven, Conn., has developed the HydroStat, a universal temperature limit control and low water cut-off for oil-fired boilers. It can replace cold start and triple-action temperature limit controls, said Bill Montgomery, national sales manager for Hydrolevel, and Rich Lyons, general manager. The HydroStat can be installed on an existing immersion well, for full temperature functionality, or on Hydrolevel’s Electro-Well to add low water cut-off protection.

‘An advantage is that it’s lower in cost than buying two separate controls,” said Lyons. In an exclusive arrangement for 2008 Weil-McLain will begin installing the HydroStat as standard equipment on its WGO and WTGO residential oil-fired water boilers this month.

The controller features dial-type settings, designed to be easy to use. Wiring the unit is straightforward because it uses the same terminal designations as common temperature limit controls.

The HydroStat features a three-digit LED temperature display that continually indicates boiler temperature. Whenever the high limit, low limit or differential temperature dials are turned, the LCD instantly changes to display the setting temperatures. For a quick reference, the LED will scroll through the current temperature and differential settings each time the HydroStat control is powered up. There are four on-board diagnostic indicating lights. ‘Temp active” indicates that the HydroStat is powered and that the temperature function is active. ‘High temp” illuminates any time the boiler is off on high temperature limit. ‘LWCO active” illuminates only when the HydroStat is providing low water cut-off functionality (i.e., when the control is installed on a Hydrolevel Electro-Well. The light for that function will not illuminate when the controller is installed on a standard immersion well.) ‘LWCO low water” indicates a low water condition in the boiler.

Energy Kinetics, located in Lebanon, N.J., offers System 2000, a pre-packaged system to be differentiated from a so-called ‘packaged boiler,” said Roger Marran, Energy Kinetics’ president. Say ‘packaged boiler” to most people in the industry and they think ‘boiler with a burner, a circulator and an operating control on it.”

Energy Kinetics’ pre-packaged system ‘is nearly complete for installation,” Marran said. It is a pre-piped, pre-wired and tested boiler, hot water system and storage tank, burner and circulator with operating and energy saving controls.

Much of the wiring is already done, Marran said, ‘and we include many different components so when a person gets to the job they have just about everything they need. We hear from our dealers that our installations take anywhere from three to five or six man-hours less than what’s typical for a ‘packaged boiler.'”

The System 2000 is designed for high efficiency operation, remaining cold when there is no heat needed. This is especially noteworthy in the context of radiant heating installations, which feature in-slab tubing or under-floor heat to heat a large mass ‘ a task that often takes some time. Indeed, Marran said that typically when a boiler is hooked up to a radiant system, and a call comes from the thermostat, a boiler could idle, keeping temperature for two to five hours before that zone is satisfied on the thermostat. This results in an overall system that is less efficient even though radiant heating itself is a highly efficient distribution system.

To achieve optimal efficiency, Marran said, Energy Kinetics’ system features a mixing, or ‘buffer,” tank, which is like a hot water storage tank, dedicated for the radiant system.

Rod Murray, owner and president of Aeon Heating & Air Conditioning, Potsdam, N.Y., which has installed Energy Kinetics’ System 2000, stressed the importance of calculating a house’s heat loss as part of the process of sizing a heating system correctly. Figuring out the heat loss can be tricky in some cases because air moving through insulation or moisture collecting in it can lower or even erase its R-value.

Murray also said it’s common to see houses saddled with heating equipment that is easily two or three times greater than needed. He likened such over-sizing to driving a car in stop-and-go traffic: ‘You get no efficiency,” he said. Viewing the house itself as a system is a key to sizing the heating system correctly.

His company installed the System 2000 in a million-dollar house in Saranac Lake, N.Y., replacing a boiler that was only one year old but had been oversized by ‘400 percent,” Murray said. ‘We saved the guy 50 percent on his fuel bill.”

An advantage of the System 2000 is that ‘everything is Lincoln Log or Tinker Toy ‘ you can only hook it up one way.”

The New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) provides resources to help contractors evaluate a house and calculate the size heating system it should have. (More information about that New York state program is available at a Web site: getenergysmart.org.) Contractors working within that program are required to conduct health and safety tests before and after an installation, according to Murray, who said that one of the programs offered by NYSERDA pays as much as half the cost of a new system in some cases, depending on family size and income.

Among other manufacturers, Dynatherm Boiler Manufacturing, Quakertown, Pa., maker of the Bethlehem Dynatherm boiler, a Scotch Marine three-pass boiler, is broadening its market virtually nationwide, said Kerry Moyer, owner of the company. ‘We sold pretty much on the East Coast for the last several years, but now we’re starting to ship boilers to the West Coast and in between, and down South,” Moyer said. The company is seeking dealers. The line of six models ranges from 55,000 BTUs to approximately 300,000 BTUs and can run on natural gas or propane as well as heating oil.

A fresh air venting kit, an option that the company has introduced, enables the company’s boilers to achieve 90 percent efficiency, Moyer added.

Although the boiler line is basically unchanged since 1961, it has been adapted to make it user-friendly to technology such as low-water cut-offs.

Toyotomi USA continues to offer its Oil-Miser (OM 180), a compact unit designed for high efficiency. Since it tips the scales at 81 pounds, it can be installed by one person, said Rocky Muraki, vice president of the company. Besides No. 2 heating oil, the unit also can run on ultra low-sulfur diesel, kerosene and on biofuel up to B20.

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