Warming the Worshipers

St. Helena’s Chapel in Lenox, Massachusetts, was built in 1893, during The Gilded Age. The heating system didn’t date quite that far back, but it had done good service for a good long while, thanks to the ministrations of Aaron Clark of Lipton Energy, who had nursed the aged system to operate above and beyond the call of duty, said Father Michael Tuck of St. Helena’s.

The system finally stopped operating in November 2022. Father Tuck relocated services to the parish hall, and Clark, director of technology, process and risk management for Lipton Energy in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who also happens to be a parishioner, led the project to install a new system through the winter of 2022-23. “It was really cold in the chapel,” Clark said. “Down in the basement we had a couple of electric heaters running just to keep the water [pipes] from freezing.”

The project involved installing an Energy Kinetics boiler, and more. “We took out all the old steam lines and we put in the new forced hot water system with new panel radiators,” Clark said. Panel radiators provide heat similar to that of the old steam radiators, Clark said. “They’re just a little more efficient and more consistent.”

Besides providing heating and keeping parishioners comfortable, Clark said, “We were trying to keep the ambience that steam gave.” Part of maintaining that ambience involved painting the white panel radiators brown so that they blended with the woodwork and stone of the chapel.

“One of our members who owned an auto body shop painted all the radiators brown so they would match the stone,” donating the paint and labor, Clark said. “They nicely blend in. You don’t see them.” Father Tuck guessed that the building was heated with coal at one point. “There’s a really shallow fireplace that was probably a coal fireplace,” he said. The installation of the new system was completed in the spring of 2023. “We got to enjoy it right before Easter, and it’s been great ever since,” said Father Tuck.

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