Hints about Installing New Heating Systems

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy – July 2004 (Revised November 2012)

When a congregation wants to replace a heating system, here are a series of suggestions to them that could lower both the purchase cost and the cost of installation.  If you have old equipment, you should start setting aside funds for replacing it. The typical life of a boiler or furnace is 25 to 35 years. 

If the failure is catastrophic, or if the heating system is a boiler, the congregation should automatically file a claim
for insurance, whether or not you think it is justified.

The replacement heating system should be sized for the current load.  During the average 30-year life of a heating system, congregations are likely to add insulation, install better windows, and reduce drafts.  Any proposal for a new heating system should include the contractor’s heat loss calculations for warm air or hot water systems, taking into account that the main goal of the system is to recover from lower interior temperatures during unoccupied times.  For steam systems, the proposal should contain the listing of square feet of standing radiation, plus a factor for piping and pickup losses.

The proposal should state whether or not improvements to the chimney are to be included.  If the chimney needs to be repaired or lined, consider putting that money into a higher efficiency heating unit that vents through the wall without a chimney.

Instead of presenting only the lowest cost equipment, the contractor could present one or more options for more highly efficient equipment.  

The type of thermostat should be specified.  Ideally, it should be a 7-day clock thermostat that is easy to program such as Honeywell’s VisonPro.  This thermostat, and others like it, has ‘intelligent recovery.’  The thermostat records the

number of times heat is called for during unoccupied times, when the temperature is lower.  As it approaches the time to heat the zone to comfortable temperatures, the thermostat will start heating earlier on a colder and windier day by

looking at how many times the thermostat called for heat when the temperature was low.  In a large nave, this feature could pay for itself in a month.

Any boilers should be wired for cold starts so that the boiler does not remain hot or under pressure when there is no call for heat.

If you think that asbestos is involved, have a sample initially tested on your own rather than through an asbestos removal contractor.  We have the names of labs you can use.  Prices for proper removal have come down over the years.

On warm air systems, the filter section should be readily accessible so that the filters can be easily changed.  The return air should be adequate so that the fan cabinet can be opened easily while the fan is running.  In other words, the return air to the system should not be restricted.

Any proposal should state that the contractor is responsible for all state permits, including any boiler room layouts that are required.  Also, the contractor should be responsible for utility permits and local building permits.

To save energy, air conditioning systems should be avoided in favor of natural ventilation and fans.

All needlessly complicated control systems, such as outdoor temperature reset or central computerized automated control systems, should be avoided.  

Pairs of boilers should be staged on return water temperature rather than on outside temperature.

Final payment should be based partly on the results of a combustion efficiency test.  For oil heating systems, there should be no smoke. For gas heating systems, there should be no more than 10 parts per million of carbon monoxide.  The

relationship between carbon dioxide and net stack temperature should not be less than 82% or whatever efficiency rating is set by the manufacturer.

All parts and labor should be covered for one year in writing.  That is standard procedure, and it means that you don’t need a maintenance contract during that period, if ever.  Bear in mind that a contractor loses money by visiting your
building if you have a fixed-price maintenance contract.  Without such a contract, the contractor makes money by charging for time and materials.

Uninsulated hot water pipes should be insulated with 1 inch of self-jacketing fiberglass insulation. Steam supply pipes should be insulated with 1½-inch insulation.  It’s most economical to insulate the straight runs of pipe.  Fittings and valves are expensive to insulate.


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