Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design
After 40 years in the hydronic industry as mostly a mechanical contractor, an educator at the college level, technical support specialist, and industry writer; I am now a hydronic consultant and system designer for contractors, supply houses, homeowners, churches, building owners, and anyone else in need of assistance for their hydronic projects.
Services: Heat Loss Load Calculations, Equipment Selection, Piping Strategies, Control Strategy, System Evaluation, Training, Circulator Sizing, Pipe Sizing, Energy Savings Maximization, Proposal Review, Visual Inspections, and all things Hydronics.
Case Study: Lemont Church
This project was at a beautiful 125 year old, stone church in the western suburbs of Chicago. Not only did their old steam boiler fail, but the majority of the piping in this steam system was shot as well. There were more pipe clamps sealing leaking old pipes than all the hardware stores in town had on their shelves.
Originally, nine contractors bid on the job and then it was narrowed down to three. I was one the fortunate ones still standing. My two remaining competitors were proposing installing forced air systems, while abandoning the hydronic system altogether.
The church elders weren't over the top crazy about that idea and I certainly wasn't either. However, in this rare case, I did not think it made sense to salvage the steam system and here's why. The boiler, it's near boiler piping, and the piping throughout the church all needed to be replaced; and when all was said and done they'd still be firing at 83% efficiency with a steam boiler.
My plan was to lose the steam boiler, pressure test all the cast iron radiators for leaks, install a homerun manifold distribution system using pex-al-pex with two Lochinvar 95% modulating, condensing boilers that would be staged and rotated. I did the math and trusted the math. The church was "over-radiated" which allowed me to run at lower supply water temperatures. The lower the supply water temperatures, the longer the boiler(s) would be in condensing mode. The longer the boilers are in condensing mode, the more efficent the boilers would be.
The people at the church loved my idea. The integrity of this gorgeous building would be kept intact by not having monstrous ductwork everywhere. We would jump from a 78% boiler to a 95% boiler(s) that would run at only 10% of their capacity during warmer parts of the winter. When you pair two 10:1 boilers, you now have 20:1 boilers. It really was an ideal solution for a church with so much history. The church remains warm and the gas bills were cut dramatically.