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Computerized boiler control reduces costs.

Operating costs at hundreds of multifamily dwellings in the metropolitan area are being reduced by the use of computer technology that prevents the waste of heat and domestic hot water. These savings stem from the use of OAS Heat Computers to monitor and control boiler cycling. The computers have replaced basic on-off timing devices that had been used previously to control boiler operations in these buildings.

Timing devices respond only to time and outside temperature settings. Any time the mercury falls below a temperature prescribed by municipal statutes (55 degrees F during the day in New York City), the timing device will turn the boiler on. As long as the daytime temperature remains below 55 degrees, the boiler will continue to cycle, even after the apartments are comfortably warm.

As a result, temperatures inside apartments can rise as high as 85 degrees on a typical winter day. Instead of taking time to locate the building superintendent to report the problem, tenants simply open their windows to let the heat out. This wasted heat can add thousands of dollars annually to a building's operating costs.

Increased Control

OAS Heat Computers provide a much greater degree of automatic control of the many factors that affect boiler cycling. Once the computers have been programmed, they eliminate wasted heat by continuously monitoring and responding to inside as well as outside temperatures and restricting boiler cycling to periods when tenants actually need heat and/or domestic hot water.

The computers provide owners and managers with the hands-on ability to fine-tune the heating systems in all of their buildings without leaving their offices. By phoning the OAS Heat Computers in their buildings, they can check on boiler performance, set or change hot water programs, verify tenants' complaints and pinpoint heating and hot water problems.

Some management firms utilize this capability to review their heating systems' performance on a daily basis. They do not by running a program that automatically phones each building's computer. The computers provide a printed report covering the previous 24 hours on inside and outside temperatures, domestic hot water temperatures, boiler alarms, unauthorized system overrides, and other relevant factors. A review of this report indicates whether the heating system is operating efficiently - e.g. whether it is burning the right amount of oil - and pinpoints heating system malfunctions.

Additional monitoring is available in the form of an automatic dial-out enhancement, which enables the OAS Heat Computer to summon help if a heating system malfunction occurs at night or during a weekend when the building's management is not accessible. The computer is equipped to dial designated phone numbers to give a verbal or printed message in case of such problems as burner flame failure, inadequate hot water, or manual override of the system. In addition to describing the problem, the message documents the time that it occurred. As a result, the service company has a head start in locating the problem, determining how it affects the heating system, and correcting the problem before it escalates.

The computer also maintains records of past performance of the heating system. The records can he printed out to help the owner or manager determine the facts it a tenant claims that there has been inadequate heat or hot water. These records can be submitted as evidence of compliance to the Division of Housing and Community Services (DHCR), the Department of Buildings (DOB) or other agencies.

The Bottom Line

Typical installed prices for OAS Computers range from $5,000 to $10,000, depending upon the configuration of the system and the size of the building. A single large system can serve as many as 200 apartments. Smaller systems are available for buildings with 30 or fewer apartments.

The payout on these systems is usually within one or two heating seasons, depending on the price of fuel. (A major local management firm that has installed these systems in 75 buildings over a number of years reports average annual fuel savings of 20 per cent.) Augmenting these savings are lower water and electricity bills, longer boiler life due to reduced cycling, reduced management time, and possible eligibility for J-51 tax benefits. If an OAS Heat Computer is installed with a new heating system, its cost might be considered in an application for a major capital improvement (MCI) rent increase.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Building Management, Section II
Author:Suthergreen, David B.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 25, 1992
Previous Article:Opportunity knocks in 90's for asset managers.
Next Article:Lynn B. Bernstein.

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