Bringing the Heat to CHE

Photo of staff standing next to cage washer machine.
CHE facility manager, Shanie McCarty stands next to the cage washer the Steam Shop's (l to r) Dan Goodwin, Pete Saenz and Jim Truso helped install.

For about 10 years, the cage washer at the Center for Health and the Environment (CHE) wasn’t getting the steady, continuous flow of steam needed to quickly heat water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit – the state mandated temp for sterilizing their research equipment. After securing Deferred Maintenance funding, the Steam Shop recently finished installing two, high-efficiency industrial hot water heaters to replace the steam-fired exchanger that wasn’t meeting the customer’s needs. This project greatly improved CHE’s efficiency, both in terms of productivity and resource consumption.

Shanie McCarty is the facilities manager at CHE and her staff relies on heated water to sterilize hundreds of animal cages and water bottles 3-4 times per week. When the cage washer isn’t supplied with adequately heated water, it goes into a holding pattern until everything reaches specification before it will start running again. “If we were lucky, the machine would run for 20 minutes before shutting down,” says McCarty. “It could then take an hour to get back up to temp so we could continue washing cages.”

However, while the machine was waiting to start again, the water was still running and gas was still flowing to heat things. Now when Shanie starts washing, she’s got enough hot water to work continuously until she’s done. In addition to the water and gas savings, Shanie estimates, the equipment upgrade saves up to 16 hours of staff time each week – time that can be redirected into research.

According to Dan Goodwin, these new condensing units are 97 percent efficient compared to the 80 percent efficiency of the steam boilers they replaced. Goodwin attributes this to “taking steam out of the equation.”

That may sound odd coming from the Steam Shop, but these new units essentially cut out the middleman, which in this case is steam. The old units used gas to heat steam, which heated the water. The new high-efficiency units use gas to heat the water directly, and their design also helps prevent energy from being lost up by the flue, by putting more of it into heating the water.

Once work was underway, the crew worked closely with the customer to avoid impacting their operations. This included scheduling the Steam Shop crerw around CHE’s projects and even providing a portable boiler so cage washing could continue during the installation. McCarty noted that “it’s been great working with this crew, they wanted to get the project completed and it’s always been on their radar.”

Congratulations Raul Castaneda, Dan Goodwin, Randy Housewright, Kevin Ross, Pete Saenz, Jim Truso, and the Plumbing Shop’s Victor Franceschi.