Retirement Community Continues to Lead the Way with Installation of AERCO Modulex Boiler

July 1, 2008

The owners of the Springvale Retirement Community in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, always try to stay ahead of the curve. That philosophy began when Springvale opened its doors in 1959, as the first adult residential community catering to people 55 years of age and older in Westchester County, NY. The owners of the apartment complex have continued to stay ahead of the curve through carefully planned maintenance and renovations, including replacing the original boilers with high-efficiency condensing equipment to reduce heating costs.

It's that kind of business savvy that has helped the community flourish for more than 40 years. In fact, there is a long waiting list for any of the 530 units in the 31-building complex. In addition to a scenic, 30-acre campus that overlooks the Hudson River, Springvale's appeal comes from the apartments themselves—and the rents—which are 20+% less than comparable housing in the area. Maintaining such attractive monthly rents was a driving force behind the switch to condensing boilers. 

A High-Efficiency Retrofit
Breakdowns and poor performance of the existing equipment—30% of which were 48 years old—were becoming frequent. A large-scale replacement project would be required. Management has done many renovations, including new windows and siding, to improve heating efficiency, however skyrocketing fuel costs continued to put a crimp in Springvale's bottom line. Rather than pass along the higher costs to tenants in the form of increased rent, they wanted to take the opportunity to upgrade the boilers to make them more efficient.

While Robert Kogan, partner in Springvale, and his team knew they wanted a high-efficiency boiler, they were not experts in the field. So they turned to Robert Braun, P.E. and a principal in Genesys Engineering P.C. With more than 25 years' experience, Braun brought insight and expertise that proved invaluable. After reviewing three different condensing boilers from various manufacturers, Braun recommended a test installation of the AERCO Modulex MLX-606.

The AERCO Modulex boiler had much better turndown than the other condensing boilers considered for the project. With a 13:1 turndown, the MLX-606 supports 45,000 to 600,000 BTU/hr. heating loads without cycling. This tremendous range of non-cycling operations saves energy.

Braun looked beyond fuel savings to help his customers select equipment that would minimize the upfront cost of the project and offer long-term operating reliability. None of the other brands considered compared with the AERCO Modulex boiler on either front.   

A Low-cost Installation with Unparalleled Reliability
Unlike competitive equipment, the design of the AERCO Modulex line features built-in redundancy. The MLX-606 employs four independent, 151,500 BTU/hr., pre-assembled thermal modules housed in a common enclosure. If one of the modules requires maintenance or repair, the remaining three modules will continue to deliver heat to the building. This capability adds an entirely new dimension to reliability in single unit installations.

"In the past, any problem with a building's boiler was automatically an emergency situation because our tenants would be without heat until the boiler was back online," said Koger. "The AERCO product has enabled us to deliver the benefits of a multi-unit installation without the associated upfront costs—and long-term maintenance implications—of redundant equipment."

"To meet the load requirements using another brand of condensing equipment, we would have had to install and pipe multiple units—two per building—as compared to just one AERCO Modulex boiler.  Not only would that would have meant additional piping and pumping equipment, it would double the number of control points, which significantly increases the installation cost of the project," explained Braun.

In fact, the AERCO Modulex unit reduced upfront costs for Springvale's owners by more than 40%. Installation was only $6,900 for the MLX-606, compared to $12,000 each for the two 300,000 BTU/hr. competitive units trialed in another building. And these numbers don't reflect approximately $700 for piping, pumping and other materials required for the other brand's installation. 

Residents and Owners Get More Than They Expected
In addition to being used for space heating, as originally intended, Braun also realized that the Modulex boiler could also be used to support the building's direct hot water needs. Springvale owners replaced the building's standalone direct fired hot water heater with an indirect water heater powered by the Modulex unit in a combination application. Not only would the MLX-606 also operate efficiently, the approach dramatically increased direct hot water capacity the building. In fact, owners were able to double the number of washers in the building's laundry room while also using the boiler in its originally-designed heating application.

To the owner's delight, the Modulex controller was easily integrated into Springvale's existing building management system, which runs virtually everything, from the surveillance system and doors all the way through to the boilers. The systems' open architecture also provides long-term flexibility, which is critical because Kogan expects to install a new central control system in the future.   

Looking Ahead to a Large-Scale Replacement
The MLX-606 has run without a hitch since it was installed in July of 2006.  Kogan, who keeps meticulous records on each building's heating costs, has been monitoring Building #7 closely and has been pleased with the overall results. "Basically, it's been completely trouble free," said Kogan. "And it runs very quietly, which is important because it's in a residential building."  

Together, Kogan and Braun are working on a timetable to replace all the boilers in the 31-building complex with high-efficiency AERCO Modulex equipment.  They are also looking for other ways to keep providing Springvale residents with a quality lifestyle.

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