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Heating Solution Yields a Greener Gallery

By Aaron Smith, University of Rochester student

Sometimes innovation turns a problem into a green opportunity. That’s just the case at the Memorial Art Gallery where last summer a leaky heat exchanger forced Facilities to shut off the two boilers used in their reheat loop, and some quick thinking allowed the Gallery to save thousands of dollars on their utilities budget with no consequences to their collection.

You might ask why anything would need to be heated over the summer in the first place. The Memorial Art Gallery is home to thousands of priceless paintings and other works of art which must be kept in strictly controlled environments. Because of this, a dehumidifier works constantly to keep damaging moisture out of the air. However, the dehumidifier makes the air too cold, and so it has to be reheated in order to preserve the works of art and the comfort of the Gallery’s guests.

image003Last summer, though, the boilers that power this reheat loop had to be shut off to fix a leaking heat exchanger, causing everyone to worry about the consequences to the art if the temperature and humidity couldn’t be properly controlled. But head mechanic Jamie Chudyk, who had recently transferred to the Gallery from University of Rochester’s River Campus, fixed up an old, unused heat recovery system to take the place of the boilers.

The heat recovery system uses heat from the dehumidifier/air-conditioning system that previously was just released into the outside air and instead pumps it into the reheat system. If you’ve ever stood next to the outside part of a window style air-conditioning unit, you’ll know just how much heat that can be! Advances in control technology allowed the heat recovery system to be decommissioned, until this opportunity allowed its operation to be revived in a slightly different capacity.

The heat recovery system worked beautifully, holding the humidity and temperature at the gallery right where they needed to be. With the approval of the curators, Chudyk and Debbie Smith, facilities area manager, decided not to turn the boilers back on that summer. In the 2.5 months they were shut down, the gallery saved more than $27,000 on its utilities bill, and reduced the University’s carbon footprint by almost 45 tons of carbon dioxide.

This summer, Chudyk and Smith, both members of the newly formed MAG Green Team, are hoping to turn the boilers off from mid-June to mid-October, weather conditions permitting, with the potential to almost double last summer’s results.

“You can either waste energy year after year or you can save energy year after year,” says Joe Viterna, the facilities manager who helped engineer the project, “It’s great to see the mechanics and other on-site people finding ways to make our University more efficient and more environmentally friendly.”

If you know about other people or programs making the University more sustainable, please use the “Your Feedback” link on the Sustainability Web site to get their story out!


Comment from jelekan
Time: September 2, 2009, 8:15 pm

Your idea is very good

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