A high school in Geneseo is still using Kewanee steam boilers originally installed in 1952 and 1963. These systems, over 60 years old, are in desperate need of repairs, which is causing the school to debate replacing them altogether.
The original steam boiler was installed in 1952 to account for the brand new school, which was just being built that year. In the mid 1950’s, due to overcrowding concerns, the school board expanded and built a junior high school. And then in 1963, a second 240 horsepower boiler was added to expand the steam and condensate piping system for yet another building expansion.
Impressively enough, both Kewanee steam systems are fully functional and still powering the school. Yet, their days could quickly be coming to an end.
Due to a recent hot water heating system study conducted by MMEA Engineers, the system was deemed inefficient.
“You’re looking at about an 82 percent efficiency on these boilers,” maintenance director for the Geneseo School District Randy Bormann, said. “New boilers have 96 or 97 percent efficiency.”
Thanks to recent renovations in 2016, much of the school is now powered by a new hot water heating system. This took away over 30,000 square feet that was previously heated with these steam boilers. Now, 137,000 square feet of the school is heated with hot water heating systems, with only minimal areas being attributed to steam heat.
Aside from lacking efficiency, steam boilers are more costly to repair. They require special parts and a particular set of skills and knowledge base to repair properly. At one point, a 15-inch section of steel was cut out of the bottom of one of the boilers and replaced with new steel. Somehow, though, they had surpassed their expected 35-year life expectancy.
Replacing these two steam heat boilers could save the school district about $20,000 per year, but it would come at a cost of $350,000 to replace those boilers.
“We’d be installing a boiler about half the size of a refrigerator compared to what we have now…they’re as big as a bedroom,” Bormann said.
What do you think? Should the Geneseo School District keep these Kewanee steam boilers out of respect for the historical significance they hold? Or should they switch to hot water heaters for better performance, future savings, and reduced size?
Photo from Starcourier.com