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HVAC improvements are big part of proposed referendum project
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On Tuesday, November 3, Boscobel School District residents will be asked to vote on a referendum question requesting $6.9 million for repairs and upgrades to the district’s five buildings.

What will that money be used for?

We will cover each section in detail over the coming weeks.

Part 1, HVAC

Over half of the proposed referendum funding is for the heating and cooling systems.

If approved, $3.8 million will be used in large part to replace the heating system in the high school building and upgrade the systems in the elementary, Rock, and Annex buildings. It would also be used for installing air conditioning, cleaning the heating ducts, and transitioning heating and cooling controls from the obsolete pneumatic controls to digital controls.

The current heating system in the high school is a steam system. If the referendum passes, it would be replaced with a hot water system.

The heating systems

In a steam boiler, water is heated in much the same way as it is in a whistling teapot. As water in the partially filled teapot or boiler is heated to 212°F (100°C), it turns to steam while the pressure within the system increases. The steam rises under low pressure (less than 5 psi) through the pipes to the radiators. On each radiator, an air vent opens as the steam increases the air pressure within the radiator. When the steam reaches the vent, it closes. As the heat of the radiator radiates to the room, the steam eventually cools and condenses to water, and by gravity-flow returns to the boiler to be reheated.

 Modern forced hot-water heating systems utilize pumps to quickly and quietly circulate heated water through pipes to convectors or radiators. It is a closed system, relying on pressure, temperature and volume for safe and efficient operation. When the thermostat calls for heat, a burner is activated and begins to heat up the water in the boiler.

Why change?

HVAC systems don’t allow for a gradual transition. So if the system is changed, it has to be done all at once.

The high school system in place is original to the building, making it around 55 years old.

Heating systems overall have a lifespan of between 15 and 25 years. So while the system is functioning, it is past the end of its functional lifespan, according to H&H Energy’s Eric Truelove, and the school can expect it to require increasing maintenance and repair.

The hot water heating system offers several advantages.

It would allow for more control in the individual classrooms. It would improve energy efficiency by 10-15 percent. And, according to Truelove, the system requires far less maintenance.

“The steam system requires traps for condensation,” Truelove explained. “They require ongoing maintenance.”

In addition to replacing the high school heating system, the project would replace two boilers at the elementary school, and six new furnaces at the annex.

Changing air intake

Another part of the project involves upgrading air handling systems at the schools to current industry air quality standards, ANSI 62.1.

Doing so will have the most dramatic impact on the high school where air circulation takes place through the tunnels underneath the school.

The tunnels are currently plagued with issues related to leaking pipes, standing water, mold and dust. The new system would bring fresh air in from outside and utilize an energy recovery ventilator to reduce heating and cooling needs.

“The current system is not a good system, but it is not something to panic about at this point,” said H&H Energy’s Josh Kaurich. “Excessive mold is an issue, which is not where it is at yet. But mold can aggravate asthma conditions, and there are certainly kids in the school with asthma.”

“Buildings are like people, they need to breath fresh air,” added Truelove.

Building controls

The project calls for upgrading all environmental controls to digital.

The current controls are pneumatic and are no longer manufactured. That makes maintenance increasingly difficult as parts are less available.

Digital would also create greater flexibility, according to Kaurich, since it would allow system-wide programing. Add to that more accurate temperature sensing, and it would result in more comfortable classrooms.

“I’ve had teachers tell me that they have had to keep the kids in sweaters because the rooms are cold,” Kaurich said. “That won’t be a problem anymore.”

The final portion of the HVAC proposals is cleaning out the ductwork.

“This isn’t something regularly done as maintenance,” Kaurich said. “We are reusing as much existing duct work as possible. You don’t want to hook up a new system to the old contaminants of mold and dust.”

Parts two and three of this series will cover proposed projects repairs and upgrades to the district buildings’ exterior envelope, communications and safety equipment, plumbing, and lighting and audio-visual equipment.