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Infrared Heaters Warming Students and Teachers, Cutting Energy Costs

Jan. 1, 2009
Located in southeastern Colorado, at an elevation of 7,600 ft, Moffat School is no stranger to extreme winter weather. It was 50 below for 60 straight

Located in southeastern Colorado, at an elevation of 7,600 ft, Moffat School is no stranger to extreme winter weather.

“It was 50 below for 60 straight days last winter,” Kevin Neese, the school's director of maintenance and facilities, said.

The K-12 public school, which has an enrollment of 150 students, was built during the early 1900s. Its gymnasium, which is used by local theatre groups, for town and government meetings, and for family reunions, was constructed during the 1960s.

Neese, a graduate of the school, recalled his younger days in the gymnasium, which originally was equipped with warm-air-blowing unit heaters.

“When we were in school, these old heaters ran all the time, and we still were cold,” Neese said. “Also, the heaters were noisy, a distraction during events, especially at student concerts, drowning out the kids' instruments.”

Over time, the heaters required higher and higher levels of maintenance, Neese explained.

“In a small district, as this is, I'm responsible for the upkeep of the building, as well as being the mechanic for the school buses,” Neese said. “I don't have the time to service heaters, too, which I've continually had to do with these old units.”

When a routine inspection revealed unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide near the gymnasium's roof, the school decided to replace the heaters.

“With this old building and with the poor ventilation of the building, we needed a cost-effective system that would be easy to maintain,” Neese said.

Vendola Plumbing and Heating of Alamosa, Colo., specified and installed energy-efficient Solaronics gas infrared heaters. The low-intensity heaters direct heat toward spectators.

“Other systems that just blow air are not suitable for a gymnasium with 25-ft ceilings, where you know the warm air will just rise to the roof, leaving people cold on the gym floor,” Anthony Garcia, Vendola Plumbing and Heating's project manager, said.

Mounted above spectator areas, the propane-fueled heaters maintain preselected operating temperatures, quietly beaming infrared energy.

The heaters achieve optimal combustion by precisely matching air and gas ratios, resulting in fuel savings of up to 75 percent, compared with conventional warm-air-blowing units.

All burners come fully assembled and tested. Compact, quiet fans are the only moving parts. A patented reflector design is utilized for optimum infrared dispersion and a reflectional efficiency exceeding 90 percent. Each reflector section is constructed of Brite finish aluminum and can be rotated to direct heat precisely.

The thinness of the air at 7,600 ft necessitated larger air orifices in the heaters, the combustion systems of which typically are built for operation at elevations of up to about 2,000 ft, Brian McLane of Air Purification Co., Solaronics' Colorado and Wyoming representative, said.

After a full heating season with the Solaronics system, “Our energy savings have been tremendous,” Neese said. “With the old heaters, we were using up to six tankers of propane per year. This year, we only used two.”

Information and photographs courtesy of Solaronics Inc.
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