NIU heating plant gets efficiency improvement

By Brian Slupski

Nearly $1 million is being spent to improve the reliability and efficiency of NIU’s heating system.

The heating system is reportedly working at 30 percent efficiency, said Tony Coyle, chief heating plant engineer. The efficiency problem is due to the age of the system. The “newest” boiler was installed in 1968, he said.

“In the long run it (lack of efficiency) will cost the university,” Coyle said.

John Gardener, a financial analyst with NIU, said the university will probably spend nearly $2 million dollars this year for the gas needed to operate the east heating plant. He said 47 percent of the bill is paid through appropriated funds.

Appropriated funds are monies the state collects and then distributes to various state agencies. The funds include tuition payments by students to NIU. NIU must turn in the tuition payments to the state, and then will receive the money back as the state sees fit.

Coyle said renovations had begun on the system, but that it was a long process to get the money needed through appropriations. He added that if all the renovations were attempted at once that it could bankrupt the heating budget.

Conrad Miller, assistant to the director at the physical plant, said major renovations had begun on the system and could continue through next year. So far a new deaerator has been installed at the east heating plant, he said.

The deaerator removes oxygen from the water used in generating the steam. This helps reduce erosion to the heating coils, Miller said.

A second deaerator will be installed at the west heating plant hopefully by next year, he said.

The west heating plant was shut down years ago in an attempt to conserve energy. The east plant now heats the entire university and the west plant is not in operation, Miller said.

An emergency generator was being installed in an effort to make the system more reliable, Miller said. “That way if gas is not available, we can rely on electricity,” he said.

“In an emergency, the west heating plant could be turned back on,” Miller said.

Other renovations include the redoing of the feed water system and the beginning design work for the rehabilitation of boiler number five at the east plant, he said.

“The renovations should cut NIU’s gas bill because of the more effective use of the gas used to heat the boiler, … the system will also use water more economically,” he said.

Miller added that although the gas will be used more efficiently, the rising cost of gas may keep NIU’s bill high.