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Co-op Board Gets Hot Water and a Cool Electric Bill

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on May 11, 2022

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Domestic hot water, electric boilers, carbon emissions, utility bills, co-op board.

The old domestic hot water boiler (left) was 10 feet long and 6 feet tall; the new boiler (right) is just 40 inches tall (images courtesy of R. Germain Inc. and Abilene Inc.)

May 11, 2022

After nearly half a century of faithful service, the electric-powered domestic hot water boiler at the Toulaine, a 245-unit co-op at 130 W. 67th St. on the Upper West Side, was on its way out.

“While the old boiler was still operational, we wanted to get ahead of the game,” says Steven Hoffman, founder the co-op’s management company, Hoffman Management. “Proactively, the board decided to make the change to a new boiler.”

Adds the co-op board's vice president, Lew Center: "We tried to get parts for the old boiler, but it was becoming more and more difficult. We decided to go ahead and replace it on our own timetable."

The board brought in Ralph Germain, president of the engineering firm R. Germain Inc., to design a new system and solicit bids. “The boiler was way past its useful life,” Germain says. “They were spending a lot of money on maintenance, and it wasn’t producing enough hot water. We wanted to switch to gas because electricity is four times more expensive than gas. But there was no place to put a chimney on this 26-story building.”

So electricity would continue as the power source. Luckily for the co-op board, technology has improved dramatically since the building was built in the 1970s, and Germain proposed using a boiler produced by Sussman Electric Boilers, a century-old company based in Long Island City, Queens. This new boiler was about one-third as large as its predecessor, and instead of two large burners that fired constantly, it is powered by nine small burners, only three of which are in use at any given time — a major boost in efficiency with a corresponding reduction in electricity usage.

An added bonus: if the electric grid switches from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in the coming years, as planned, this co-op’s carbon emissions will shrink without any retrofits or added expense.

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The board brought in Abilene Inc. to install the system. Vincent Logozzo, the vice president of construction at Abilene, served as project manager. “It was a pretty simple job for us,” he says. “We cut up the old boiler with torches and carried it out in pieces. The new boiler fit through a 36-inch doorway, so we just put it on a dolly and rolled it right into the space.”

The board covered the $170,000 cost of the project with an assessment and a withdrawal from the reserve fund.

“They’re saving a fortune on electricity bills, and now they have adequate hot water,” Germain says. “That’s the home run.”

The final proof is in the water temperature and supply. “We’ve got plenty of hot water, and the boiler is worry-free,” Hoffman says. “Both Abilene and Germain did a great job.”

Center, the board vice president, adds, "We've had no complaints whatsoever."

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — ENGINEER: R. Germain Inc. CONTRACTOR: Abilene Inc. PROPERTY MANAGER: Hoffman Management. MANUFACTURER: Sussman Electric Boilers.

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