Subscribe to our newsletters & stay updated
On a sunny Saturday, the line to get into the Carriage House car wash in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, spills out of the parking lot and overflows into the street. With its six self-serve bays, dog-wash station and new, state-of-the-art auto wash — it’s the place to be to clean cars and fur babies alike.
But last December, the Carriage House underwent a major (and much needed) mechanical system upgrade. In car wash lingo, owner Kevin Brown chose the “Deluxe.”
Before the overhaul, the boiler used to heat the concrete wash bays during the winter months to prevent ice accumulation was a more than 20-year-old copper tube boiler. It had an earlier life as a pool heater. But its time had come; flames routinely shot out from below the boiler reminding Brown of that old Jerry Lee Lewis song, “Great Balls of Fire.”
“It was downright scary,” Brown says. “We knew there was no way we could use it for another heating season.”
Brown reached out to Myerstown, Pennsylvania-based Ray W. Moyer Inc. for the retrofit work. It was a natural call for Brown since he graduated high school with Sam Moyer, Ray’s son and part-owner — and knew the company’s upstanding reputation.
Sam and his son, Ben, who also plays a vital role in the family business, submitted an estimate for the retrofit and Brown accepted. They were eager to help out an old friend.
Rewind a few years: After attending an open house at their local supplier, APR Supply, the Moyers were introduced to Bradford White products and business development manager Nate Warren. To this day, Bradford White products are used exclusively for all Ray W. Moyer Inc.’s water heater needs.
The Moyers have stayed in touch with Warren over the years and occasionally chat about projects. Warren took a keen interest in this particular retrofit, admitting he wouldn’t mind seeing the old flaming beast of a boiler being evicted, himself.
The plan for the Carriage House car wash was to replace the cantankerous flame-thrower with twin boilers, coupled with primary-secondary piping and reverse return.
Efficient heat plant
Two 199-MBH Bradford White Brute FT heating boilers were chosen for the Carriage House application. With a 10:1 turndown on each unit, and arranged in a cascading fashion, the twinned boilers provided an overall system turndown of 20:1.
“We chose the wall-hung boilers,” Ben explains, “because of their known reliability and high efficiency. We also like the fact that they come with a factory-mounted boiler pump — and that we could get them promptly at APR Supply, our main supplier for years.”
The old boiler was piped in series with the system, so the flow rate in the boiler piping was always the same as the system. However, replacing the old boiler with two cascaded boilers meant the flow rate in the boiler piping would vary depending on whether one or both boilers are firing.
A new piping arrangement was used to improve system performance. Now, with primary-secondary piping to connect the boiler piping, the system hydraulically separates the boiler and near-boiler piping from the system so that each unit gets the right amount of flow, regardless of the system flow rate. Connecting the boilers with reverse-return piping ensures equal return water temperatures and equal flow rates to each boiler. This allows them to work together during peak heating demands.
The combination of reverse-return boiler piping with a primary-secondary connection to the system piping is ideal for systems with multiple boilers. It allows the onboard cascade control system to synchronize the boilers, maximizing efficiency in all conditions. In addition, the Brute FT cascade system automatically rotates the firing order to equalize the runtime on each unit and provides backup should a boiler lockout or require service.
“With it being a seasonal application, it’s not as if the system is going to run 4,000 hours a year,” Ben says. “The system will only call for heat when there’s the threat of freezing temps outside. The two units spread out the run time, so it’s a great application for this type of system.”
Sam, who liked the way the Brute FT boilers work, adds: “Since they’re identical, once you install the first wall-mounted boiler, you know exactly how the second one will go. It’s impressive to see inside them. The heat exchanger is large for a condensing boiler, but you can still access the controls and components inside.”
The system’s primary distribution circulator is a Taco 0013, notes Ben. “We’ve used Taco circulators exclusively for all our heating systems and service work,” he says. “They’ve proven over our many years of service to perform consistently.”
No more Jerry Lee Lewis
The Browns own two other car washes in Lebanon County and already have plans in the works to bring the Moyers and Bradford White into those mechanical rooms, as well.
“Having made it through our first heating season with the new system, it’s clear these new boilers saved me a ton of money,” Brown says with certainty. “Our natural gas bill is now half of what it was.”
He adds: “We couldn’t have asked for a better solution for safety and savings across the board. We’re glad our ‘great balls of fire’ are now a thing of the past; no more Jerry Lee Lewis in the boiler room!”