Now Running Up to B35: NEFI Headquarters
The 170-year-old Southborough, Massachusetts home provides a window to the heating industry’s high-tech, clean-energy future
It’s a tight squeeze heading down to the basement of NEFI’s Northeast office at 64 Central Street in Southborough, Massachusetts, just shy of 30 miles west of Boston. Standing at over six feet tall, NEFI President & CEO Sean Cota has to watch his step down here. It’s also not exactly what you’d call smooth footing, the unfinished basement floor a patchwork of dirt and limestone pebbles.
At first glance, this mid-19th century New England home might seem an odd place to showcase the high-tech, clean-energy future of the liquid heating fuel industry. But that’s exactly what NEFI and Cota are doing here today, as he narrates a video demonstration of the building’s newly installed heating system, an Energy Kinetics Resolute™ RT boiler running up to B35 Bioheat® SuperPlus. This renewable liquid heating fuel is stored onsite in a “thin” model, 230-gallon capacity Granby storage tank and delivered by Coan Heating & Air Conditioning of nearby Natick, MA, who uses the Tank Utility tank monitoring system to help track NEFI’s fuel usage and schedule deliveries accordingly. The boiler, tank and fuel are all state-of-the-art, highlighting the efficiency, accessibility and low carbon footprint of today’s renewable liquid heating.
Equally illuminating and inspiring, NEFI’s heating system replacement provides a shining example of business leaders coming together for the greater good to support the association and its mission. All of the high-tech equipment and the expert labor that went into installing it were donated to NEFI by a few of the thousands of essential, family-owned Main Street businesses that the organization works to support.
Here we provide a brief overview of the new heating system, the companies that were involved, and what this project means for the future of their industry.
It’s important to note that the project was not just a simple heating system upgrade, but a fuel conversion. Previously a Montessori schoolhouse, the Southborough office was heated via an outdated natural gas boiler and severely underperforming electric heat pump prior to NEFI’s arrival. In fact, before the new boiler was put in, NEFI Business Manager Lisa Avery recalls, she typically didn’t bother hanging up her coat at the start of her workday.
Now heated via a Bioheat SuperPlus blend of up to 35 percent biodiesel, the NEFI office stays warm through winter while also demonstrating the low carbon footprint of this renewable liquid heating fuel. To date, Coan Heating & Air Conditioning has delivered 525 gallons, eliminating up to 3,292 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional no. 2 heating oil.
“If we’re going to talk the talk on our industry’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s critical that we also walk the walk with higher-efficiency equipment running higher blends of renewable liquid heating fuel,” says Cota.
For its part, Coan Heating & Air Conditioning is no stranger to higher blends. “We’ve been a Bioheat distributor, supplying this low-carbon fuel to our customers for years now,” says Coan COO Art Chaves. “It’s a more environmentally friendly fuel that helps reduce our communities’ greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.”
Chaves recalls that the company started selling B5 as far back as 2016, then increased its blend to B10, and now comfortably provides its customers B20 during the winter and up to B35 during the warmer months. “We’ve had pretty big success and no major issues,” Chaves says. “We source our product through reputable, listed biofuel suppliers,” he adds, “and though there were some minor obstacles early on, we’ve worked through those without any consistent issues.”
According to research conducted by the Kearney group, advancements in oil-fired heating equipment efficiency have already helped reduce heating oil’s emissions profile by as much as 14 percent compared to 1990 baseline levels.
At the forefront of high-efficiency, high-performance oil-fired heating equipment stands Energy Kinetics, a second-generation family-owned and -operated boiler manufacturer based out of Lebanon, New Jersey. Known across the industry for the energy-saving coil design of its innovative System 2000® model, Energy Kinetics has recently upped the ante with its Resolute RT boiler, built to achieve a 91.3 annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). Of course, that number only tells part of the story.
“The Resolute RT is non-condensing and polypropylene (plastic) vented,” says Energy Kinetics President Roger Marran, son of company founder John Marran. “Due to its low mass and thermal purge design, it achieves better annual efficiency than the highest AFUE rated natural gas modulating condensing boiler.”
A longtime supporter of NEFI and proponent of biofuel blending, Energy Kinetics was delighted to donate a high-efficiency boiler to the association’s new headquarters. And when the question came up of who would complete the install, Townsend Energy eagerly answered the call. “To help out the organization, we offered to donate labor and manpower,” explains company CEO Jim Townsend. “To promote the advantages of a high-efficiency oil-fired heating system seamlessly using biofuel, the Energy Kinetics Resolute RT is an obvious choice,” he adds, noting Townsend Energy has installed many of these boilers for its Massachusetts customers who use a proprietary blend of 30 percent renewable fuel.
Marran reports that Energy Kinetics has received numerous testimonies from heating oil dealers successfully burning high biofuel blends in its boilers. “This includes many that are burning up to B20 and others who are burning blend levels as high as B100,” he says. “Energy Kinetics combustion chambers provide a very forgiving and clean burning environment, a good match for higher biofuel blends.”
The Resolute RT also includes industry standard components like the Carlin EZ1 burner and Hydrolevel temperature limit and low water cutoff, which make it easy to service. This, Marran says, is yet another advantage over natural gas boilers. “Gas mod-con boilers frequently have difficult to source proprietary parts and are subject to operational limitations from variations in natural gas supply pressures, something avoided with an oil tank with a ready store of fuel,” he adds.
As for NEFI’s new oil tank, there’s an interesting story behind that as well. While the Granby tank distributed by F.W. Webb and installed courtesy of Coan Heating & Air Conditioning provides a safe, sturdy and reliable option, it was actually the unit’s size that made it the perfect fit for the job — or, more accurately, the only fit. “The cellar entryway presented a challenge,” Chaves recalls. Granby’s thin vertical tank, measuring only 22 inches wide, “was the only thing that would fit into the basement!”
Coan, Townsend, Energy Kinetics and Tank Utility weren’t the only companies to donate products and services for NEFI’s new headquarters. With summer approaching, MacFarlane Energy integrated the building’s air handler with the new boiler system. That makes five companies that have volunteered their support. For all of them, the reasoning behind these efforts is obvious.
“NEFI is doing a bang-up job fighting for us and representing our industry,” says Chaves. “Donating service was a way to help support them just as delivering a low-carbon fuel is a way to help support our vision for the industry’s future.”
“It was a great membership team effort,” adds Townsend. “The Providence Resolution showed that we are stronger together, and this is a shining example of that story in action.”
“I want to thank all of the companies that help support us,” says Cota. “Energy Kinetics, Coan Heating & Air Conditioning, MacFarlane Energy and Townsend Energy were all very kind in volunteering their time and efforts to put in this new system. Not only are we developing a future for our industry by increasing the amount of renewable liquid heating fuel in our heating oil so the next generation can actually expand its market, but it goes to show we are a high-tech industry with exciting new products.”