Contractor Case Study: Kelleher Heating and Cooling
“We’ve uncovered skeletons in the basement here, and there’s an old graveyard in the woods,” said the caretaker of the historic Brook Hill estate, just north of Richmond, VA.
Dating back to the 1700s, the old family plantation has been home to dozens of Virginia dignitaries, and has always been under the careful watch of a family descendant.
During the Civil War, the 11,000 square-foot mansion served as a Confederate field hospital. These days, the property is open to the public only on occasion. And not usually at night.
Despite the gothic mansion’s towering profile and dark colors, its sole inhabitant swears that the only truly frightening occurrence in recent years has been the arrival of the oil bill.
In heating season, the drafty old manor consumed 1,000 gallons of fuel oil each month. Rated at 5 GPH each, two old boilers crouched on the basement’s brick-paved floor like a pair of massive iron gargoyles.
While the oil truck drivers at Kelleher Heating and Cooling were happy to deliver the #2, Pete Grainger, estimator at the 40-person company, had suggested for years to retrofit with a natural gas system. After two rough winters in a row, the estate took him up on it.
The plan was to change the living space as little as possible; just add new T-stats. Sometime in the past half-century, hydronic wall registers, fin-tube baseboard and a little cast iron had been added to create two big zones.
Lonnie Herman was lead installer on the job. He was joined by Dennis Shiflett, Tom Crampton, Chuck Greenberg and Cory Sandlin. The oil tanks were hauled out and the two massive oil boilers were broken apart. At the same time, distributor RE Michel delivered the two new, 95 percent efficient Alpine commercial boilers.
“We’ve heard of workers finding a human skull down here, but all we found was a skunk,” said Greenberg, supervisor. “The install was pretty straightforward. We piped and wired the boilers in a lead-lag configuration so that we have a 10-to-one turndown. The system can provide anywhere from 80,000 to nearly 800,000 BTUs. That’s a major asset here.”
“This was only the second time I’ve installed an Alpine boiler,” continued Greenberg. “We’ve used U.S. Boiler Company’s cast-iron boilers for decades, and I really wanted to try the Alpine in a dual-boiler setup. The controls are friendlier than what we’re used to on a condensing boiler, and the support was fantastic.”
Kelleher also installed a 50-gallon Alliance indirect tank as a third zone off the main loop. The Alliance is known for unmatched durability, thanks to its unique stone lining which makes it impervious to the harsh groundwater throughout the East Coast.
“Most folks have no concept of what it takes to keep a place like this this intact,” said the anonymous caretaker with a smile in her voice. “With the new heating system, it’s a little bit easier, and not so… cold.”
Above: The Civl War-era mansion near Richmond, VA is now heated by two, 399 BTU Alpine condensing boilers.
Above (L-R): Cory Sandlin, apprentice plumber, Dennis Shiflett, master plumber, Lonnie Herman, master plumber, Peter Grainger, plumbing sales (master plumber), Tom Crampton, master plumber, Chuck Greenberg, plumbing, A/C and electrical supervisor.
Above: The Brook Hill mansion was built in 1850, and served as a field hospital for the Confederacy during the civil war. The 11,000 square-foot mansion was consuming about 1,000 gallons of oil each month before Kelleher was called to install a natural gas boiler system.