Utah Valley University
Utah Valley University's new student residence buildings. In all, six 1,500,000 BTU units (iQ1501) were installed, together with four 1,000,000 BTU units (iQ1001), and two 750,000 BTU units (iQ751), for a total capacity of 14,500,000 BTU/hour.

Heating System Passes Test at Student Housing

Aug. 19, 2022
The Green on Campus Drive—a new construction project that features approximately 450 residential units—needed a safer, more reliable hot water solution.

OREM, UT — Higher elevations and extreme winters of Orem—a city just north of Provo—can be challenging for heating systems, and for those early morning risers getting ready to start their school day. In addition, a “cold water sandwich” breakfast shouldn’t be the first dining experience of the day for students at Utah Valley University. In fact, readily available hot water shouldn’t even be a concern.

UMC Inc., a 50-year-old plumbing and HVAC contractor focusing on multifamily buildings, was selected as the plumbing contractor, handling all of the plumbing needs for this new construction, including sewer, water mains, PEX piping for domestic water, and water heating. Honing in on the water heating, the project included five new residential buildings and a parking garage, and original plan specified multiple heaters and large, 5,000-gallon storage tanks.

The University ultimately embraced an improved concept and plans were updated to include Intellihot tankless water heaters for domestic hot water use. Space that was initially allocated for those multiple 5000-gallon water tanks was repurposed into additional office space, increased residential space, dedicated space for snow melting equipment, and other amenities.

Intermountain Hydronic Specialties, an Intellihot manufacturers rep, takes pride in keeping their customers well informed of innovations and ways to improve operational efficiencies. As part of this process, they spoke with the university about the multiple advantages of using commercial tankless water heaters to gain significant operational efficiencies and to improve student health and safety.

The initial capital expense of these tankless systems is often 50% below tank-type systems that are frequently overbuilt to ensure adequate hot water supply. Additionally, the installation is simpler, with reduced piping needs, all while requiring a significantly smaller physical footprint for the equipment.

“Intellihot is a great company that is on top of their game with software, controls, technology, and materials selection. They produce a premium water heater for the commercial market,” says Ron Stagg, Intermountain Hydronics.

With this being a large new construction project involving multiple buildings, the plumbing work was planned at appropriate building intervals running between June 2019 and August 2020 for Phase I—four buildings plus garage—and into 2021 for Phase II (one larger building).

UMC staffed the project as needed for their work, stating that, “only a few guys with a pallet jack” were all they needed to bring 12 Intellihot water heaters to their final locations. This is a significant labor and cost savings over installing boilers, bulky storage tanks and the necessary piping associated with the original plans.

In all, six 1,500,000 BTU units (iQ1501) were installed, together with four 1,000,000 BTU units (iQ1001), and two 750,000 BTU units (iQ751), for a total capacity of 14,500,000 BTU/hour. UMC Inc. chose to switch to Intellihot after seeing the reduced footprint, simpler piping, and smaller price tag. The customer was glad to receive unlimited hot water, Legionella mitigation, and deep energy savings

Inside the Products

Intellihot’s units are sized up to 3,000,000 BTUs/hour. Other manufacturers don’t have the same capacity, and will rack-mount several units together, with contractors building manifolds and piping between them to reach the required installed capacity, but they lack the manufacturer’s testing and assembly. Importantly, they also lack AHRI certification for the combined sizing of the racked equipment. Still other manufacturers talk about their “tankless” units, yet still bundle tanks with them.

Intellihot units provide AHRI certification, simple installation without additional piping needs, and can utilize a common vent. Intermountain Hydronic Specialties notes that a common problem associated with many tankless units, that of scale buildup, was overcome by Intellihot introducing planned water turbulence and some vibration of the heat engines, eliminating the potential for scale built-up. Intellihot’s masterless cascading technology also ensures even usage among their redundant heat engines, minimizing maintenance concerns.

Inside the Technology

Intellihot engineers build redundancy into every hot water heater they produce. By employing multiple heat engines that operate autonomously, the single point failure of traditional controllers is eliminated.

Intellihot’s heat engines are connected to work together, communicating through a “peer-to-peer” approach, so if a heat engine is taken off line for maintenance, that engine isolates itself and the remaining engines collectively determine, by rotation, how to meet the changing water needs. This unique communication strategy also ensures that all heat engines are used in a fairly even rotation, eliminating potential maintenance concerns.

The Intellihot heaters are performing as promised, with students having access to unlimited hot water. While the University has not shared energy savings data, Intellihot typically provides a 40% energy savings versus tank-type units. “While the cold winters in Utah can create a large Delta-T requirement, based on the cold water entering the system, we have not experienced any problems with Intellihot equipment meeting the needs,” says Stagg.

Being new construction, students could not contract for any of the residential units until the fall 2020 semester—driving the August 2020 completion date for Phase I buildings. “The Intellihot units were delivered quickly and were easy to install, keeping us on our planned schedule,” says Nick Ovard, project manager, UMC Inc.

The ultimate A+ grade feedback, Ovard adds, “Intellihot is doing its job well and we have not received a single call-back for the water heating system.”

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