Mike Ross, UNH Photographic Services
Exterior of UNH.

Replacing Water Heaters with Tankless a Game Saver by New England Contractor

July 17, 2023
Just days before the beginning of the UNH sports summer camp, the water heaters failed at McLaughlin Hall.

First impressions count. So, when the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was preparing to host more than 600 prospective enrollees at its annual summer sports camp for high school athletes, the campus had to look and perform its best. From the manicured soccer pitch and hydration stations on its playing fields, to fresh linens and spotless rooms where hundreds of overnight campers would be staying in the University’s student dormitories.

Just days before the beginning of the UNH sports summer camp, the water heaters failed at McLaughlin Hall—the main source of hot water for McLaughlin, as well as neighboring Congreve and Lord Halls. The 1990s era water heating system had to be replaced quickly, as those halls were to house summer campers.

Granite State Plumbing and Heating

To get a new water heating system sourced and installed quickly, the University’s facilities management worked with Granite State Plumbing and Heating, LLC, a Weare, NH contractor with more than 40 years in commercial mechanical contracting services, including plumbing and HVAC maintenance. The company prides itself on building and maintaining high quality, highly-efficient systems that are long-lived to deliver excellent return-on-investment.

Fortunately, the facilities team at the University saw the problem coming, and had already identified some replacement options for the aging water heaters, working with SMRT Engineering, an architectural, engineering and planning firm. One option was the iQ1501 tankless water heater from Intellihot. The iQ1501 is designed for large volume, commercial applications, delivering approximately 1.5 million BTU/hr. Like all Intellihot water heaters, it’s extremely energy efficient and its tankless design eliminates the need for mixing valves, where required, while lowering Legionella risks. It features a turndown ratio of 50:1, and is relatively compact in size at 30″ in width and weighing 1,025 lbs.

Selecting for Sustainability

“Sustainability factored in in a major way because they saw that the Intellihot runs anywhere between about 97 and 99 percent efficient,” said Scott Tarzia, industrial business development and sales at Granite State. “That was big deal to them. They have a lot of people in their organization who monitor what kind of equipment they put on campus.”

In fall 2021, UNH achieved a renewed STARS Platinum rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, one of only a handful of schools in the nation to achieve this highest level of sustainability performance among colleges and universities. UNH's Platinum rating was made possible through a long-term, concerted, and university-wide effort that engaged faculty, staff, and students.

“They also liked that it’s an intelligent piece of equipment that offers multiple benefits, all in one unit,” added Tarzia. “When I talk to people about replacing their water heating systems, there’s a pretty big factor that needs to be considered. If you store your water, you always run the risk of Legionella. I know UNH goes the extra mile to protect their students, faculty and staff. With Intellihot you mitigate the possibility of Legionella because of the temperature it runs at and the frequency it runs.

“This job originally came out months before as a proactive replacement. It was going to be replaced after the summer camps were completed and before students returned to school for the Fall semester. But the existing units failed, which led to the rush job. Once we got on site and declared the tank unit unrepairable, we contacted the engineering firm for what they sized, then we got Jeff and Erica from Intellihot involved, and we got everything moving.”

Addressing Customer Concerns

Jeff Slattery handles commercial business development at Dan Davis Sales, a Lebanon, Maine-based business that represents products for the plumbing, heating and renewable energy markets in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

“We engaged with UNH earlier for another water heater project they were considering,” said Stattery. “But they admitted they were not completely comfortable because the technology was new to them. So, Erica, Scott and I met with them to introduce and train their facilities personnel on Intellihot products. How they operate, the benefits, and how to work on our units.”

While there are no dining facilities at any of the affected dorms, predicting a peak flow hour is nearly impossible. Unlike predicting peak flow at a hotel or even a multi-family housing building, the hot water demand for college dormitories varies greatly based on the occupants’ unique schedules.

“One of the great attributes of Intellihot equipment is when you have a moving target on load, the unit will ramp up as it needs to meet that load,” said Slattery. “When there is no demand, it will be idle, not wasting any energy. If the building goes dormant for weeks at a time, the system will be using no energy during those stand-by times.”

Fast Turnaround

“The initial call from UNH came in on Wednesday,” recalled Tarzia. “The most important factor was that F.W. Webb had the unit in stock at their Methuen (Mass.) location.”

Bedford, Mass.-based F.W. Webb is the largest wholesale distributor of plumbing, heating, cooling, HVAC/R, LP gas and industrial products in the Northeast with more than 100 locations across nine states. Intellihot is the only commercial grade tankless water heaters F.W. Webb stocks.

Granite State was able to secure a unit and install it in less than 48 hours. The unit was delivered to the site Thursday by noon and installed by four licensed professionals from Granite State. With Slattery’s help with startup, it was running by Friday at 5:00 pm.

Aside from product availability, this project had other issues. “The biggest challenge in this project was that the old equipment was extremely heavy and awkward, which made it very difficult to remove,” said Tarzia. “The tanks and the piping, especially. It was 1990s era equipment. The two 250-gallon tanks were cement lined. Old Lochinvars that had enough cast iron on the bottom to use as boat anchors. By the way, all this was going on while graduation ceremonies and events were taking place on campus, which created a logistical nightmare getting to and from the site.”

Winning Score

So how is the new unit performing today? “One of the University’s facilities people reached out to me to say that they have not had a single hiccup with the new unit,” said Tarzia. “They’ve been very impressed. No alerts. No fault alarm. And there’s been no interruption of hot water since the Intellihot unit was installed.  I have a picture of Jeff’s efficiency meter showing the unit operating at 99.9 percent.”

The winning score, ultimately, is a happy customer, in this case Mark E. Geuther, director, facilities project manager at UNH: “The team at Granite State Plumbing and Heating responded quickly and professionally to ensure hot water continued to flow… at a key time.”

Erica Levasseur is Intellihot’s strategic district account manager in New England and Upstate New York. She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Career and Technology Education from Ball State University. She has been in the plumbing industry since 2011 with various roles in wholesale, commercial HVAC, corporate training and commercial sales.

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