Town officials last week approved a $52,800 contract with a Scotts Corners, N.Y.-based engineering firm to convert seven oil-fired burners in town-owned buildings to run on natural gas.
Approved 3-0 by First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams during the Board of Selectmen’s July 9 regular meeting, the contract with Marchetti Consulting Engineers will cover the conversion of the burners in the Parks Department Garage, Police Department, Schoolhouse Apartments and New Canaan Day Care, Highway Garage, Wastewater Treatment Plant, and former Outback Teen Center buildings.
Devereaux asked whether converted oil-fired burners are as efficient as purpose-built gas-fired ones. Department of Public Works Building Superintendent Bill Oestmann said that they are not, but that as technology improves this could change.
“We’ll get efficiencies going to gas, and cleanliness,” Oestmann said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “It should be a little better over time and that’s what the engineer’s going to help us understand.”
Asked by Devereaux how efficiency would improve over time, Oestmann explained that this depends on elements such as the price of fuel.
“Right now oil and gas are neck and neck, but oil’s starting to go back up, so you’ll get a cost efficiency,” he said.
The burner conversion will enable the seven affected town buildings to make use of the natural gas lines being installed in New Canaan by Eversource, in a project that had been approved 2-1 by the Board of Selectmen in July 2017. The opposing vote had been cast by then-Selectman Beth Jones for environmental reasons.
At the meeting, Devereaux noted that when a homeowner wants to convert a burner, the service provider itself usually offers a consultation. Oestmann said that commercial systems are “a lot different.”
“There’s a lot of equipment involved and not a lot of margin for error, so we prefer to have an engineer to make sure we get it right,” he said.
Devereaux asked whether, if the town wanted to convert to high efficiency gas burners in the future, it would have to go through this process again.
“Yes,” Oestmann said, adding that there would be different equipment involved.
Oestmann said that at present, the town is only aiming to convert its burners, not its boilers.
“The boilers are universal,” Oestmann said. “The oil tanks are 30 years old and they are required to be changed out every 30 years so the timing is pretty good.”
Oestmann said that he thinks this is a good place to start. “Let’s get over to gas, let’s get these things running,” he said, “Then as the boilers start ageing out—start looking at replacing them.”
Devereaux said that the $8,000 per location cited by Oestmann seemed to be a lot of money to spend on the project. Williams pointed out that the contract, which was for $48,000 plus a contingency amount of $4,800, appeared to actually discount that initial rate.
Moynihan said that the Board of Education is spending a similar amount at the schools.
“The heating and hot water systems are very complex,” he said. “There’s no way we could do this ourselves.”