Watts Landing: J.M. Electrical Co.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. When it comes to reducing energy use and cutting costs at a national and international airport, which details do you target? At Boston’s Logan Airport, Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), owner and operator of the facility, zeroed in on one opportunity: monitoring energy use of pipes throughout the airport infrastructure. 

J.M. Electrical Co. of Lynnfield, Mass., has garnered projects at the airport over the past 20 years, and it won the $500,000, year-long capital project that started in July 2013. The project involved installing low-voltage wiring for meters that were attached to existing pipes carrying hot water, chilled water or pumped condensate. The result was cost and energy savings. 

“There used to be one or two energy meters on a job,” said Matthew Guarracino, director of business development, J.M. Electrical. “But with every downtown Boston high-rise, we’re installing more and more meters.”

Installation of the meters is part of a strategy to reduce energy use.

“You cannot manage what you do not measure,” said David A. Bovard, director of strategic partnering, Spirax Sarco Inc. “Meters are tools used for front-end management of systems and will allow the users at Logan to trend utility consumption and thereby monitor and benchmark systems’ performance. Constant monitoring by meters will allow them to detect an interruption, upset or problem when it happens so that corrective action can be taken quickly and [will allow them] to save energy.”

Working in an active airport required a lot of strategic thinking.

“Coordination was a huge portion of bringing this job in on time and on budget,” said John Guarracino, project manager, J.M. Electrical. “Each terminal has its own terminal manager. It was kind of difficult from that aspect and entailed a lot of scheduling. Meetings of everyone involved on the project took place weekly. Our goal was not to hit any roadblocks. You have to plan what you’re going to do for weeks ahead of time to make sure you’re not hitting any roadblocks. If you have something go wrong, you could have three or four guys sitting around.”

One key to J.M. Electrical’s on-time, on-budget performance had to do with the company’s long history at the airport and the knowledge of the airport infrastructure accumulated over the years by Paul Kelly, the company’s foreman.

“He is so familiar with the airport that he was able to contribute suggestions of efficient ways to run the work and operate around in that highly secure environment, and he knew of ways to coordinate with the trades,” John Guarracino said.

To access the pipes and wire and install 70–100 meters, J.M. Electrical’s crew had to work in high-security, hard-to-access areas, such as crawl spaces, mechanical areas and above ceilings.

Once positioned, J.M. technicians cut out a section of the insulation that encased existing, functioning, black iron pipes carrying hot water, chilled water or pumped condensate. They then measured to place the Spirax Sarco strap-on meters the necessary distance apart on the pipe bases to function correctly. The crew then strapped the meters directly onto the pipes.

Mechanical contractors welded Vortex Meters, also by Spirax Sarco, onto pipes carrying steam. J.M. Electrical then wired and terminated those meters, then programmed and commissioned them according to manufacturer’s specifications and instructions.

“With the newly installed meters, Massport is going to be able to figure their usage to determine their baseline,” John Guarracino said. “They will be able to tender their equipment to get their best savings, which is happening in a whole lot of buildings in Boston. They will be able to monitor the use of steam, hot and chilled water, and pumped condensate, and [they will be able] to database all the feedback information, notice trends and make adjustments based on the feedback. Measurement by the meters is ultrasonic. Through sound, the amount of flow through a pipe can be measured and converted to a numeric. The meters are now installed and functioning at Logan, but it’s still too early in the project to give a specific example as we are working to get the meters all online first.”

As for the kind of information that will be gathered, Bovard said, “proactive maintenance programs include steam trap surveys and repair, and [they include] condensate and chilled water system audits and repair. Upgrades and ongoing sustainability improvements can be measured against the initial benchmark to achieve performance goals.”

J.M. Electrical sent a few electricians and technicians to the Spirax Sarco plant in South Carolina to earn certifications to be able to install the company’s meters, including the UTM 10 Series meters and the UTM10 Series ultrasonic transit-time flowmeters. Technicians from Spirax Sarco also visited Logan Airport, worked with J.M. Electrical’s electricians and technicians prior to the meter installations, conducted a training seminar on how to install and program the meters for the team, and demonstrated a typical install.

“Everyone’s becoming a lot more cost-conscious,” Matt Guarracino said. “Monitoring via meters is becoming more important as technology improves. Facility owners who are getting better feedback are more quickly able to make decisions to reduce energy savings for their facilities.”

About the Author

Susan Casey

Freelance Writer
Susan Casey, author of "Women Heroes of the American Revolution," "Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors," and "Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries that have Changed Our World," can be reached at scbooks@aol.com or www.susancaseybooks...

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