The University spent a total of $850,000 on the project. The money came from The University Physical Plant fund, which consists of money set aside for campus building repairs. The University hired Ameren, a power company out of St. Louis, Missouri, to help with the project and received a $98,585.30 rebate which will go back into the fund.
“We had an opportunity with this project to basically upgrade the air conditioning for the campus so students could be comfortable during the warmer months,” University Comptroller Mike Garzanelli said.
Garzanelli said the chillers had been breaking down so frequently that it made sense to replace them entirely. The previous chillers had been in use for over 20 years.
A chiller takes in water and cools it to a comfortable temperature before pumping the water through a continuous loop around the buildings, Garzanelli explained.
Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, said the chillers do more than cool the buildings they are in. Replacing the chillers in the SUB and Violette should improve the cooling systems all around campus.
“There’s a chilled water loop that runs among the buildings so these things kind of power each other and share water,” Rector said. “So it goes from Baldwin Hall to McClain Hall to [Pickler Memorial] Library to the [SUB] to Magruder Hall to Violette Hall and so when you lose one, all the other buildings have to work harder so then the other buildings heat up.”
Rector said the engineering firm the University hired to design the project — Ross & Baruzzini, Inc. out of St. Louis — mentioned that Ameren had rebates for chillers.
Sam Guth, Physical Plant director and safety manager, has worked with Ameren multiple times and said this is the largest rebate he’s received on a project. He said Ameren offers incentives for buying and installing energy-efficient equipment with cash back through its BizSaver program.
In regard to the estimated yearly savings, Rector said they will depend on how much the chillers are utilized during the summer. He said there are currently no specific plans for how the money saved will be used in the future.
Rector said the original plan was to have the project finished over summer 2019, but the installation of the chillers continued into the fall. Last semester The Index reported that noise in Violette Hall disrupted some classes in session and Rector said this was the reason.
“Because of shipping of pumps and parts and stuff, the Violette Hall part didn’t get finished and so they had some noise going on over there where they were banging around on pipes down in the basement,” Rector said.
Garzanelli said the University hopes to get at least 20 years of use out of the new chillers. He said the old units were both over 20 years old, represented old technology and were not energy-efficient.
The pumps on the new chillers are smart, Garzanelli said, meaning that they know when to pump the cold water and how much to pump based on the temperature and when the chilled air is needed.
“These pumps are put together in such a way to conserve energy and it’s really neat to see them work,” Garzanelli said.