Wireless Valve Actuator Improves Steam Driven Building

Opened in 1931, the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Manhattan now features a wireless controls system to regulate heating and cooling.

steam heat
The Starrett-Lehigh Building in Manhattan, NY

The Starrett-Lehigh Building is one of Manhattan’s largest and premiere landmark properties, with tenants that include fashion moguls, elite brands, and creative companies. Located in West Chelsea, the Starrett-Lehigh building was completed in 1931 and originally served as a freight terminal.

Encompassing a full city block and 2.5 million square feet of commercial office space, the Starrett-Lehigh, like many pre­war buildings, utilizes steam heat. Historically, when the heat in the city comes “on,” tenants are immediately forced to open windows in order to provide a comfortable climate. This scenario exists in buildings around the city that are overheated and unbalanced. The situation is further compounded where one side of the building is always warmer, due to solar gain in the winter, while the other side remains colder throughout the heating season. The delivery of steam heat around a building is typically identical and often provided without any indication as to the internal temperature of the space, let alone the desired temperature setting of the occupant.

After an energy improvement project, the Starrett-Lehigh is not only a symbol of creativity, but a model of innovation and efficiency. Magnum Energy Solutions implemented wireless, valve actuator controls to modulate the amount of steam available to a radiator based on a wireless, self-powered thermostat. Occupants are now visually presented with digital information about current temperature and are able to adjust a dial on the device to select their desired comfort set point. The valve actuator opens and closes accordingly, allowing the exact amount of heat requested.

steam heatReferred to as the “Perfect Pair” this innovative technology has been deployed in numerous buildings in Europe already. Now, Magnum Energy Solutions has brought this technology to overheated commercial office occupants and residential tenants in cities around the United States. Although the Perfect Pair can be deployed as a stand-alone solution, hence its name, critical building information can also be collected and reported back to a building automation system. This is the case at the Starrett-Lehigh building.

A Tridium system installed by Sentient Buildings is primarily responsible for driving the wireless control system using data points like temperature, set point, and occupancy status. This information is wirelessly transmitted from the thermostat, to a gateway located in the vicinity, called the eBox, and then over TCP/IP back to the Tridium system.

“Integration to a building automation system allows the building to be effectively balanced, by knowing where in the building a call for heating is occurring, ” states Cory Vanderpool, business development director at Magnum Energy Solutions. “Ultimately, this system reduces overheating, saves considerable energy and increases the comfort level of the occupants.”

With wireless, cost-effective solutions for controlling radiators, facility management no longer need to suffer through heating season with unhappy building occupants and unnecessarily high utility bills. The implementation of these controls can save around 20% on energy consumption, and are often eligible for utility incentives to further support the business case for this energy improvement.