Heat Control Halves Office Bldg.'s Elec. Use


WILKES-BARRE, Pa.—Installation of a solid-state heat control system in the Courthouse Square Tower office building here cut electricity use so efficiently that it prompted the local power company to conduct an investigation for power theft, according to Dominick Ortolani, the building's original owner.

When the 37,000-square foot six-story building was completed in mid-1978, it was outfitted with a control system for electric perimeter convection heating manufactured by General Electronic Enterprises Inc., Clark, N.J., Ortolani said.

The Pennsylvania Power and Light Company (PP&L) conducted an investigation in early 1980, according to Ortolani, because the building was consuming 50 percent less power than the utility had estimated was needed for a building of that size.

"They thought we were jumping the cables," Ortolani said. The meters were changed several times and a chart recorder was installed, he said.

A PP&L spokesman denied that the utility had investigated Ortolani for theft, but conceded that the meters had been checked and "possibly chanted" at the Courthouse Tower building several times because of the unusually low electric consumption.

"There's a normal installation test for every new building, and testing is somewhat random after that," the spokesman said. The power meters were checked most recently six months ago, he said and were found to be working properly, although usage was still unusually low.
The heat control system, known as PACE, saves energy by measuring outdoor weather conditions and setting the heat system in accordance with the calculated building heat loss, according to a company spokesman. Only the heat required to maintain a preset temperature is produced, minimizing wasted heat, he said.

Data collected by sensors on outside temperature, wind and solar conditions is fed into a master control panel which signals the power controllers to operate the building heating system, the spokesman said.

Ortolani said the PACE system added approximately $18,000 to the cost of the heating system, and that the difference "was well worth it."
The power company sent several engineers to investigate the equipment and the meters in the building, according to Ortolani. "They were so impressed they wanted to interview the engineer who designed the system,' Ortolani said.

The designer of the PACE system, William Piegari, said that when he went to explain his product to the power company officials they were mystified by the way it worked. "There were cables hanging everywhere in the control room and a there was a recording device on the ground," he said.

The PACE system began functioning several months after the building opened, according to Piegari. Although the system was installed when the building was constructed, General Electronic Enterprises delayed its connection several months pending payment for the system by the building's sail contractor, Piegari said. When PACE was finally functioning in the building, the electric bills dropped 50 percent, which sparked the power company's investigation, Piegari said.

Ortolani said his electric bill for the building during the winter peaking season had dropped from between $5,000 and $6,000 a month before the PACE system went into operation-—on target with the utility's $6,000 a month projections—to between $2,700 and $3,000 after the system came on line—roughly a 50 percent reduction. By spring, when the demand for electric heating dropped, his bills began averaging approximately $2,000 a month, he said.

PP&L has a standard way of estimating average power needs per square foot, according to the spokesman. "Usage at the building was 25 percent less than we estimated it should have been, taking into account energy conservation measures," the spokesman said.
"The meters were working properly," he said, attributing the low power usage to "awfully good conservation habits." He added that the power company's figures were based on full occupancy and that the building was not completely occupied.

However, Gifford Cappellini, spokesman for Ortolani, said the building has been near full occupancy since the end of 1979. The building was taken over by Girard Bank, Philadelphia, on Dec . 15 1980, when Ortolani declared bankruptcy, and was recently sold to Koury-Robbins Realty here, according to bank officials.


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