Martin Guitar HVAC Retrofit Leads to Major Cost and Energy Savings

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by
Peter Narbaitz, Better Plants Program and Cynthia L. McAllister, C. F. Martin & Co.
on
Apr 19, 2017

Strong leadership is all about having the ability to see the long view and the foresight and patience to seize the right opportunity. Family-owned and operated for six generations, Better Plants Challenge Partner C.F. Martin & Co. (Martin Guitar) has provided value for its customers since 1833 because of strategic thinking and good leadership. For Martin Guitar, investing in energy efficiency will help it over time to save money, increase reliability, and strengthen its manufacturing competitiveness. This, in turn, means more of their world-class musical instruments for the world to enjoy.

Martin Guitar’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) infrastructure, in its Nazareth Pennsylvania headquarters, was nearing the end of its useful life with a hodgepodge of components dating back to 2002, 1998, and even 1994. Facility operators began to observe decreased reliability and ever increasing maintenance costs from the existing system. Executive management examined options for how to deal with this situation, weighing immediate-term needs versus long-term sound decisions. Financial paybacks from a major energy efficiency project may not be recognized until 7 to 10 years after implementation. However, weighing expected returns against impending future costs is exactly what led Better Plants Challenge Partner Martin Guitar to invest $8.85 million in a full retrofit project of its Pennsylvania facility’s HVAC system.

The retrofit project primarily consisted of the installation of a factory-built central utility plant that produces hot water and chilled water (30% ethylene glycol inhibited for freeze protection) in the most energy efficient manner: 

  • The cooling portion of the plant now consists of three water-cooled chillers, each nominally rated at 500 tons, and associated cooling towers, pumps, and relevant accessories; this portion also includes a plate and frame heat exchanger for a waterside economizer. 
  • The heating portion now includes three, low temperature, condensing boilers, each nominally rated at 5,000,000 BTUH input, and associated pumps and relevant accessories. 
  • Prefabricated pipe racks were installed throughout the roof of the facility to carry hot and chilled water to the various air handling unit locations. 
  • Eighteen custom air handling units were provided and installed to replace existing units.

Furthermore, in order to avoid disrupting production, Martin Guitar installed the new system during scheduled production shutdowns, holidays, and weekends. While this increased the cost of the project, it was an organizational goal for the Challenge partner not to interrupt activities on the production floor.

No major retrofit project is without unexpected complications. Due to the complex nature of the required pipe racks to support the new network of piping, Martin Guitar cut over 100 new holes in the facility’s roof.

In order to validate the success of the implementation, Martin Guitar began tracking its electrical and gas savings in late 2016. During the first three months of operation, facility operators observed reductions in both electricity and natural gas consumption on monthly invoices in addition to online metering information that is available from electric and gas utility companies.

In addition to energy savings, facility operators identified a number of associated benefits from the project. The project lowered maintenance costs and increased reliability with N+1 redundancy on the hot and cold water. Additionally, the new units deliver more accurate humidity control, which is critical for guitar quality. The facility operators are still in the process of optimizing seasonal operation of the system in order to take full advantage of these improved control benefits. 

You don’t sustain as a company since 1833 without strong leadership and long-term thinking. Martin Guitar demonstrates how manufacturers can benefit from smart investments in energy efficiency. The partner plans to present the final results of the project at the 2017 Better Buildings Summit in Washington, D.C, which runs from May 15-17, as well as publish their first showcase project on the retrofit. Register online today!