December 5, 2019

Overcoming Unique Installation Challenges is No Match for Metropolitan’s Design-Savvy Engineers

Sucessful Installation of a Temperature Control System

Completion and start-up of the MetroMix Temperature Control System.

Projects are rarely free from challenges. Sometimes it’s a unique design challenge, sometimes it’s an unknown variable that pops up along the way. Whatever the case, we always face these things head on and overcome them without any real fanfare. However, when something actually happens without any real issues, we do tend to pat ourselves on the back because it’s a nice feeling and this feeling is usually passed down to the customer, as well. So, when we wrapped up a project—installing a temperature control system at a building in Chicago’s West Loop—and startup was as flawless as our customer service, we were pretty pleased with our team and WMA, a Salas O’Brien Company, the engineers of record for the project, were too.

When it came time for a second temperature control system in the same building, WMA knew the team at Metropolitan would be able to deliver. However, this second system came with one of those unique design challenges we know all too well and paired it with a unique installation challenge just to keep things interesting.

Custom Manufactured Temperature Control System

MetroMix Temperature Control System, fully assembled, prior to shipping to job site.

A Tight Fit

The challenge this time around involved space constraints. More specifically, there wasn’t a lot of space for the system, there wasn’t a lot of space to get it where it needed to be, and there wasn’t a lot of space for our team to move around and complete the installation. With pipes and components that aren’t flexible, that’s sort of a problem. Or, rather, it would be without our team of design-savvy engineers and the help of AMS Mechanical Systems.

It all started with a fully customized system complete with custom control panels, circulating pumps, storage tanks, heat exchangers and three MetroMix control valves. This system is designed to deliver hot water and fit the small space, and we took a unique approach to both by using a double wall plate and frame heat exchanger—a type of heat exchanger that transfers heat between fluids by passing the fluids over metal plates—using boiler water to heat the domestic water. For this setup, we also designed one valve to be used as both a master mixing valve (for discharge of the tanks) and the other two as diverting valves (on the boiler water) to maintain both functionality and a small footprint. Although the setup itself is uncommon, it was easy enough to tackle. The biggest challenge came after the entire assembly was built in-house at our facility before having to be fully disassembled, including removing all piping and the top heat exchanger to get the system into the mechanical room.

We planned for this from the start and designed the system to come apart in specific locations so it could be meticulously packed and organized onto six skids, but everything is always easier on paper. Ensuring the skids were packed correctly and the shipments—in this case, there were four splits—were organized in the proper order to unload at the building was tedious, and moving everything one skid at a time to where it needed to go was a bit like trying to solve a sliding puzzle. Fortunately, AMS Mechanical Systems was there to develop a plan to navigate narrow hallways and tight turns so they could get everything exactly where it needed to be. As for reassembling, we know our designs like we know the backs of our hands, even in small spaces where there’s not enough room for a full turn of the wrench, so the combined effort made it work. Today, thanks to this group effort, building residents are enjoying the convenience of our MetroMix system.

Reassembling of MetroMix Temperature Control System

The system being reassembled in the building’s mechanical room.

Valves You Can’t Undervalue

What makes the MetroMix so good aside from the Metropolitan name? It all comes down to the valves. Though many manufacturers rely on thermostatic valves, we use electronic valves that aren’t hindered by the same design limitation as more traditional thermostatic options. Most importantly, electronic valves are designed to regulate temperature with greater precision than their thermostatic counterparts.

The MetroMix in particular uses a modulating, motorized stainless steel valve which, when paired with Metropolitan’s temperature sensors, helps to maintain a temperature that is accurate within 1–2°F. We still over-temp the water in the storage tanks (up to 140° F) due to microbial concerns, specifically legionella, and the master mixing valve decreases it to 120° F) by mixing with the cold domestic water, but accuracy remains a focus. Ultimately, greater reliability, tighter controls, fewer thermal-element failures, and the convenience of feedback/alarms offers a consistent experience, more efficient performance, and a better user experience from both the standpoint of maintenance and daily use.
All of these benefits have made MetroMix the new standard and, with some design finesse and a bit of help from AMS, it’s clearly more than suitable in nonstandard situations. After all, very few setups are truly standard when you really look at the details. And we always look at the details.

We planned for this from the start and designed the system to come apart in specific locations so it could be meticulously packed and organized onto six skids, but everything is always easier on paper. Ensuring the skids were packed correctly and the shipments—in this case, there were four splits—were organized in the proper order to unload at the building was tedious, and moving everything one skid at a time to where it needed to go was a bit like trying to solve a sliding puzzle. Fortunately, AMS Mechanical Systems was there to develop a plan to navigate narrow hallways and tight turns so they could get everything exactly where it needed to be. As for reassembling, we know our designs like we know the backs of our hands, even in small spaces where there’s not enough room for a full turn of the wrench, so the combined effort made it work. Today, thanks to this group effort, building residents are enjoying the convenience of our MetroMix system.

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