A Free Steam Room Is Gone From TWH, But No Regrets

We had a secret steam room at Toronto Western Hospital.  If you knew where it was you could drop by and enjoy it, free of charge.  This place was hidden somewhere in the underground tunnel.  The heat was free from our high pressure steam and condensate pipes between the boiler plant and the hospital.  The temperature in this area was over 40°C (104°F) year around.  Most of the pipes were insulated, however,  there were still many exposed hot surfaces,  such as pipe hangers, anchors, supports, valves, condensate pumps, etc.  Due to the temperature difference between the high pressure steam (170°C or 338°F) and space, the heat loss was nonstop.

Steam RoomFigure 1: A secret steam room hidden at TWH.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining and this is how we got a free steam room.  This hot spot is hard not to notice.  The solution in the past was to remove the heat without touching the heat source.  People designed a ventilation system to draw fresh air from outside through 2 louvres and fresh air shaft,  then exhaust the hot air.

Later, when the New East Wing was constructed, the intake louvres and shaft were buried since they were right under the proposed building, so this place got hot quickly for almost 15 years.  Because of complaints, facilities management team installed 2 local recirculation fans, but they didn’t work well.  Without incoming fresh air, the heat had nowhere to go.

before after 1Figure 2: Infrared photo of same pipe hanger before and after removable jacket was installed.

With the help of our infrared camera,  we easily identified those hot spots. To fix them, we  added insulation.  Two types of insulation were used for different reasons: 

  • Permanent fibreglass insulation for those pipe racks, anchors, etc. which do not require regular maintenance and service work.
  • Removable jackets for other areas like valves, pumps, hangers and supports. The jackets have durable fibreglass cloth cover with Velcro fasteners and they can be removed and reinstalled quickly and easily for equipment service. 

before after 2Figure 3: Infrared photo of same pipe rack before and after permanent insulation was installed.

Even in the middle of the installation, people started to notice the temperature difference.  Once the job was done, the space temperature went back to normal and we don’t even need those 2 local recirculation fans any more.

With this project, we installed insulation at about 160 spots. Some of them are only as big as a CD (for those that remember what CDs are).  We will save about $5,700 of natural gas annually, which is equivalent of 38 metric tons of CO2 emission, or 8.3 cars removed from streets. 

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