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DECC, like many, revamps heating system to save coin

The Duluth Entertainment Center (DECC) is jumping on the fuel efficiency band wagon -- and rightfully so. The DECC is retiring the three giant boilers, which lurk like giants in the shadows of the utility room, for hot water heat, saving them nea...

The Duluth Entertainment Center (DECC) is jumping on the fuel efficiency band wagon -- and rightfully so.

The DECC is retiring the three giant boilers, which lurk like giants in the shadows of the utility room, for hot water heat, saving them nearly half of what they would have spent on natural gas.

"We are using the waste heat from the plant, that would've normally escaped out of the stack, to heat water for the DECC," Bob Hom, director of operations, said.

Workers have created a five-foot trench from the steam plant, at the I-35 and Lake Ave. exit, to the DECC, in which piping for the hot water, and someday chilled water, has been laid.

"We're not going to cool the DECC with water yet, but we figured since the ground was open, we'd put in the functions for it," Hom said.

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The construction project is costing $1.5 million, which is being funded through a bond. The work has been done quickly, so as not to disrupt parkers for the hockey season, the DSSO or the movie theater.

The DECC projects that in 2005 it will spend $235,000 to heat the place with the old system. After the new system is in, the hot water will cost it about $150,000.

After the 215 degree water is sent to the DECC, it is actually sent back to the steam plant to be reheated. "It runs on a closed loop," Jerry Pelofski, manager of the Duluth Steam Co-Op Association, said.

And the DECC is not only recycling its heat. It composts all of their food waste and recycles its metals, papers and plastics.

"It doesn't cost us anything and it's the right thing to do," said Hom.

There are over 200 buildings in the downtown area that are heated by steam and two hotels in Canal Park heated by hot water.

It is this heat on the move that causes Duluth's signature sewer-drain steam. Many believe the steam was from a street heating system, which is actually just a myth.

However, some of the hot pipes on the north side of West Superior Street are close enough to the surface to melt snow on the sidewalks," said Pelofski.

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The water and steam at the Co-Op are heated using low-sulfur coal. Pelofski said coal is inexpensive, making steam heat competitive.

The steam plant services mostly large commercial buildings like the Duluth Library, the Civic Center Buildings, the Holiday Inn and now the DECC.

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