Reusable Insulation Saves $1M for George Mason University

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — When we think of “blankets,” we’re usually thinking of keeping something (or more likely someone) warm — seldom does the notion of saving seven figures enter the equation. For the energy manager at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., however, well-deployed insulating blankets on the university’s heating and cooling system resulted in a $1 million net savings over the course of eight years.

From 2009 to 2017, George Mason University’s Fairfax, Va., campus installed more than 725 custom-engineered reusable blankets on boilers, valves and pumps in its central heating and cooling plant (CHCP); valves, fittings and expansion joints in tunnel vaults; and fittings and valves in mechanical rooms. The blankets were created by North Tonawanda, N.Y.-based Shannon Enterprises of W. N.Y. Inc., a designer and manufacturer of reusable thermal and acoustic insulation.

“By reducing heat loss and energy, we got a payback in under 15 months with our reusable blankets,” said Patrick Buchanan, university energy manager for George Mason, in a statement. “With the blankets installed we can safely work alongside the valves and fittings, and the ambient temperature has dropped from extreme to comfortable.”

Buchanan calculated the milestone based on annual energy savings accumulated from using the self-contained, reusable insulation system. In early 2009, Shannon and its Virginia manufacturer’s representative CVA Energy & Industrial Products Inc. teamed up to survey the university’s equipment for radiant heat loss and to provide a solution for saving energy, minimizing insulation maintenance and eliminating safety concerns across the Fairfax campus. Shannon’s team precisely measured the university’s CHCP equipment and high-temperature-hot-water (HTHW) components, so it could produce a reusable blanket to exactly fit each component or piece of equipment.

“We paid for the blankets through a voluntary demand response program with CPower Energy Management, which compensated us for reducing electric load when asked by our utility,” Buchanan’s statement continued.

The university’s CHCP equipment and HTHW components provide a heating capacity of approximately 115,000 MMBtu to more than 145 buildings. According to Buchanan, the George Mason facilities footprint grew from roughly 3.5 million square feet in 2006 to 9 million square feet today, yet the university’s energy costs only increased 20 percent.

“Reusable blankets were definitely part of keeping energy costs low during this period,” said Buchanan in a statement.