Maintaining Tenant Comfort in a City within a City

By Steve Spielmann

Coil Cleaning made easy with the CoilPro™ a self contained, portable coil cleaning machine.

Rising from what was once marsh land on the west bank of the Hutchinson River in the Baychester area of the Bronx, NY is the largest housing cooperative in the world - Co-op City. This 300 acre complex is home to about 50,000 shareholders (tenants) housed in 35 high-rise buildings and 7 three-story townhouse groups. There are a total of 15,372 apartments in Co-op City. Co-op City also contains three shopping centers, 15 houses of worship and a multiplex movie theatre. There are three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school on the grounds as well as multiple recreational facilities including gymnasiums, baseball fields, basketball courts, swimming pools, a museum and a planetarium.

If Co-op City were independent of Bronx County, it would be one of the 15 largest cities in New York State. It is so large that it even has its own police force and weather station. After the first building was completed in 1968, construction continued for nearly 20 years before the project was completed. It goes without saying that maintaining Co-op City is a massive undertaking.

That massive undertaking is the charge of Riverbay Corporation which manages Co-op City. Riverbay's 1000-plus employees are responsible for operating the power plant, all buildings and grounds maintenance, safety and waste management. One of the most important challenges for Riverbay is keeping the shareholders happy and comfortable.

Each of Co-op City's apartments is heated and cooled by devices called convectors. These are a sort of variation on a PTAC (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner) such as one would see in most hotel rooms. Each apartment has several convectors and each convector contains coils for heating and cooling. Over time, the coils become impacted with dust and dirt which lowers their thermal efficiency leading to tenant complaints.

When asked how much of a challenge maintaining indoor comfort is at Co-op City, Mr. Ralph Martelo, Riverbay's Supervisor of Maintenance put it this way. "We have between 60,000 and 80,000 coils."

If conventional coil cleaning methods such as compressed air washing, pressure washing or using pump sprayers and hoses were employed, it would be necessary to remove coils and take them to a wash station to be cleaned. Seeing this as impractical, Mr. Martelo says, "We didn't clean them", opting for replacement instead. When asked at what cost? Mr. Martelo replied, "About $400.00 per unit".

In the summer of 2005, Riverbay discovered a product called CoilPro™ manufactured by Goodway Technologies Corporation of Stamford, CT. CoilPro™ is a self contained, portable coil cleaning machine that offers some very attractive features for an operation such as Co-op City. It can be operated on AC current or with its own on-board deep cycle rechargeable battery. It can be used with a garden hose water supply or its own on-board 5 gallon water tank. CoilPro™ also has an internal 5 gallon chemical tank for coil cleaning chemical and is mounted on a two-wheel dolly fitted with stair glides. Two other models are also available - an AC only unit for deep bed coils and a backpack model. Best of all, CoilPro™ uses so little water, coils can be cleaned in place.

Initially, Riverbay used their CoilPro™ units in vacant apartments. However, once they became experienced with the machines and found how quick and tidy the coil cleaning operation could be, they began cleaning coils in occupied apartments as well. When asked how fast the CoilPro™ works, Martelo answered, "We can clean a convector in 15 minutes". And how do the tenants react? "They don't really react, but they're happy with what we've done", he said. Mr. Martelo cited several useful features that he appreciates in the CoilPro™, among them, "They're light weight, easy to maneuver and self contained".

Using the CoilPro™, Riverbay's maintenance technicians can enter an apartment and go to work without the need to locate an available outlet or water supply. When done, they will have improved the air flow across the convector coils thereby increasing their efficiency while leaving behind a happy tenant and causing minimal interruption. Mr. Martelo says since they began using CoilPro™, " We're doing 50 percent fewer replacements" of coils.

Were any alternative products evaluated when considering the CoilPro™ Martelo's reply was simply, "No - it's a unique product." When asked if there was anything else he'd like to say about his experience with CoilPro™, Ralph replied, "We knew Goodway's reputation and the after sale service has been very good. We have 17 units."

About the author:
Steve Spielmann is the Customer Service and Technical Manager at Goodway Technologies Corporation, Stamford, CT. Goodway manufactures a complete line of tube, pipe and duct cleaning equipment and other maintenance equipment. Steve has been in the tube cleaning equipment business for more than 25 years.