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Radiant Heating System Soothes the Chicago Bears
by Lochinvar


        LAKE FOREST, Ill. (May 6, 1998) -- Chicago sod has been home to some of the NFL's greatest players and teams of all time.  Legendary players like Dick Butkis, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton have helped the Chicago Bears stamp a lasting impression on professional football lore. But after being banged up throughout most of a dismal 1997 season, the "Monsters of the Midway" emerged looking more like baby cubs than bullies.  The Bears haven't been sitting around licking their wounds though.  They've been working harder than ever to claw their way back to the top.  And the 1998 Bears team already has one less thorn in its paws.  Thanks to a new, radiant heating system at the team's state-of-the-art, $20 million training facility in Lake Forest, Ill., the Bears will never have to practice on a frozen field again.

        The system is built around a concept known as "field heating," a concept that is becoming more popular throughout the National Football League as a way to prevent the freezing of playing surfaces.  The Green Bay Packers use a similar system to heat the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  The field heating process begins in the facility's mechanical room.  There, enormous amounts of water are heated to a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  The heated water is treated with antifreeze and a series of pumps distributes the water through 16 miles of specially-designed plastic tubing.  The water passes through the tubing, which lies just six inches below the turf and heats the playing surface.

Along the plastic tubing, electric sensors are placed throughout the field to monitor the temperature of the ground.  The sensors are connected to a master controller which tells the boilers and pumps to turn on and off, thus maintaining a proper temperature in the tubing and on the playing surface.  This radiant field heating system is crucial to the maintenance of the practice field.  It doesn't just keep the players toes toasty.  It helps the growth of the turf's root system and prevents cold, brittle turf from being torn up by the players' spiked shoes.  That means less injuries due to cold and brittle turf and no more having to replace torn-up chunks of turf weekly.  Since torn turf often leads to very severe injuries and because replacing turf weekly can be very costly, the field heating system is a huge asset to the Bears' facility.

One of the finest aspects of the operation of the system is its efficiency.  And with six million BTU's necessary to heat the vast amount of water in circulation, efficiency was certainly a key factor in choosing the right boilers to fit with this system.  The system utilizes three 2,000,000 BTU Lochinvar Copper-Fin boilers, each with two firing stages.  With multiple firing stages, the boilers are able to match the BTU demand of the system without having to always run at "full fire," thus lowering operating costs and maximizing efficiency.  Using Lochinvar's multiple-staged boilers, the Bears are saving more than seven percent in efficiency over a standard on/off boiler.  And when you consider the system utilizes 6,000,000 BTUs, that increased efficiency is saving the Bears lots of money.

Another factor that made Lochinvar the right fit for the Bears' field heating system was the boilers' footprints.  Many high-output boilers are large and bulky and will barely squeeze into mechanical rooms.  But the Lochinvar boilers' exceptionally small footprints and lower weight made installation quick and easy, with the boilers taking up very little space in the Bears' mechanical room."With the facility already utilizing Lochinvar water heaters for its domestic water system, the boilers were the logical choice for the Bears' field heating system,"  said Rick Butler, Lochinvar district sales manager.  "Being similar in parts, maintenance and service, the Lochinvar products can save the Bears a lot of time and money down the road."

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