Turn-of-the-Century Brick Kilns Replacement at Steinway and Sons

Kiln Upgrade Case Study: Turn-of-the-Century Brick Kilns replaced with a Quick-dry Partial Vacuum System at Steinway & Sons

Ryan Bossis, ERS, and Bill Rigos, Steinway & Sons
Presented at ACEEE Summer Study, August 5, 2015. Image credit: peterned

Piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons is currently in the process of upgrading the aging kiln system at their American production facility in Astoria, Queens, New York. Because the pianos require tight tolerances for wood board moisture, the drying process for the raw wood purchased by the facility must be carefully controlled.

The existing process uses the plant’s original turn-of-the-century brick masonry kilns. Although the structures are sealed, insulated, and well maintained, the process is inherently inefficient. Low-pressure steam – both live steam injection and dry heat via steam coil – is used as a heat source. Ventilation dampers are used to discharge warm air and humidity periodically, resulting in high thermal losses. Depending on the wood type and product specifications, the cycle of steam injection and ventilation can last for up to 5 weeks, compared to only 4-5 days with the new kilns.

The kilns are being replaced by partial vacuum kilns which create a partial vacuum, reducing the heating requirements and increasing the speed of moisture removal. Heating inputs are so low that hot water can be used in place of steam.

This presentation will provide a walk-through of the design, installation, and commissioning process of installing the new system. It will focus on the “lessons learned” and challenges through each stage of the process, beginning with the retrofit options and the decision tree leading to the switch to the partial vacuum system. The various design options and heat sources will also be discussed.

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