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district heat vs. using an on-site boiler
I'm a member of a downtown church in Pittsburgh whose gas boiler failed in early march. The boiler was apparently installed incorrctly and self destructed. So, in the past three decades the build has gone through two boilers. Prior to the 1980s, the building (which is 106 years old) used district steam. I am encouraging the church trustees to take a serious look at not replacing the boiler and returning to purchasing centrally generated steam. I was told the current price of gas is $5.78 per dekatherm and the current price of district steam is $21 mlb. Does anyone have any experience on how to make any sort of useable comparison between the costs of central vs. on site generated steam? There are so many variables to consider, like changes in gas prices, costs for water, electricity, boiler maintenance, and of course periodic boiler replacement, that I'm having difficulty in forming a fact based argurment one way or the other. Personally, I'm in favor of the district heat because I think it is greener to support the public infrastructure that already exists then to install a redundant system (the local steam generator is run by a non-profit).
Does anyone have experience with conversion to district heat for chruch buildings? If so, were those who chose that system generally satisfied with the results from a long-range economic viewpoint?