Retiring a Familiar Name

A name familiar to many in the hydronics business has been retired. The “School of Living Comfort” was the first hydronic system design seminar taught in the Bell & Gossett “Little Red Schoolhouse” when it opened back in March, 1954. Over the last fifty years, thousands of people who were new to the hydronics industry learned the basics of system design by working through the example design problems in the School of Living Comfort. The last class of that name was graduated in November, 2003.

The “School of Living Comfort”

The contents of this design course changed a lot over the years. By the time of that last class, students were learning how to design a variety of hydronic systems including:

  • One-pipe series loops
  • One-pipe Monoflo® systems
  • Two-pipe systems
  • Multi-zone systems to provide more flexible comfort.

They also learned the importance of air management in lectures about system pressurization, air separation, and compression tank sizing. The late Gil Carlson, an early teacher in the School of Living Comfort, was known as the originator of several important ideas in hydronic system design, including the “point of no pressure change”. This subtle, but important concept was routinely demonstrated to all students in the class.

Later in the seminar, additional topics were covered including:

  • The conversion of older steam and gravity-flow systems to forced circulation, pressurized operation
  • The basics of chilled water system design
  • Open systems and cooling tower pump selection
  • Primary-Secondary pumping, another important concept pioneered by Gil Carlson.

The School of Living Comfort provided each student with simple design tools such as the “Design Tables”. Proper use of these tables aided the designer in selecting pumps that would allow the system to work as intended avoiding both excessive flow with high velocity noise problems, and stagnant systems with velocities too low to properly purge air bubbles.

Presentation methods also changed in the School of Living Comfort. The original overhead transparency projector and screen were retired during a 1996 renovation of the Little Red Schoolhouse and replaced by a state-of-the-art, rear-screen projection system using PowerPoint presentations. These more colorful presentation techniques invigorated the classes, holding their interest as the pace of instruction quickened.

The original textbook for the class was the dark red “Bell & Gossett Handbook”, originally published in 1949, in the midst of the post World-War II housing boom. Many veterans in the HVAC and mechanical contracting business still value their old B&G books. Over the years, a three-ring binder replaced that original text, then the binder was supplemented by numerous problem guides, data sheets, and other handouts. By the time that last class finished up in November of 2003, each student walked away with a whole stack of valuable reference material!

Many instructors taught the School of Living Comfort over the years, but most people will probably remember the wry humor and no-nonsense style of an ex Marine named Bob DeWyze who was the Director of the Schoolhouse for many years until his retirement in 1997. They will also remember the Schoolhouse Administrative Assistant, Ms. Marion Carswell, and other instructors who taught for shorter periods such as Frank Gall, Ed Tidd, Joe Flasch and Gil Sommer. DeWyze attributed the success of the School of Living Comfort and his other seminars to the fact that his instructors were absolutely forbidden to use the Schoolhouse as a forum for a “sales pitch”. He reasoned that students came to learn engineering and proper design techniques, they didn’t come to hear advertising. That philosophy remains the foundation for all programs at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

Why retire such a successful program?

  • As new ideas and design techniques entered the hydronics industry, the four-day School of Living Comfort became over-loaded. The amount of material to be covered was simply too great for the time available.
  • People found it difficult to be away from their business for a whole week.
  • Other seminars such as the popular “Design & Application Seminar” were also being overloaded with new material.

“Modern Hydronics”

The solution was to replace the four-day School of Living Comfort with two brand new “Modern Hydronics Seminars”; each of them three days long. These two seminars allow more time to cover all the topics that have become important over the years.

Modern Hydronics, Basic Seminar

This seminar explains and uses common rules of thumb to teach simple, small system design. Special emphasis is placed on radiant heating systems, in recognition of their growing place in the hydronics industry. A Bell & Gossett “System Syzer® “is given to each student in later problems to show how more accurate solutions to the basic design problem can be achieved. (Many of you may recall that Gil Carlson also invented the “System Syzer® “too!)

Modern Hydronics, Advanced Seminar

This seminar covers the design of dual chilled/hot water systems, open systems, the use of computer based applications and the System Syzer® to aid in system design, and some topics formerly covered in the Design & Application Seminar.

These two new seminars will complement the existing seminars that have been developed since 1954:

  • Design & Application Seminar
  • Service & Maintenance Seminar
  • Design of Large Chilled Water Systems Seminar
  • Steam Systems Design Seminar
  • Operation & Maintenance of Steam Systems Seminar

You can see that although we have retired a familiar name, the ideas behind that original program are still alive and growing.

Mechanical Contractors, System Designers, Consulting Engineers

Many of the 50,000 or so who have attended Little Red Schoolhouse seminars over the past 50 years are still in the industry. Some who came to those early sessions of the School of Living Comfort may have retired, or may be seriously thinking about it. We celebrated the Schoolhouse’s 50th Birthday with a little party in Morton Grove in August, 2005 and we heard from a lot of graduates.

  • Memories of their days at the Schoolhouse.
  • The positive effect that training had on their careers.

If you are interested in learning more about hydronics and steam systems, contact your local Bell & Gossett representative and join us at the Little Red Schoolhouse.