Community volunteers, with the help of nonprofit and private sector, create urban pollinator habitat in Point Breeze park

D is for district heating

Cambridge, Mass., Cogeneration Plant Upgraded With 42-MW Electric Boiler

As Sustainability Deadlines Loom, Here’s What Measures Boston Developers Are Taking To Get Ahead

Summer readiness checklist

As temperatures rise, it’s time to ensure HVAC systems are geared up for the summer heat to optimize building systems’ performance, conserve energy, and keep occupants comfortable.

Whether buildings use district chilled water or operate onsite chillers and cooling towers, regularly reviewing and implementing this guide ensures proactive building readiness for summer temperatures, helps maximize equipment lifespan, and improves overall energy efficiency.

Print out this summer preparedness checklist and review it every spring to prepare staff and equipment for the coming warm temperatures. Please note that the steps will vary depending on the equipment present onsite.

Contact your account manager to explore partnering with Vicinity’s operations and maintenance experts to assist with summer readiness, equipment upgrades, or preventative maintenance programs.

Vicinity leverages best practices at its central facilities to provide a smooth transition into the summer season. These protocols ensure safe, reliable, and consistent operation to prevent service disruptions for customers who leverage chilled water or steam for cooling purposes. Vicinity’s interconnected energy facilities offer 99.99% uptime energy delivery with resiliency through redundant power and fuel sources.

Vicinity’s summer preparedness includes extensive cooling tower and chiller inspection and cleaning at Vicinity’s central facilities that produce chilled water, including basin cleaning, sterilization to prevent bacteria growth, and oil inspections on gearboxes and fan belts. Vicinity also performs eddy current testing to detect leaks on chiller tubes and inspects refrigerant and oil samples. By taking these proactive steps, Vicinity delivers reliable customer service year-round and reduces the maintenance needed onsite at customers’ buildings.

Pumps & Systems podcast: Heat pumps & decarbonization

In this episode of the Pumps & Systems podcast, Bill DiCroce, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vicinity Energy discussed the role heat pumps can play in decarbonization, as well as the efforts cities like Boston are currently making to strive for sustainability and an eventual goal of net zero carbon emissions.

Recommended preventative maintenance

Vicinity’s comprehensive maintenance services are offered year-round—during peak usage or before system turn-ons—to optimize steam efficiency, reliability, and cost savings.

Improve the operating performance of steam systems by taking preventive steps to avoid energy losses. Customers who have leveraged Vicinity’s preventive maintenance program have experienced the following benefits:

  • Conserved energy and reduced energy costs by improving system performance and eliminating inefficiencies.
  • Improved reliability by identifying problem areas that could cause unscheduled system outages.
  • Optimized capital expenditure and operating expenses by maximizing system efficiency and strategically planning for infrastructure investments with an identified budget for equipment repair or replacement.
  • Improved operating procedures by reviewing, refining, and documenting preventative maintenance best practices.
We partner with each of our customers to customize recurring service agreements for the summer and winter seasons, tailoring the maintenance services below to their specific needs. Reach out to your Account Manager today to understand the preventative maintenance services offered in your district.

Steam traps

  • Service description: Survey building, locate, identify, tag, and test steam trap performance.
  • Maintenance value: Ensure steam traps function correctly and prevent issues that can lead to energy waste, equipment damage, and safety hazards.

Pressure Regulating Valves (PRVs)

  • Service description: Identify valves’ make, model, size, and serial number. Test pilot valve for leaks, clean orifices, check diaphragm plates, test the gauging, and set to desired system pressure.
  • Maintenance value: Prevent system over-pressurization and relief valves from releasing steam into the atmosphere. Failed PRVs may improperly cycle open and close, both oversupplying and then starving the downstream equipment of steam.


  • Service description: Inspect screens and clean out debris, evaluate source of debris, and troubleshoot. Ensure blow-down valves are functioning properly to flush trapped material.
  • Maintenance value: Reduce rust and pipe scale damage to valves and pumps. Ensure heat transfer surfaces are kept free of efficiency reducing deposits.

Heat exchangers

  • Service description: Perform water chemistry testing, determine if leaks exist, measure tube thickness, repair or plug tubes as needed, and perform preventative maintenance, such as hydrolasing or cleaning as needed.
  • Maintenance value: Recover efficiency losses, optimize operation of the exchangers, and reduce energy consumption.

Steam pipe

  • Service description: Inspect steam piping. Check for leaking joints, watermarks on insulation, and corrosion.
  • Maintenance value: Deliver safe and reliable steam into the building while reducing potential for steam emissions into the building.

Condensate return line

  • Service description: Inspect for leaks and corrosion. Check condensate pump seals for leaks. Check vent pipes for vapor emissions.
  • Maintenance value: Avoid condensate water spills, ensure proper evacuation of condensate from system lines, and identify the presence of leaking steam traps in the system.

Mechanical room hot water loop

  • Service description: Inspect all piping, inlet/outlet temperatures, and pressures on heat exchangers and mechanical pumps.
  • Maintenance value: Confirm adequate operation of key energy transfer equipment, such as heat exchangers, which supply building heat, hot water, or other process loads.

Seasonal and maintenance shutdowns/turn-ons

  • Service description: Manage closure and opening of Vicinity’s main service valve for seasonal system curtailment or start of use. Shutdowns require draining of systems while turn-ons require both draining of systems and operating pressure checks.
  • Maintenance value: Ensure safe and confined operation of Vicinity’s main service valve for shutdowns/turn-ons related to seasonal changes and maintenance activities. Reduce radiant energy losses, condensate accumulation in system piping, and mechanical room air space temperature. Prevent pipes from rotting and prepare systems to be dormant for an extended period by draining the systems for shutdowns.

Emergency winter weather preparedness checklist

Melt away the challenges of winter weather. Prevent costly equipment damage and disruptions to daily operations by proactively preparing for winter weather conditions.

To enhance preparedness, we encourage you to utilize our emergency winter weather preparedness checklist. Regularly reviewing and implementing this guide ensures proactive building readiness for winter conditions. It safeguards against potential freeze-ups in steam and sprinkler systems, mitigates the risk of roof collapses due to heavy snowfall, and protects against potential flooding during extremely cold temperatures. These risks present safety concerns and entail substantial financial and time investments in repairs, with the possible consequence of building shutdowns.

Print out this emergency winter weather preparedness checklist and review it every winter to prepare staff and equipment.

Vicinity has rigorous cold weather protocols to ensure safe, reliable, and consistent operation of its facilities to prevent service disruptions. Our interconnected energy facilities offer 99.99% uptime energy delivery through multiple power supplies, backup generation, and several water and fuel sources in case of interruptions to other utilities. 

Vicinity’s winter weather protocol includes:

  • A comprehensive cold weather plan that entails pre-season preparation, pre-storm planning, weekly winter weather readiness checks, and post-season assessment.
  • Identification, monitoring, and prioritization of components, systems, and other areas of vulnerability at our facilities which may experience freezing problems, pose safety risks, prevent the delivery of fuel or water, or result in other cold weather operational issues.
  • Validation that critical equipment is operational through function testing.
  • Implementing ongoing walk-downs throughout the season to ensure heat tracing is functional, sufficient pipe insulation is in place, and opportunities for continuous improvement are identified.
  • Strict compliance with North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) – Emergency Operations (EOP).
  • Annual training with specific checklists related to freeze protection panel alarms, troubleshooting and repair of freeze protection circuitry, identification of facility areas susceptible to winter conditions, review of special inspections or rounds implemented during severe weather, and fuel switching procedures.

Heating reimagined: industrial-scale heat pumps for building decarbonization

Revolutionizing the way we heat buildings by integrating industrial-scale heat pumps to produce carbon-free eSteam™

Industrial-scale heat pumps are revolutionizing the energy industry. With the ability to produce temperatures of up to 150C, these powerful systems have become a sustainable solution across the globe. As the demand for carbon-free heating increases, the shift away from fossil fuels is finally gaining momentum.

Vicinity is transforming district energy by installing an industrial-scale heat complex. This innovative heat pump complex will draw heat from nearby water sources to generate steam and improve the system’s efficiency. Ensuring that the river and its ecosystems remain unharmed, the river intake system lifts heat from the river and brings it into our facilities.

Key facts

  • Our Cambridge heat pump will have a steam export capacity of 35MW (thermal)
  • The heat pump will occupy a space of approximately 25,000 sq ft. +/-
  • The heat pump will circulate through 24.5 million to 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River daily

How heat pumps work

  1. The heat pump compressor, powered by electricity from renewable resources compresses natural refrigerant to pressures upwards of 1,000 psig.
  2. The heated refrigerant is conducted to a heat exchanger for low-pressure steam generation.
  3. The low-pressure steam is transferred to a multi-stage steam compressor, which increases
    steam pressure from 5 psig to 220 psig, the required pressure for distribution into the district energy system.
  4. After generating steam, the refrigerant is routed to a feedwater pre-heating heat exchanger and is condensed.
  5. The liquified refrigerant is then expanded through an expansion valving arrangement. The expansion reduces the refrigerant pressure, gasifies the refrigerant, and sharply reduces the refrigerant temperature to less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. The cold, gaseous refrigerant is conducted to a river water heat exchanger to collect energy from the river water. The river water heat exchanger heats the gaseous refrigerant several degrees Fahrenheit while cooling the river water several degrees Fahrenheit. The cooled, gaseous refrigerant is conducted back to the heat pump compressor for reuse in the heat pump cycle.

How Vicinity is using heat pumps

Industrial-scale heat pumps will be installed in cities around the country where Vicinity’s facilities are located near water sources and already employ water intake systems. These heat pumps will extract heat from adjacent water sources, like the Charles and Schuylkill Rivers, to generate steam and improve the system’s overall efficiency.

Across all of our operations, heat pumps will be used with electric boilers and thermal storage technologies to fully decarbonize our operations.

This first heat pump complex in Cambridge will be powered by renewable electricity to efficiently harvest energy from the Charles River and return the water to a lower temperature.

Early design of the industrial-scale heat pump Vicinity Energy is developing in partnership with MAN Energy Solutions.

Why industrial heat pumps are important for Vicinity, our customers, and the environment

The global energy transition can only succeed with decarbonizing heat. Why? Heating in buildings is responsible for four gigatons (Gt) of CO2 emissions annually—10% of global emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The heating sector accounts for 30-40% of CO2 emissions globally.

Water-source heat pumps are a proven solution to fossil- fuel-driven heating because they can efficiently harness the renewable power of water sources.

In 2021, approximately 10% percent of the global demand for space heating was satisfied by heat pumps. In some countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland, heat pumps are the most widely used heating source and have already begun integrating with district energy systems. The district system in Glasgow will leverage heat pumps to extract cold water from the adjacent River Clyde. This will cover over 80% of building heat demand and will deliver immediate carbon reductions of 50%.

By installing industrial-scale heat pumps at our central facilities, Vicinity is one step closer to instantly decarbonizing millions of square feet of building space for the good of our customers, communities, and the cities we operate. The impact of this plan is substantial: by 2035, Vicinity’s investments at our Kendall, MA facility will reduce the carbon intensity of our steam by 50%, the equivalent of 400,000 tons.

Steam trap inspections

Maximize steam efficiency, safety, and cost savings with preventative maintenance

Improve the efficiency and safety of steam systems with steam trap inspections by Vicinity’s qualified technicians. Our team will diagnose and identify issues to keep steam systems operating safely and efficiently 24/7.

Steam traps are critical components of steam systems and play a vital role in maintaining their efficiency and safety. Steam traps collect condensate to prevent corrosion caused by built-up moisture and ensure high-quality, dry steam flows through the steam system. Steam traps also block the escape of live steam, minimizing energy waste. Regular maintenance and monitoring are essential to ensure they function correctly and prevent issues that can lead to energy waste, equipment damage, and safety hazards.

Vicinity’s steam trap inspections offer the following benefits:

  • Reduced energy costs: Steam traps in good condition help conserve steam, reducing energy consumption and operational costs.
  • Improved equipment reliability: Properly maintained traps extend the lifespan of steam-related equipment.
  • Enhanced safety: Reducing energy waste and water hammer incidents improves workplace safety.
  • Environmental benefits: Energy conservation through steam trap maintenance can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How it works

Partnering with our customers, Vicinity tailors each approach specifically to the unique needs of the building. The process of performing steam trap inspections typically includes the following steps:

  • Vicinity coordinates an initial walkthrough of the building and provides a quote showing the cost and scope of work.
  • Once the customer returns a signed quote, Vicinity’s account manager schedules the work.
  • A Vicinity technician conducts the steam trap inspection using an ultrasonic digital detector. If this is the first survey, the technician tags and catalogs each trap for future surveys.
  • After the inspection, the customer receives a report detailing:
    • The status of each trap.
    • Recommended action items and the potential savings associated with recommended action items.

Efficiency and system performance

When steam traps fail and steam escapes, systems demand more steam to operate. Steam trap inspections improve the overall operating performance of steam systems, minimizing the amount of energy waste and the associated carbon emissions.

Cost savings

Leaking steam traps result in significant lost capital over the life of the equipment. Analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Boiler Efficiency Institute shows that repairing a faulty steam trap could save thousands of dollars annually. Steam trap inspections represent an opportunity for customers to reduce energy consumption and operating costs.

Safety considerations

Safety is our primary focus. With Vicinity’s trained technicians conducting the inspections, customers can rest assured that the proper measures are in place to safely conduct and identify any steam trap hazards that can lead to a water hammer event. A water hammer event occurs when a failed steam trap allows condensate to build in the steam main. As steam passes over and combines with the excess condensate, it creates a pressure event that can lead to undesirable noise, damaged equipment, and—in worst cases—injury.