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Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Boiler Brings Warm Tidings for Fairfield Couple

New Boiler Brings Warm Tidings 
for Fairfield Couple:
Gault Energy “Oldest Boiler” Contest winners revealed
(Posted to 12/16)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – While a cold snap has seized the area over the past week, there’s a warming trend ahead – at least for a Fairfield couple that has won Gault Energy’s “Oldest Boiler” Contest and today received the gift of a new high-efficiency boiler.

Pepe and Anita Soto-Ortiz of 446 Meadowbrook Road have been down on their luck and never imagined that the 113-year-old monster boiler that had occupied their home since it was built in 1914 would be a saving grace. Pepe, 64, has been unemployed for nearly two years and things have become increasingly challenging for the couple.

Pepe was born in San Sebastian, Spain, the son of a diplomat. He came to the U.S. in 1965, originally working for the United Nations in the U.N. Development Program. In 1973, he became a U.S. citizen and from that time on until Jan. 31, 2009, he worked for a string of major U.S. companies as an executive doing auditing and financial compliance. His employers included Phillip Morris, GTE, Nestle and Xerox.

While Anita holds a job as a registered nurse at Willows Pediatric in Westport, Pepe said life has been tough. “In these last two years, it’s been extremely difficult to meet bills and survive,” he said. “You begin to cut everything that’s not necessary and, with little money coming in, things change dramatically. I was never a home person… it’s hard. I read the newspapers back to front but that only keeps me busy for half the morning. I continue to look for a job and hopefully things will get better.”

The flurry of activity and spokespeople and contractors that were gathered at his home this morning certainly gave him some hope. Gault Energy installer Kevin McCarthy was one of the techs onsite and would be overseeing the work of removing the old boiler -- including draining out the water and cutting the piping – and installing the new.

The old boiler was built by the Thatcher Company in 1898 and was originally a charcoal/wood burner that was converted to an oil burner. Pepe remarked that the technician who normally services the boiler said he hadn’t seen another like this one since 1975 in Stonington. The serviceman became attached to the old beast and outfitted it with a glass level to monitor water capacity. Before, Pepe would have to open a valve every week to add water to the system.

“The boiler is cast iron and probably weighs a ton,” said Rob Capri, a Gault salesman who helps set up jobs and was also on hand. Capri said that Purcell Moving Co. of Westport will do the physical removal of the old beast and help bring in the new. He added that the chimney had to be inspected and will be cleaned today by another company, August West out of Weston.

The new boiler is a state-of-the-art Peerless Oil-fired steam boiler being supplied by New England Heating Supply. The cost of the prize and all the related service work is being covered by Gault, a package with an approximate value of $7,500.

Megan Smith, director of marketing for the 148-year-old Westport-based Gault Energy, said, “This is the fourth oldest boiler contest we’ve held. These are conducted every other year. Our mission is to educate Fairfield County homeowners on ways they can save money and reduce their carbon footprint. The contest is one way we’re able to execute our mission.”

Smith added, “We’re so happy to be able to give this early Christmas present to two of the most deserving individuals. We’re also hoping that this will be the start of Pepe’s luck turning around.”

After a trying night without any boiler heat at all, due to the removal process, the couple was glad for the gift. “We had a space heater near the bedroom and down comforter, and kept the stove on all night at 250 degrees. Our electric bill will be a little higher, but that’s ok,” said Anita, sniffling and occasionally coughing as she fought a lingering cold.

“We’ll have nice warm heat by the end of the day, which will be great as I haven’t had a chance to do the tree, what with my cold and working late,” added Anita.

“Anita is not a fan of the cold,” said Pepe, standing in the basement watching the removal work unfold. Beside him, Anita, sipping a hot coffee, said to the workers, “In the Spanish tradition, you say ‘my house is your house.’ In this case, my boiler is your boiler.”