ANDOVER —Replacing over 18,500 appliances in homes in the Merrimack Valley was no small feat. It took months of coordination, and some days over 200 people were working to remove and replace appliances in the homes of Columbia Gas customers in the area.
“There were lots of moving pieces at once, every house is different, with over 8,000 homes needing appliances replaced,” Ryan Dogil, planning director for Select Demo, who oversaw the removal of the appliances for Columbia Gas. “The best part was seeing smiles on faces when we replaced things like stoves and people got the ability to cook in their homes back — you can’t beat that.”
The Salem, New Hampshire-based demolition company, which is the largest in the northeast, analyzed, documented and scheduled the removal and replacement of gas appliances condemned by Columbia Gas.
The affected appliances have been replaced and have been taken apart to be recycled, Dogil said.
“We didn’t want these in second hand markets,” said Mark Kempic, president and COO of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.
He added that most of the appliances replaced were past their useful life and some were contaminated with asbestos.
Contaminated appliances underwent the remediation process before being disassembled and recycled.
All of the appliances were disassembled and then taken to recycling facilities, Dogil said.
“The determination was made to replace rather than repair the appliances — heating units, ranges, water heaters, dryers,” et cetera, Kempic said. “It was a rare opportunity to go above and beyond, we could have just replaced the gas valves, but we wanted to replace all of the appliances.”
The company replaced the damaged appliances with high efficiency appliances when applicable, Kempic said, adding that sometimes a house’s system was too old to take on an energy efficient appliance and some homes had made the upgrade.
Overall 40-45% of the older appliances were replaced to be energy efficient, Kempic said. It is part of the company’s commitment to help decrease customers’ carbon footprints, he added. Currently Columbia Gas is working with MassSave to help its customers replace appliances, however for those affected by the gas disaster the company wanted to replace as many appliances as possible for customers, Kempic said.
The company is providing free insulation to homes in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover through December, he said. In conjunction with the higher efficiency appliances, Kempic hopes that insulation will help keep people’s gas bills lower in the winter months, he said.
So far the company has spent over $5 million on the insulation program, and is on track to spend $10 million total, he said.