As the Vice President and Treasurer of the 101-year-old Grace Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn in Greenville, Florida, David Nusbickel is experienced with the challenge of integrating modern technology into an historic edifice. Over the past few years, Nusbickel discovered that the inn’s central heating and air systems were providing him with his latest challenge – increased power bills.

Nusbickel asked engineers in the Greenville/Tallahassee area to analyze the problem, but none of them were able to come up with an affordable solution that would not require major modifications to the structure of the historic register inn.

After seeing an article in the local newspaper about the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) and its services to small businesses, Nusbickel decided to give SATOP a call. SATOP then arranged for David Dai from GB Tech, Inc. an Alliance Partner in Houston, Texas, to assess Nusbickel’s Request for Technical Assistance (RTA).

Nusbickel realized that the high power bills were caused by the inn’s two open stairwells and 11-foot ceilings, which allowed air to rapidly rise from the first floor. The most apparent problem occurred during the winter months, when the heat generated on the first floor would travel to the second floor, “fooling” the upper level thermostat into thinking it was warmer than it actually was. The changes in temperature were affecting the guests’ level of comfort during their stay at the inn.

After a visit to the inn, Dai recommended a three-step solution. First, the temperature on each level of the structure should be carefully monitored. Next, a system to reverse the circulation of air should be installed. Lastly, constructing a passive thermodynamic insulator or barrier between each floor would limit the free flow of air between levels of the inn. “These adjustments will control the flow of air and improve the overall balance of temperature of the inn throughout the year,” said Dai.

Nusbickel’s wife, Tammy, was inspired by one of Dai’s suggestions. After conducting her own research, she came up with the idea of hanging heavy curtains across the stairways to block their openings. Once her design was in place, she was able to purchase an ornate material that would compliment the historic style of the inn, sew the large curtains, and strategically hang them in the stairwells.

Since the curtains have been in place, the Nusbickels and their guests have noticed significant improvements in their comfort levels. Also, their fuel costs have decreased, despite last year’s harsh winter. Nusbickel is pleased with the results and thankful for Dai’s and GB Tech, Inc.’s help, saying, “We are very grateful to SATOP for sharing its valuable resources with local businesses that cannot afford these professional services in the open market.”