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A Study in Solar Thermal Savings
by Lochinvar Marketing Department

Located 50 miles north of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University prides itself on its dedication to serving the surrounding community. One way in which the university supports its community is through environmental initiatives. For example, the university’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, located in the wetlands on Pass Manchac, leads the charge in sustainability and is home to a variety of ecological and environmental research and educational programs.

The university is also making great strides in sustainability on campus, with initiatives such as a recent efficiency upgrade to its Kinesiology Building. Byron Patterson, Director of Physical Plant at the university, wanted to reduce the building’s reliance on its boiler system and ultimately increase overall energy savings. To achieve these goals, the university decided to install its first-ever solar thermal application.

Working with Metro Mechanical, Inc., in Bolton, MS, and Chris Kononcheck, Commercial Sales Engineer for Louisiana Steam Equipment, the university installed fourteen Commercial Solar Flat Panel Collectors from the Lochinvar/TiSUN solar thermal system line. These high-efficiency solar thermal panels feature a serpentine heat coil design, which allows for optimum heat transfer in a forced circulation solar system. The panels also feature a low-iron prismatic safety glass which allows them to absorb the light rather than reflecting it, resulting in increased energy savings. Installed on the roof of the Kinesiology Building, these panels immediately began making a sustainable impact. 

“We’re very pleased with the solar thermal panels that we installed from the Lochinvar/TiSUN line,” notes Patterson. “These panels are extremely efficient, and we quickly realized that we could take one of our boilers offline to help reduce costs. Now we only have to fire the boiler on extremely cold or rainy days and the rest of the time we can rely on the solar panels.” 

Along with the panel collectors, the university installed the Lochinvar/TiSUN Commercial Solar Pump Station to complete an all-in-one solar pumping package, which offers eight different system capabilities and BTU metering. The pump station is designed to provide adequate flow through up to 1,000 square feet of collector area. The unit features a variable speed pump, flow meter, air separator, flush and fill valves, safety group and EPP two-piece installation.

The university used the pump station and the fourteen solar thermal panels to heat both the building swimming pool and the Kinesiology Building itself. The Commercial Solar Pump Station is able to provide adequate heat for various locations by constantly monitoring the collector and tank temperature. As the tank temperature cools below set-point and the difference between the two temperatures reaches a field adjustable differential-point, the control starts the circulation pump. If the variable speed pump feature is utilized, the differential control adjusts the speed of the pump to achieve the highest temperature difference between the collector and the tank. This large temperature difference harvests the solar heat in the most efficient manner possible.  

“When we realized we had extra capacity to provide even more heat for the building, we were able to turn off two more boilers that we use for reheat on our air conditioning system and provide heat during the winter months,” Patterson explains. “The Lochinvar/TiSUN solar thermal system is truly incredible. After constantly running the boilers for a straight year, including reheat, the system had only run 100 hours total.”

Through the completion of its largest solar commercial thermal project in the United States to date, Lochinvar helped Southeastern Louisiana University drastically reduce their energy bills. In 2012 alone, the university saw an energy savings of $40,000 after utilizing Lochinvar solar collectors for pool heating, space heating and domestic hot water. Patterson expects a payback of 4.5 to 5 years on the installation.

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