by Beth Potier, UNH Media Relations
The roof of Kingsbury Hall is HOT. Even on a cloudy, cool June day, stepping from the attic out onto the white rubber surface is like opening an oven door.
Come winter, that heat will help save UNH money and energy, thanks to the most recent of two energy innovations that have made Kingsbury the least energy-intensive lab building on campus. The building’s new passive-solar air pre-heating system will bring that warm air into the building, saving on heating costs.
Because of the continuous ventilation needed to maintain a healthy air environment, lab spaces like those in Kingsbury’s south wing are notorious energy pigs. “All the outside air we bring into these labs and vent out needs to be heated or cooled,” says campus energy manager Matt O’Keefe.
Harnessing passive solar energy to warm that air in winter, this newest project installed 2,600 square feet of perforated dark plastic panels along the south-facing wall of Kingsbury’s rooftop mechanical penthouse. In heating season, fans draw outside air through those panels, which measure one by three feet, into the south wing’s main air-handling ducts. That air, pre-heated, requires far less energy to heat to room temperature.
The system, installed by Maine firms Shift Energy and Colby Company Engineers, cost $130,000; UNH received a grant of $60,000 from the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to offset nearly half the investment. With a total reduction in ventilation heating costs of up to 80 percent, the project is anticipated to save between $7,000 and $10,000 per year.
“And because there are no moving parts, it will last at least 20 years,” O’Keefe says.
A demand-control air flow system installed in 2010 addresses the efficiency and conservation side of Kingsbury’s energy needs. Created by a company called Aircuity, the system comprises sensors in each lab that “sniff” for contaminants in the air – chemical or particulate – then adjust the flow of fresh air into the room appropriately.
“You increase or reduce the amount of airflow needed based on sensor data from the space,” O’Keefe says, noting that the constant monitoring showed him that their baseline ventilation needs could be dramatically reduced. “We found that 99 percent of the time, we were over-ventilating the lab spaces.”
Demand-control ventilation has been so effective that the system recouped its $120,000 price tag in just 18 months. Ongoing energy savings are rolled into UNH’s revolving energy efficiency fund, launched in 2009 with a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The fund rolls energy savings over to new efficiency projects, meaning that Kingsbury’s demand-control ventilation paid for its solar pre-heating panels.
With an eye toward continuous reduction of UNH’s campus-wide energy use, O’Keefe is justifiably excited about the savings realized in Kingsbury Hall. “Ventilation heating and cooling has the largest impact and footprint of just about any process in commercial and industrial buildings,” he says. “There’s still a lot of energy being used in these spaces, but it’s as little as possible.”