Solar outside air preheating, or solar preheat, is not a new technology. Yet, when combined with high-performance systems it can boost a building’s energy efficiency significantly. Ashley-McGraw Architecture and Pathfinder’s engineering design for the Southern Tier High Technology Incubator in Downtown Binghamton, NY, has proven this! This project integrates the building’s facade with the HVAC system to enhance energy performance.
The three-story, 35,000 sq. ft. facility provides wet labs with fumehoods and shared facilities for start-up companies. And, in addition to energy recovery wheels in the air handling units and a high-efficiency geosource heat pump/boiler hybrid system, our whole-building design for heating includes a large solar preheat system integrated into the south façade.
The collector is perforated with tiny holes and painted a dark color to absorb maximum solar radiation. Solar radiation heats the air in the plenum, as the air is drawn through the collector and into the plenum by the air handling units.
Commissioning of the building is underway by Pathfinder’s commissioning team. And, on March 23, the team tested the heating systems. That day, at 9:30 a.m., the outside air temperature was 18 deg. F. The solar preheat wall raised the intake temperature to 29 deg. F and the energy recovery wheel further raised incoming air to 58 deg. F. Fan motor heat raised the discharge air to the space set point of 67 deg. F. No additional energy was required to heat the building.
Exceeding Expectations: The solar preheat wall and energy recovery wheel are fully heating this laboratory building on an extremely cold day with 6,200 CFM of outside air.