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Harnessing Mother Nature
Perforated Metal Collector Panels Among Minnesota Courthouse’s Many Energy Efficient Features
Officials in Saint Louis County, MN, are serious about energy efficiency. The county’s Property Management Department mandates that project bids and proposals from architects and engineers must give consideration to energy savings and sustainability, as it moves to make the county’s buildings more operationally efficient and environmentally friendly. It was with both energy efficiency and sustainability in mind that plans were developed for the renovation of the county courthouse’s 1950’s-era Hibbing Annex. The building re-opened in July 25, 2006, boasting a long list of energy-friendly improvements, including the addition of 1,100 sq. ft. of SolarWall wall panels. Used on two elevations, the bronze-colored metal SolarWall panels preheat the air used to ventilate the office spaces, reducing both energy costs and CO2 emissions. The SolarWall system is available from Conserval Engineering Inc. of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and is basically a solar air heating system that uses a metal wall system as a means of collecting air that can be used to heat and ventilate indoor air spaces in new and retrofit construction. In most cases, the system’s perforated collector panels are installed several inches from a south-facing wall to create an air cavity, though assemblies on the southeast, southwest, east and west walls are also possible. The metal cladding is heated by the solar radiation from the sun, and ventilation fans located at the top of the wall create negative pressure in the air cavity, drawing in the solar heated air through the panel perforations. A connection to an HVAC intake allows air to be preheated before entering the air handler, reducing the load on the conventional heater. This fresh air—heated to a temperature of 60° F—is then distributed into the building through the existing HVAC system or with separate air makeup fans and perforated ducting. According to Conserval Engineering Inc., SolarWall technology provides the following benefits… • Free heat for the life of the building. • Annual reductions in heating costs in the range of $2 to $8 per sq. ft. of collector, depending on the type and cost of fuel displaced. • Ventilation air that can represent up to 50% of a building’s heating needs, and contributes 1.5 – 3.5 therms/ft2 (1.5 – 3.5 GJ/m2) of energy per year. • Operating efficiency of up to 75% (rated by both the Canadian and US governments).
The ideal location for a Solarwall heater is a south-facing wall within 20° east or west of south, although any orientation between east and west is suitable. If a south-facing wall is not available, then consider either or both east and west walls. Mansard roofs are another ideal spot for mounting the panels, especially if the HVAC units are located on the roof.

• Sunny-day air temperature increases from 30º F to 76º F (16º C to 40º C) depending on flow rate. • Annual CO2 savings of one ton for each five square meters of collector. • Material costs comparable to brick, and a total installed cost (after tax considerations and possible grants) often lower than other metal or masonry walls. • Significant energy savings as a preheating system for ventilation air, even when overcast.

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In addition to its ability to lower heating costs, SolarWall also provides these benefits… • Summer Cooling By preventing solar radiation from striking the south wall of a building. Warm air between the solar paneling and the building rises and is ventilated through holes at the top of the cladding. This reduces cooling loads in the building. Fresh ventilation air is drawn directly into the building by way of by-pass dampers. • Indoor Air Quality Installing a Solarwall system allows companies and businesses to meet ventilation standards required by code, without spending a prohibitive amount on an ongoing basis to heat that air. Good indoor air quality is the result of an adequate, continuous, supply of fresh outdoor air. ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) states that the best way to avoid illness due to poor indoor air quality is to increase the volume of fresh air entering a building. The negative impact of uncontrolled entry of outdoor air is increased heating costs. SolarWall solar energy systems can solve this problem by using solar energy to preheat ventilation air. • Maintenance The SolarWall panels contain no moving parts, and are virtually maintenance free. Installing a system over a masonry wall also protects the wall from rain and moisture, which can cause bricks to crumble. The cost of the panels over a masonry wall can be recovered from the energy savings by the use of free solar energy to lower fuel costs.

Energy and Cost Saving Measures Implemented at the Hibbing Annex
R40 roof insulation. Above-grade walls insulated with an additional R-23 and subgrade walls R-22. Special fiberglassframed high-performance windows with special glazing and inert gas-filled. Solar domestic hot water for public restrooms producing 50 to 80 gallons of 140° F water daily. High-efficiency hand dryers in restrooms. Water-conserving fixtures throughout. Energy-conserving landscape. Natural daylighting to reduce artificial lighting requirements with clerestory windows and internal light transfer panels. High efficiency lighting, including T-8 fluorescent fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs and room occupancy sensors to control them. Premium-efficiency pumps, fans and motors wherever equipCircle #50 on reader service card. ment of that type was required. High-efficiency appliances in the break area. A 6,300-watt photovoltaic system on the roof. Components include 36 Americanmade Sharp 175-watt PV panels with an SMA 6000 inverter. The system provides peak electrical load savings and lower electrical costs overall.

Metal Architecture