Five Myths of Tubular Daylighting Devices

Are these myths preventing you from specifying/purchasing tubular daylighting devices for your commercial facility?

Michael Sather, commercial marketing manager at Solatube International Inc., Vista, CA

Michael Sather, commercial marketing manager at Solatube International Inc., Vista, CA

Many people are familiar with the concept of tubular daylighting devices (TDDs), often generically referred to by more informal names such as solar tubes, sun tunnels, light pipes, or tube lights. The general concept is simple: A dome, attached to a roof with a self-mounted flashing or mounted on a curb, captures sunlight, transfers it into the building through a highly reflective tube, and delivers it into the interior space through a diffuser lens mounted at the ceiling level or at the end of the tube in an open ceiling.
   In the past 13 years, TDDs have revolutionized the way buildings are illuminated. When applied correctly, a building can be fully daylit using only the natural light supplied by the TDDs for 90% or more of the occupied hours of the year, relying on electric lights only as a backup during extremely overcast days or at night.
   That said, how do you know if TDDs are the right choice for daylighting your project? What key aspects should you consider when selecting the best TDD for a specific application? To help answer these questions and give you a better understanding of this product category, let’s explore five myths of TDDs.

When applied correctly, a building can be fully daylit using only the natural light supplied by the TDDs for 90% or more of the occupied hours of the year, relying on the electric lights only as a backup during extremely overcast days or at night.

When applied correctly, a building can be fully daylit using only the natural light supplied by the TDDs for 90% or more of the occupied hours of the year, relying on the electric lights only as a backup during extremely overcast days or at night.

Myth 1: Tubular daylighting devices are only for residential applications or small spaces.
The original TDDs that appeared in the U.S. market in the early 1990s were strictly designed for residential spaces. In the past two decades, the TDD category grew to rival and eventually surpass traditional skylights for residential applications.
   Building on that residential-market success, the world’s first commercial-grade TDD appeared on the scene in the year 2000. This new technology boasted a 21-in.-dia. tube and a transition box for a grid ceiling system, which allowed a round tube to accommodate a square diffuser, simply by replacing a 2 x 2-ft. ceiling tile. Open-ceiling models also debuted at this time and featured a diffuser lens attached directly to the tube bottom. As a result, the approach to daylighting commercial buildings was greatly simplified and the daylight fixture concept was born.

Specular reflectance, which refers to a concentrated bundle of light transferred down the tube through the diffuser, is the key factor in determining how effective a TDD is at delivering light to an interior.

Specular reflectance, which refers to a concentrated bundle of light transferred down the tube through the diffuser, is the key factor in determining how effective a TDD is at delivering light to an interior.

Myth 2: Tubular daylighting devices are only for the top floor.
Specular reflectance, which refers to a concentrated bundle of light transferred down the tube through the diffuser, is the key factor in determining how effective a TDD is at delivering light to an interior. It is often confused with total reflectance, which refers to scattered light that is reflected in every direction. Total reflection is not an indicator of throughput since this would include light reflecting back up the tube.
   When daylight moves through a TDD, it reflects (or bounces) off the tubing surface. With each bounce, a small amount of that light is lost. For each 90-deg. turn, only about 5% of the light is lost. This makes possible tube runs of great distances, spanning multiple floors, running down chases in the walls, and using multiple 90-deg. turns to be able to deliver daylight deep into the interior of multistory buildings.

When daylight moves through a TDD, it reflects (or bounces) off the tubing surface. With each bounce, a small amount of that light is lost. For each 90-deg. turn, approximately only 5% of the light is lost.

When daylight moves through a TDD, it reflects (or bounces) off the tubing surface. With each bounce, a small amount of that light is lost. For each 90-deg. turn, approximately only 5% of the light is lost.

Myth 3: Tubular daylighting devices are only effective at certain times of the day or year.
Factors affecting seasonal consistency are a combination of specular reflectance, dome optics, spectral selectivity, color temperature maintenance (CTM), and solar heat gain. Lower end TDDs will have a greater difference in daily and seasonal variation due to a lack of the above mentioned properties.
   Advanced TDDs offer daily and seasonal consistency by incorporating dome technologies with passive internal reflectors or Fresnel-lens optics to help efficiently collect low-angle sunlight. This can greatly increase performance in the early morning or late day. During the winter months, when the sun is low in the sky, this is an especially important consideration in Northern latitudes.

Myth 4: Tubular daylighting devices are unpredictable.
While dome optics and tubing material will play a major role in the predictability and consistency of a TDD, you must also take into account the overall design. Even the most advanced TDDs can be designed incorrectly into a space. If you use too many units, the results can be overwhelming; if you use too few, the results can be disappointing. Most TDD manufacturers offer daylight dimming devices that provide total control over the amount of daylight entering the space.

Myth 5: All tubular daylighting devices are the same.
This statement is equivalent to saying all cars are the same. To ensure you select the right TDD for your particular project needs, there are three main considerations: the manufacturer, the product, and the partner:

  • The manufacturer. Significant differences exist in the product offerings and core focus of companies manufacturing TDDs. Some manufacturers specialize in TDDs as their sole business, whereas other companies may only offer TDDs as a small part of their overall product line.
  • The product. Be sure to specify a product that meets the needs of the space. Most TDD manufacturers will offer a wide range of models and component options to create the right configuration for the specific application and climate.
  • The partner. Once a manufacturer is selected, it is probably best to make sure there is a factory-trained distributor or representative to assist with the project. Most TDD manufacturers will have a partner who works with you at a local level from project conception through completion to help you meet your daylighting goals and stay within your budget. These companies typically offer installation services as well as installation training for subcontractors to ensure your project is a success.

Michael Sather is the commercial marketing manager at Solatube International Inc., Vista, CA.

Ask Questions, Then Design Lighting

Lighting design should be part of the initial facility design phase to ensure effective illumination and energy savings.

Cheryl Ford, marketing manager for OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA.

Cheryl Ford, marketing manager for OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA.

The intended use for a building and the owner’s design goals not only affect the layout, finishes, and furnishings, but have a significant impact on lighting needs and energy costs. Unfortunately, lighting often is not discussed in the early design stages for new and major renovation projects. If lighting is a part of the early discussions, it is much more likely that the best possible luminaires will be chosen to fit the style of the building and its intended use.
   Discussing lighting early will also help ensure the building’s design can accommodate the desired luminaires and controls to achieve the lowest energy and maintenance cost without sacrificing lighting quality. Before specifying lighting, answer the following questions.
   Who is the end user?
   Is the building owned by a company for its own use or is the space being leased to multiple tenants? For businesses, branding by way of unique building design and layout plays a part in establishing that brand. In addition, exterior and interior lighting are equally important for the safety and well being of workers, customers, and clients. If a building is to be occupied by a single company, it is easier to minimize the number of luminaire types. For leased spaces, tenants often want the space constructed to meet their requirements, and this includes lighting. Lease agreements vary, but tenants often are required to pay utilities on the leased space, so work with them to install the most energy-efficient lighting possible.
   What is the desired style or look?
   Aesthetically pleasing lighting can be modern, contemporary or traditional, and there is a variety of luminaires from which to choose. For an unobtrusive modern look, recessed flat-panel, recessed indirect, or architectural recessed 1×4, 2×2, or 2×4 luminaires can provide a very clean look and uniformly lit spaces. For a more contemporary look, single pendant-mount luminaires can be geometrical, adding an artistic look to the space. There are also more traditional long linear runs of indirect/direct pendant-mount luminaires with an up-light and down-light component providing extremely low-glare lighting. In addition, these luminaires light the ceiling, brightening the look of the space.
   You do not need to sacrifice on the aesthetics of a luminaire just to save energy. State-of-the-art high-efficiency, long-life fluorescent lamp and ballast systems are available in many styles, providing energy savings as high as 40%, compared with standard T8 fluorescent units. Luminaires using LED systems that offer energy savings as high as 50% when compared to conventional fluorescent systems are available.
   How will spaces be used?
   How a space is to be used determines required lighting levels. In the past, however, many interiors have been over lit. Fortunately, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), New York, has established recommended lighting levels for specific tasks, and following these guidelines will reduce over-illumination and wasted energy.
   The type of space will also dictate the need for additional lighting controls, and this may influence your luminaire choice. Many LED luminaires come with integrated controls for installation ease. Also, layers of light, especially for hospitality and classroom lighting, provide the flexible lighting typically desired. For office environments, the use of task lighting allows overhead lighting levels to be scaled back, reducing energy usage.
   What are the latest energy code requirements?
   ASHRAE 90.1 and California Title 24 have maximum power-density requirements (W/sq. ft.) and mandatory control provisions for interior and exterior applications. The latest versions of each have additional mandatory control requirements. Alterations affecting more than 50% of the lighting load must conform to the codes.
   ASHRAE 90.1-2010 requires space control for enclosed areas with at least one control step between 30% and 70% of full power. Exceptions include corridors, public lobbies, restrooms, stairwells, storage rooms, and electrical/mechanical areas. Various auto-off requirements also are established, particularly for parking garages.
   California Title 24 2013 has added more multi-level control requirements, specified by space type for areas greater than 100 sq. ft. Auto-off requirements are also established for interior and exterior spaces and parking garages. There also are specific requirements for daylighted zones and use of occupancy sensing or auto scheduling. Demand response is now required for all non-residential buildings of more than 10,000 sq. ft.
   When does daylighting make sense?
   There is trend in commercial buildings to use more natural light and provide occupants with outdoor views for health and well-being benefits, as well as to save energy. However, to make daylighting effective, the building design and window selection are extremely important. North/south-facing windows and windows with the proper glazing to minimize glare need to be incorporated into the design. In new-building construction, light shelves and skylights improve daylight use. A window-shading system can effectively control the amount of sun that enters a space. Light sensors and 0- to-10-V dimming is the best way to reduce the luminaire light level in response to available daylight.
   Which lighting technology?
   The cost to install LED lighting instead of conventional fluorescent and high-intensity-discharge technology has decreased immensely in the past several years. LED luminaire performance, controllability, and color quality is equivalent to many fluorescent systems, so for new construction LEDs may be the best choice. For retrofit projects, high-efficiency, long-life fluorescents may be the least expensive option, but do not rule out LED retrofit solutions that use the existing luminaire housing. Utility rebates are available for DLC-qualified (DesignLights Consortium, Lexington, MA) LED luminaires and for high-efficiency and supersaver fluorescent systems, reducing the cost to install the most efficient lighting.
   Lighting can help shape a business and its outcomes in very subtle ways. When done correctly, it can dazzle people, provide comfort, and improve productivity. Quality lighting does not need to break the budget, and it can be very energy efficient. In evaluating lighting options, look at the total cost of ownership. Hire a lighting designer to make sure the best lighting system is designed for the facility.

Cheryl Ford is a marketing manager for OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA. She has
more than 30 years of lighting experience; has held various positions in engineering, marketing, and sales; and is a NCQLP lighting certified professional. Watch for regular lighting columns from Cheryl at cbpmagazine.com/blog.

Load Share to Heat Pools, Water

Instead of exhausting building heat generated during daily activity, a thermal-load-sharing system can direct that heat to pools, spas, and water heaters.

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Spring is here, and the cooling season is quickly approaching. Pools around the country that have been decommissioned during the winter are likely to stay that way well into June, unless some type of pool heating is implemented.

But heating open bodies of water with conventional HVAC heat sources can be a rather expensive undertaking, particularly in northern climates, forcing designers and owners to look for a relatively inexpensive heat source. Let’s look at the options.

Solar-thermal is the most energy efficient and renewable source for potable water and pool heating, but solar depends on cooperative weather. Cloudy and cool days can mean a cold pool, necessitating the need for backup heating sources much of the year.

Fossil fuel heating of potable water, pools, and spas is an old favorite. First cost is relatively low, but that comes at a higher price environmentally and monetarily as you move forward. In addition to high costs for propane and other fuels, safety issues are involved when fossil fuels are used as a heat source.

Electric-resistance heating uses raw electricity to warm heating elements over which the water passes, providing a clean and safe water-heating alternative. But it can be extremely expensive. Using the coefficient of performance (COP) rating system (used internationally) for heating equipment, electric heating has a COP of 1.0, meaning that 1 unit of heat is provided for each unit of electricity, a one-to-one ratio, or 100% efficient in the COP rating system.

Air-source heat pumps, designed for pool and potable-water heating, are environmentally friendly and pump outside air into a pool or hot-water tank. However, they too rely somewhat on cooperative weather conditions, i.e., air temperatures being warm enough to facilitate efficient heat extraction. Air-source heat-pump efficiencies are in the 3.0 COP (300% efficient) range.

For swimming pool and spa heating, the best scenario is attained with geothermal-sourced water-to-water heat pumps, pulling heat from a dependable, steady, and renewable energy source; the earth. Geothermal heat pumps can be about 5.0 COP (500% efficient).

Outside temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, but underground temperatures don’t change nearly as dramatically, thanks to the mass of the earth. Some 4 to 6 ft. below the ground, the temperature remains relatively constant year round (about 50 F to 75 F in the U.S.).

A geothermal-sourced water-to-water heat pump, which can work in tandem with a geothermal HVAC system, typically consists of water-sourced heat pump and a buried system of pipes called an earth loop, and/or a pump to send fluid to a reinjection (Class V thermal exchange process) well. This geothermal source can be shared between the building’s HVAC and water-heating systems.

Think of it like this: While providing power to run your building’s HVAC cooling system, you are also providing the energy to run computers, lighting, servers, copiers, and domestic water heating. Then the building’s HVAC system must use power to remove the heat created by all of these internal gains, on top of the occupant loads (one occupant presents a load of 1,200 BTU each hour). You pay for energy twice to remove this waste heat through the process of cooling your building. Why not channel that heat to where it’s needed?

Among the benefits that you can realize from a geothermal HVAC system is the ability to channel and use this waste heat energy. That’s because, unlike widely used cooling towers and air-sourced cooling equipment (those that have an outside condenser that discharges waste heat), geothermal systems discharge the heat through a liquid heat exchanger (such as with a chiller-cooling tower combination). The heat is entrained in the discharge water line. Most manufacturers of geothermal heat pumps even have a factory installed hot water generator available. This option gives you two extra connections, labeled DHW (Domestic Hot Water) “In” and “Out,” that may be connected to almost any hot-water tank.

There are thousands of geothermal heated pools around in the US. There is a good chance that the local YMCA, hotel, health club, or community pool near you already has geothermal sourced pool heating. Surprisingly, many of these still have air sourced cooling systems that could be converted to geothermal (and likely will be) during the normal course of HVAC equipment attrition and upgrade. When specifying a geothermal HVAC system, consider including a thermal-load-sharing system to make maximum use of building heat.

Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer, and the owner of EggGeothermal, Kissimmee, FL. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com.

Slash Geothermal Costs With Free Money

Couple inherent energy cost savings with incentive dollars to make a huge dent in the cost of a geothermal system.

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

The economics of purchasing and operating a geothermal HVAC system are not solely reliant on paying notable upfront costs and then counting on energy-cost savings to recoup those costs in the first few years of operation. In fact, much of the upfront costs can be quickly offset by taking advantage of a variety of available incentives.

To start the discussion, let’s simply list the various incentives that are available to residential and commercial consumers. Residential options are included for comparison purposes. Here is a list of the most readily available options:
Residential:

  • 30% Federal tax credit, uncapped.

Commercial:

  • 10% Federal tax credit, uncapped
  • Maximum Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS)–benefit as high as 38%, uncapped.

Commercial and residential:

  • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding funds entire geothermal HVAC projects for property taxpayers
  • State and local government incentives (varies by region)
  • Utility incentives and funding (On-Bill financing)
  • Geothermal utility services (ORCA Energy).

Many of the incentives/benefits cover the entire cost of a new geothermal HVAC system or retrofit/improvements to an HVAC system. These improvements can include the following:

  • Geothermal source (ground loop/pond loop/Class V well system or standing column well
  • Geothermal (water sourced) chiller/heat pump equipment
  • Ductwork, distribution piping, and specialties
  • 100% fresh-air equipment (geothermal water sourced)
  • Controls and indoor air quality (IAQ) items
  • Electrical service connections
  • Excavation & recovery costs
  • Engineering drawings, permits, and fees.

Federal incentives for geothermal HVAC systems that are currently in effect through the year 2016 include different criteria for commercial and residential.

If the project is residential, all that is required is that the client be a taxpayer and fill out IRS form 5695. The customer will realize 30% of the entire cost of the geothermal HVAC system in direct tax credits. The credits can be rolled over from year-to-year until the full incentive is earned. For example, a $30,000 HVAC system, purchased in 2014, will generate a $9,000 tax credit on the very next tax filing, through 2016.

The reason I included residential is for comparison. If the customer is a commercial entity who owns the commercial property, that entity receives a 10% Federal tax credit. That doesn’t appear to be favorable until the rest of the story is considered. When MACRS is applied, the geothermal HVAC system is depreciated in an accelerated manner from 27 yr. down to an abbreviated 5 yr. A 50% bonus depreciation is also applied to the first year. This 50% bonus has been extended and modified several times since 2008, most recently in January 2013 by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

By taking advantage of the commercial/corporate geothermal HVAC tax credits and incentives, an expenditure of $1 million for a geothermal HVAC system will net tax incentives amounting to $480,000 over 5 yr. under current program guidelines. A 48% tax incentive for corporate clients is clearly favorable to the 30% tax credit for residential clients.

PACE is a Federal program, currently available in 31 states, designed for residential and commercial consumers. The program works best for commercial customers in participating areas. PACE is arranged by local government and pays for 100% of the project’s costs. Payback is accomplished through property-tax assessments. Though PACE is also available for the residential sector, the housing market reverses in 2010 brought that funding to a halt. Commercial PACE programs have accelerated and, as of February 2013, 16 commercial PACE programs in seven states are accepting applications to fund geothermal HVAC and other energy-efficient projects.

On-Bill financing provides a way for consumers to repay the capital costs of retrofit geothermal HVAC systems as part of their monthly electric bill.

Electrical service providers have made energy-efficiency retrofits available to consumers for years. The utility companies use their reserves or third-party capital providers to cover the cost of the efficiency upgrade projects. Consumers/businesses are then obliged to pay the costs back over a period of 20 yr. on their electric utility invoice. These programs seem to be gaining favor and continue to grow, as shown by House Bill 1428, MD., “Public Utilities-Geothermal Heating and Cooling On-Bill Financing-Pilot Program,” initiated in February, 2013.

Third-party capital providers have emerged with programs such as “In-Electric Rate Funding,” introduced in January 2013 by Constellation Energy.

Geothermal Utility Services are a promising program that has been party to a market penetration of almost 40% of heating system replacements in Canada in 2011 according to the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition. Geothermal Utility Services, such as Canadian based GeoTility, and its US sister company, OrcaEnergy, cover the cost of the exterior geothermal ground heat exchanger/well system. The consumer then pays a one-time connection fee and a predetermined monthly utility charge to the geothermal utility. The consumer is then only concerned with the cost of the geothermal heat pump/chiller upgrade and is still eligible for many of the other programs mentioned, including the federal tax incentives (U.S.).

But, how much more do geothermal HVAC systems cost than standard HVAC systems? That subject is covered in the Commercial Conversation podcast, “Breaking New Ground With Geothermal.”

Briefly, standard HVAC systems may cost about $3,000/ton, compared with geothermal HVAC systems that may cost $5,000 to $6,000/ton at the lower range tonnage (less than 500 tons). As the tonnage goes up, the cost per ton goes down until, in many cases, a geothermal HVAC system can have a competitive first cost comparable to a standard HVAC system.

In other words, when a commercial entity takes advantage of federal incentives for geothermal HVAC systems, they are realizing essentially a 48% cost reduction benefit on the entire mechanical system. One can be reasonably assured that the resultant first cost of the system can actually end up being substantially less than the first cost of a standard HVAC system.

However, the federal incentives and energy efficiency of a geothermal HVAC system, though compelling, are secondary to some of the other tangible benefits of going geothermal. Consider the following advantages that can be attained only with geothermal:

  • Elimination of outdoor equipment
  • Storm proofing (geothermal equipment is sheltered from storm events)
  • Longevity of system (a result of all indoor equipment)
  • Elimination of fresh water consumption (from commercial cooling towers)
  • Elimination of fossil-fuel consumption (on-site)
  • Superior comfort in heating and cooling modes (more on this in future columns)
  • Enabling thermal load sharing (swimming pools, domestic hot water, HVAC re-heat)
  • System efficiency, as high as 40 EER.

You can see that we are in a favorable market with the many incentives for the implementation of commercial geothermal HVAC technologies. It does take a little legwork on the part of the contractor, engineer, and consumer. Construction professionals that up-sell to geothermal HVAC have all of these resources available to them.

Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer, and the owner of EggGeothermal, Kissimmee, FL. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com.

Geothermal a leader in the second green movement?

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

What’s the real essence of “going green?” What are we really trying to do? Is it for the environment? How about saving money? Is it to create jobs? Help the economy? Is it about looking “Green”? Or is it about just wanting to “do the right thing”?

If you remember the energy crisis of the 70s, you’ll likely remember the 50-mpg Volkswagen Rabbit diesel. When gasoline was abundant and cheap again, we entered the age of mammoth SUVs, because supply went up and prices stayed down. Now look at us.

With natural gas prices recently at an all-time low ($2.75/million Btu), heating and related costs for commercial buildings has reached an all-time low. Geothermal HVAC systems used to be clearly cost effective against natural gas—and they still are against other fuel sources.

But history has shown us that we should not be fooled by artificially low energy prices. In a 2012 article, Sustainable Plant reports, “Low natural gas prices won’t last, because way too many folks are making far too many plans to cash in.” When energy prices do increase, many of us will have no choice but to pay the increased costs until we can afford to upgrade to a better standard.

In a report that came out from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington on Dec. 10, 2013, the Short-Term Energy Outlook is that the “EIA expects that the Henry Hub natural gas spot price, which averaged $2.75 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2012, will average $3.68 per MMBtu in 2013 and $3.84 per MMBtu in 2014.” That’s a 34% increase between 2012 and 2013 followed by an additional 4% increase between 2013 and 2014.

Green movement number two is on the way, and for more reasons than just increasing energy costs.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems continue to appear everywhere. Electrical production through wind generators is becoming a more common sight in certain areas. Hydropower has been used for generations. Geothermal “hot rock” power generation is growing.

Geothermal HVAC systems don’t get much press. You can’t see them, because equipment is all inside. You can’t hear them; the classic “out of sight –out of mind” scenario. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear much about the technology.

Geothermal HVAC systems remove as much as four times the energy consumption from the electrical grid per dollar spent than photovoltaic systems can add to the electrical grid per dollar spent.* Businesses desiring the elusive “net zero” status come closer to making that a reality by first implementing geothermal HVAC technologies. When considering a reduction in energy consumption costs, geothermal needs to be the first choice. The real hero in net-zero applications is summed up by the statement, “Giant arrays of solar panels produce power, while tankless hot water and geothermal air conditioning reduce demand.” from the news report, “Downtown St. Pete boasts new, ‘net-zero’ building.” You’ll find that the majority of buildings boasting a “net zero” energy goal are employing geothermal HVAC systems.

The number one reason for going green might be reduction of energy consumption of any type. The more peak load we can take off of the electrical grid, the fewer power plants we need. But are people buying into it? According to a new McGraw-Hill Construction study released on November 13, 2013 at the International Summit at the Green Build Conference and Expo, San Francisco, “Green building has become a long-term business opportunity with 51% of study firms planning more than 60% of their work to be green by 2015, up from 28% of firms in 2012.”

Another point in the study is that in 2008, the motivating factor of green building was “…doing the right thing (42%)”. Now the top reasons for doing green construction are “…client demand (35%) and market demand (33%)—two key business drivers of strategic planning.” With green building projected to double between years 2012 and 2015, there can be no doubt that “green movement number two” is underway. The question is, what green/sustainable technologies are going to be increasingly employed?

On November 11, 2013, a press release by Carrier (a subsidiary of United Technologies, and the largest manufacturer of HVAC products in the world) in the Wall Street Journal said, “Carrier Plans Joint Venture with Bosch to Strengthen Geothermal and Water-Source Heat Pump Offerings.” By all appearances, Bosch and Carrier see geothermal HVAC as the next big thing in “green.”

Let me know your plans – are you planning geothermal HVAC projects in the future? Why or why not? I’ll be sure to address your comments in future columns.

The Author
Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer, and the owner of EggGeothermal. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems, published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com.

*Based on installed cost of $5.90/Watt from the report “Tracking the Sun VI, An Historical Summary of Installed Price of Photovoltaics, July 2013 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory” when compared with the installed cost of electrically powered geothermal heating and cooling ($6,000/ton) with a coefficient of performance of 4.0.

New Commercial Conversation Podcast on Education

The Commercial Building Products editors have added a new Commercial Conversation podcast. The new discussion is with architect Amy Stein, MGA Partners Architects, Philadelphia, and focuses on education-facility design, how it’s being affected by technology, the demand for “green” facilities, security, power delivery, and several other factors that affect new and renovated school facilities. Stein is a talented and experienced architect who specializes in education and historical structures.
   In addition, Commercial Conversation offers four other podcasts related to commercial-building design and construction. Look for a new podcast approximately every two weeks. Be sure to subscribe to Commercial Conversation so you’ll be notified when a new podcast is made available.

Commercial Conversation podcasts

Commercial Conversation is a new podcast series from the editors of Commercial Building Products. Twice monthly we will post a podcast in which editorial director Gary Parr discusses commercial-construction issues with industry experts. Two podcasts are now available for listening:

New Engineering Center for Mitsubishi HVAC

MitsubishiMitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating (Mitsubishi Electric) has opened an industry-first Engineering Center in Duluth, GA. The Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating Engineering Center is the only dedicated facility in the U.S. geared toward developing split-ductless and variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) technology solutions specifically for the North American market.
   “Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating’s parent corporation, Mitsubishi Electric, Tokyo, realizes there is enormous potential in the North American market for products based on split-ductless and VRF technology,” said Bill Rau, senior vice president and general manager, Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating.
   The Engineering Center houses Mitsubishi Electric application support, as well as the company industry and government relations departments. By housing these groups in a single building, Mitsubishi Electric can accelerate domestic product development.

LED disks on a rail

One use for the VLM system is in indoor horticulture applications.

Lightfair 2011 has been a blur of wall-to-wall LED technology. LEDs have been so dominant and so prevalent that very few offerings stand out from the pack. One such product isn’t available for purchase is full of potential.
   The Versatile Light Module (VLM), from Molex Inc., Lisle, IL, uses light-source “pucks” and a rail to provide a rather flexible lighting solution. The low-profile rail has two conductive strips that run its entire length, much like train tracks. The rail also serves as a heat sink. LED pucks are simply placed in the rail and use a pair of magnets to connect to the conductive strips. Once they connect, they are powered and the LED chip activated.
   The VLM offers versatility by making it possible to alter the lighting color/intensity by simply changing pucks. Because the connection is magnetic, you can slide the pucks along the rail and position them wherever you need light. Of course, sliding pucks, grouping colors, and using any beam angle opens the door to almost endless creativity. In fact, according to Molex, the concept makes it possible to use virtually any type of light source, though LEDs were demonstrated.
   Since Molex is rather talented at building connectors, they’ve created several ways to join the rails. One demonstrated arrangement uses the rails to create the equivalent of a picture frame, with light sources on all four sides.
   According to a Molex blog post, “The technology behind the VLM product line is called MID or Molded Interconnect Devices. MID technology is the application of circuitry onto three-dimensional plastic surfaces. By integrating a light source into a selectively-plated plastic component, that includes the drive electronics and a magnetic hold down, we are able to dramatically reduce the complexity and cost of implementing solid-state lighting solutions.”
   What lies ahead for this concept? “Although the first generation of VLM modules are low-voltage products, within the next six months, direct-line voltage products will become available, further driving down the cost and usability of solid-state lighting. All of this is possible through the use of MID technology and how it makes the integration of electronics, optics, and thermal management possible in a very small space.
   To learn more about this product, watch this video and read this blog post.—Gary L. Parr

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