K-12 schools reduce energy costs and improve student performance.
Located along Lake Michigan in Southwestern Michigan, the Lakeshore Public School District consists of three K-5 elementary buildings, one middle school, and one high school.
Nick White, director of operations for Lakeshore public schools, has orchestrated many changes. His attention and management of school improvements to the district’s schools include broad HVAC upgrades, which have improved student and teacher comfort and energy efficiency at each facility.
In 2013, White and the Lakeshore school board looked at options, hoping to enhance student achievement. It has been about 20 years since any of the schools had new heating equipment installed, and none of them had any form of air conditioning.
“It was time to do something,” said White. “We would get daily complaints from teachers about the inconsistency of room heating. Students seated by old, under-the-window unit ventilators were either sweating or shivering. In the mornings, the ventilators would be blasting heat, and later as the thermostat was satisfied, outside air was brought in to improve indoor air quality and student health.”
But the fresh air entering the rooms became a textbook lesson in thermal shock. Cold air immediately conditioned students and teachers; the discomfort was so routine that they knew to have their winter jackets nearby.
“Another issue that we would get regular complaints about was the noise of the units,” continued White. “Teachers constantly had to yell to be heard over the incessant drone of the HVAC equipment. Remember Charlie Brown’s teacher [with a voice like a muffled lullaby]? That’s how our teachers sounded to students before we got a new heating and cooling system; they couldn’t stay awake,” he said. “Our HVAC woes became a huge distraction.”
White contacted Scott Morgenstern, senior mechanical engineer for Kingscott Associates, an architectural and engineering firm, based in Kalamazoo, MI.
“Nick informed me that the school district was looking to do a significant amount of renovating and remodeling in all of the schools,” explained Morgenstern. “The bulk of work to be funded was slated to improve classroom HVAC systems, replacing old unit ventilators with new, quiet, energy-efficient ones.
“The old systems were not only noisy, but they weren’t providing sufficient air distribution,” Morgenstern added. “They were basically oversized fan-coil units that sat under classroom windows with the sole purpose of making life miserable for students and teachers.”
Overheating and under heating were sure to affect daily classroom conditions. The discomfort was palpable. Outdoor conditions played an enormous role; another key variable was the location of a student’s chair. Teachers could move their desk, or walk about, but students were usually unable to make improvements.
“Clearly, we needed a way to provide comfort within the schools,” said White.
Morgenstern turned to Scott Bolhouse, at Bolhouse LLC, a manufacturer’s representative based in Jenison, MI.
“Scott contacted me with a need for a high volume of unit ventilators,” said Bolhouse. “He explained the troubles Lakeshore schools were experiencing. The school district needed equipment that would offer consistent temperatures year round, quietly and efficiently.”
Bolhouse took White and Morgenstern on a tour of nearby locations with unit ventilators already installed and running. “We’ve found that it always helps to demonstrate equipment operation; there’s nothing quite like a working demo in a setting not unlike the classrooms they needed to improve,” said Bolhouse. White and Morgenstern saw a variety of HVAC equipment that day.
After further research into equipment capable of solving problems at the school district, they chose Modine Manufacturing’s (Racine, WI) Airedale Classmate DX cooling and heat pump,” continued Bolhouse.
“One of the first things that stuck out to me at the demo was the noise—or better—the lack of it,” said White. “We learned about the equipment’s impressive sound-lab performance, but it was most impressive to see and hear the equipment during our tour. We were certain that we’d found the right technology for our schools.”
For the five schools, 132 Modine Airedale Classmate DX cooling and heat pump units were specified, and two Modine Varsity under-the-window units were chosen for the high school football locker room. The classroom units have super-efficient electronically commutated motors (ECM) and micro channel coils. Advanced blower and compressor technologies contribute to the decreased sound and power output.
An all-in-one blower-motor system manufactured by Genteq, Fort Wayne, IN, is incorporated into each of the cooling and heat pump systems. This system combines a high-efficiency blower housing, axial flux, Blac motor, and variable speed ECM technology into one assembly, delivering higher efficiencies, improved airflow, and lower maintenance costs. Additionally, this system puts out an average of 2 to 3 dB less than comparable systems.
They also have a proprietary CF coil, offering substantial improvements over existing parallel flow (PF) coil technology so prevalent in the HVAC market today.
The all-aluminum counter-flow (CF) coils provide efficient condensing and evaporation. Inside the CF coil, refrigerant makes two-passes—once up and then back down—to create a uniformly conditioned air stream.
The vertical systems allow ductwork and diffusers to be connected easily so that sound from the fan and the moving air is distributed throughout the room, which more or less eliminates the sound altogether.
Morgenstern said, “These types of units have been our preferred solution since they came on the market. Being able to provide ducted supply systems to the classrooms allows better temperature control throughout an entire room—which was a huge win for the Lakeshore Schools.” The two-stage cooling keeps the units operating in the most efficient range possible at all times.
In the first school year since all the new unit ventilators were installed, White said the teachers had nothing but praise at the lack of noise, and the delivery of consistent temperatures—and conditioned fresh air—in the classrooms.
“The renovations have had a dramatic ‘ladder’ effect. The students are happy, not distracted, and learning . . . which in turn makes the teachers happy, making it easier for them to inspire the student body, which in turn makes the school board happy,” said White.