The paper presents a study of the performance of an active solar thermal heating and cooling system for small buildings. The work is motivated by the need for finding sustainable alternatives for building applications that are climate adaptable. The energy demand for heating and cooling needs in residential and light commercial buildings in mid-latitudes represent more than 50% of the energy consumed annually by these buildings. Solar thermal energy represents an untapped opportunity to address this challenge with sustainable solutions. Direct heating could be a source for space heating and hot water, and for heat operated cooling systems to provide space cooling. However, a key limitation in mainstreaming solar thermal for heating and cooling has been the size of thermal storage to implement related technologies. We address this issue by coupling a Phase Change Material (PCM) with an adsorption chiller and a radiant flooring system for year round solar thermal energy utilization in Northern climates. The adsorption chiller allows for chill water production driven by low temperature solar thermal energy for summer cooling, and low temperature radiant heating provides for space heating in winter conditions, while hot water demand is supplied year round. These active systems are operated by high performance solar thermal collectors. The PCM has been selected to match temperatures requirements of the adsorption chiller, and the tank was designed to provide three levels of temperatures for all applications; cooling, heating, and hot water. The material selection is paraffin sandwiched with a graphite matrix to increase the conductivity.
The specific objective of the preset work is to provide a system optimization of this active system. The system is represented by a series of mathematical models for each component; PCM tank with heat exchangers, the adsorption machine, the radiant floor, and the solar thermal collectors (Evacuated tubular collectors). The PCM modeling allows for sensible heating, phase change process, and superheating. Parametric simulations are conducted for a defined small building in different locations in US with the objective of defining design parameters for; optimal solar collector array, sizing of the PCM tank, and performance of the adsorption machine and radiant heating system. The monthly and annual solar fractions of the system are also reported.