Magna – An Innovative Product, In the Hands of Innovators

The cutting edge research at Queen's University’s Solar Calorimetry Laboratory is an example of how innovation is shaping a more efficient and environmentally friendly future. Behind the stone walls of the institute’s McLaughlin Hall, students and industry leaders are designing net-zero, solar homes with the help of Grundfos MAGNA pumps.

Chris Hartwick, a Technical Sales Manager in Ontario, explores the project and recounts his experience while visiting the university this past spring:

"Recently the Solar Calorimetry Laboratory at Queen’s University purchased three Grundfos Magna pumps, and accepted a Grundfos donation for three more, so I visited them to see how these pumps were contributing to their research. What I found was that McLaughlin Hall, which hosts the lab, may have an old stone façade but the work being done within its walls is cutting edge.

Dr. Stephen Harrison and his team at Queen’s have done award winning research with solar energy. Their Solar Vehicle Team has a successful racing history and in 2000 set the Guiness World Record for the longest journey by a solar powered vehicle, 7044 km! The Solar Design Team has transitioned to buildings and their new mission is to build a net zero, solar home as part of their participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, which takes place in 2013.

Sean Seemann, one of five graduate students, and Dr. Harrison walked me through their work, which included a discussion on solar domestic hot water heating. But the highlight was a system testing solar powered heating and cooling using a liquid desiccants dehumidification process. Inside the lab, a steam heat exchanger simulates the heat load that would come from thermal solar panels.The two Grundfos Magna pumps play a key role, one each on the heating and cooling sides.

With the highly efficient pumps easily adjustable to variable speed, the lab can test the effectiveness of the process at different flow rates and temperatures and create a map of the inputs to determine the most efficient operating conditions. And according to Gary Johnson, who assists in running the laboratory, they will use serial communications, or the Grundfos Go Ipad Ap which will soon be released to control the pump and collect data.

They are working with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG), the Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centrer (GPCRC), and the Canadian Agricultural & Adaptation Program on a study in an effort to transition away from the highly inefficient climate control methods currently employed in this market.

Next, Nate Preston and Lisa Crofoot took me on a tour of their field site which houses five banks of solar thermal arrays. These are aligned in parallel and collect thermal energy into a glycol system pumped with the Magna. A dry cooler is used to dissipate the energy simulating a building load. They have completed their first heating season and the cooling system will also feature a liquid desiccant dehumidification process.

As Lisa explained, reliability for these pumps was also critical. The solar thermal array is going to collect energy, and the pump operation is mandatory to bring it to where it can be dumped. Because the site is remote, it is equipped with alarms that are sent directly to her phone if there is a problem.

The low energy use of the Magna pumps helps reduce the overall power consumption of the system and improves efficiency. Once they have benchmarked the system performance, different control strategies will be employed to maximize the thermal and electrical COP. The goal is to develop a solar heating and cooling system capable of residential or small commercial use.

I have seen first hand how HVAC engineers use Grundfos Magna pumps to optimize commercial building design. With small circulators capable of variable flow, new designs not only achieve better system control, but drastically minimize the energy use of the entire system. It was interesting to see how the Magna can also assist innovators such as Dr. Harrison and his team in their work and I was proud to share with them the story of Grundfos and our Innovation Intent.

I would like to thank Dr. Harrison, Sean, Gary, Nate and Lisa for taking the time to show me their work and hope we can continue to support them."

Chris Hartwick
Technical Sales Manager – Ontario
Grundfos Canada