Like most bodies of water in the state of Pennsylvania, Raystown Lake is man-made. It covers about 8,300 acres, making it the largest lake that lies entirely within the state.
Juniata College operates a field station on the west shore of the lake. Shuster Hall, the field station’s primary facility, is LEED accredited, based on its passive solar design and use of green technology, such as composting toilets. Classrooms, labs, common areas and kitchens are found inside.
Since its construction in 2004, Shuster Hall has been the main hub of activity for the 14 students that reside at the field station, and for a variety of other users who travel to the outpost from Juniata College’s main campus, in nearby Huntingdon.
“Shuster Hall, I believe, was the first ‘green’ classroom in the state,” said Chris Bomgardner, facilities supervisor for Raystown Field Station. “Components, like recycled plastic in the chairs, tables utilizing compressed straw, sustainably-grown timber were carefully selected based on its environmental impact.” Photovoltaic solar collectors were even added after construction.
Nearly every element has withstood the test of time; all except one. When the building was constructed, a row of windows atop the vaulted ceiling were outfitted with motorized actuators in order to provide passive cooling through the summer months.
Unfortunately, window parts failed and replacements became scarce. Within the last few years, the number of windows that were operational dwindled until the system was completely abandoned, and the windows remained closed. With its substantial solar gain, the college was in need of an alternative.
From Passive to Active
Facility maintenance staff looked at different window options without finding anything that fit their parameters. At that point, active cooling became a consideration, but only if the building’s environmental impact wouldn’t be altered dramatically.
“This past spring, we discussed ductless units,” said Bomgardner. “Kim Myers was recommended by other Facilities personnel. He’s well respected in the community, and his company, K.L. Myers Heating & Cooling, has done a number of projects at our main campus.”
K.L. Myers has served Huntingdon County and surrounding areas since 1974. About five years ago, Kim and his four employees stopped installing and servicing conventional HVAC equipment entirely to focus on ductless technology.
“The main room in Shuster Hall is about 2,000 sq.ft., with a 30-foot ceiling and quite a bit of solar gain through the windows,” said Meyers. “The numbers said we needed about 45,000 BTUs to cool it effectively. Heat wasn’t a consideration because the building has a propane-fired hydronic system.”
Myers technicians installed two, 24,000 BTU, 18 SEER Fujitsu Halcyon single-zone split systems, one on each end of the building. Given the grade of the landscape surrounding the building and the average snow load in the area, Myers hung the compressors on the wall of the building. Inside, the evaporators were installed about 10 feet off the ground.
“The decision to install the Fujitsu systems was based on our desire to implement sustainable technology whenever possible,” said Bomgardner. “We’ve seen only a marginal increase in electrical consumption, but with the cooling and humidity control provided by the split systems, it creates a much better environment than we had even when the windows were fully operational.”
More Flexible Space
“We’re now using the new system in more ways than we’d initially anticipated,” said Bomgardner. “At first, our only consideration was cooling, but we’ve begun using them for supplemental heating, which offsets our propane consumption.”
In the fall, staff members used the ductless units to warm up the main hall instead of firing the boiler. The units provide increased flexibility when heat is only needed in the main hall.
“I think one of the best things about the Halcyon units is the ability to rapidly change the room temperature depending on the use of the space, regardless of whether that’s in heating or cooling mode,” continued Bomgardner. “We’re very pleased with what Myers delivered.”
Despite being in a rural area, K.L. Myers installed 275 split systems last year. Part of their success has been an outstanding warranty program. As a Fujitsu Elite Contractor, Myers is able to offer a 12-year parts and compressor warranty with many Halcyon residential installations, provided the system is registered online. But they take it a step further by adding their own 12-year labor warranty on all installations.
The warranty and commitment to service isn’t lost on Juniata College. Bomgardner is planning to hire Myers to install two, three-zone heat pumps at a nearby farmhouse that serves as a retreat center for student groups and alumni, in addition to a meeting place for certain labs.
“The farmhouse was built in 1838, so the floor-plan is all chopped up with tiny rooms,” said Bomgardner. “After 180 years, the building will finally have a comfortable, efficient system.”