DALLAS — For the 110 years they’ve been around, Lennox has always strived to innovate.
Kicked off with the development of the first riveted steel furnace in 1895, the Dallas-based HVAC manufacturer and distributor continues its innovation goals with the recent announcement of their new solar-powered, renewable energy rooftop unit.
The SunSource commercial energy system rooftop unit requires no changes to a building’s electrical system and the panels do not have to be laid out on any particular grid, according to company officials.
“In typical systems that have been available, if one panel fails the entire grid fails — that’s not true with this new technology,” said Donna Peoples, the company’s regional K-12 account manager. “The greatest thing about it is that it’s so simple to install, many of the school districts can install their own in three to three-and-a-half hours.”
The unit offers cost-savings on utilities, as well as a “tremendous amount of money on their demand charges, which many times aren’t taken in to consideration,” Peoples said.
Schools can also use the solar rooftop system as a teaching tool in environmental science using a monitor that can be mounted in the classroom or at the district office.
“They can see exactly how many trees have been saved, how many cars have been eliminated from the road depending on their live data,” she said.
While all schools are on tight budgets and want to be friendly to the environment, Peoples said a cost-efficient way to go solar is to purchase rooftop units from the manufacturer solar-ready to meet all UL or ETL approval.
“It’s not something that can be retrofitted, so my suggestion for school districts that have an interest in solar is that when they replace the rooftop unit, order it solar-ready,” she said. “Because the cost is so nominal, if it’s standard voltage of 208/230 volts, it’s less than a $200 add to have it solar ready, and if five years down the road they want to add a solar panel or two or three, they can add it. It’s not something they have to do all at one time.”
Many utilities are also currently providing rebates on solar panel systems.
“One of my co-harts in Texas did a calculation with the cost of the panel and with what the rebate is through the utility — and then some have applied for grants which would further reduce the cost —but with what’s available today, a school district is only looking at actual 35 percent of the cost of the solar system in the state of Texas,” she said.
When looking at cost, Peoples also recommended taking longevity into account.
“Some manufacturers are manufacturing what I call throw-away units that have to be replaced in eight to 10 years, that’s the life expectancy,” she said. “The lowest expected life with Lennox is 17 years.”
Americo Garza, Energy Manager of Weslaco Independent School District in Weslaco, Texas said the district has had three Lennox HVAC rooftop units installed throughout the campus and has had no complaints.
“In our district, Weslaco, we take pride in trying to get top quality products and indoor air is certainly a priority,” he said. “So Lennox is performing, the units are doing really well.”
The district has 12 elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools.
While the district has not been able to monitor the direct cost-savings from the units due to the way the metering is set up, administrators saw an immediate difference in air quality when installing the new units.
“When we were replacing the units that had already given out on us, we installed the new units and we could feel the air was much fresher, much dryer and more crisp, so it certainly helps,” Garza said.