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section 3 Detailed Design Storage Subsystem Design(A/C)- Page 3-121




The generation of thermal energy by solar air heating systems does not
always coincide with the energy demand or usage. To accommodate
this mismatch betweentime of generation and use, thermal storage sub-
systems are required. Storage subsystems function like accumulators,
storing excess energy generated by solar energy systems for later usage
when solar energy systems are not operating. Thermal storage subsys-
tems also provide interfacesbetween collector subsystems, space
heating, and service water heating systems. When energy usage is
matched closely to energy generation, e.g., high daytime load for 6 or 7
days per week, minimal or no thermal storage may be acceptable.
Design considerations include the following:
Storage subsystem design

. Thermal storage/sewice heating interface

Storage component requirements

. Design drawings and construction requirements i

Design reviews.

3.7.1 Pebble Bed Thermal Boxes containing uniformly sized pebbles or stones are typically used as
Storage the basic component of thermal storage subsystems of solar space
heating systems. During storage of excess thermal energy, heated air is
routed to the top of the pebble bed. Air passes downward through
spaces between pebbles and transfers thermal energy to the pebbles.
Because of the large exposed surface area of pebbles and limited
physical contact, pebble beds are progressively heated from top to
bottom. This provides good vertical temperature stratification within the
bed. Exit air temperatures from the bottom of the bed are usually at or
near room temperature. The low air temperature returning to the coliec-
tors is ideal because collectors will operate at near-optimum thermal

To withdraw energy from the pebble bed during nonoperation of collector

subsystems, cool return air from space heating systems is routed to the
bottom of the bed. Air temperatures increase as air flows upward.
During these thermal energy storage and release cycles, pebble beds
function as energy sinks, energy sources, and heat exchangers.

Pebble beds should be located at ground level within the heated space of
buildings. If beds are located underground, moisture will eventually
penetrate into the beds. If !ocated in unheated spaces, moisture will
condense on the cold pebbles. In either case, odors resulting from
bacteria growth and unsanitary storage conditions will become objection-
Section 3 Detailed Design Storage Subsvstem Llesi~dAIC)- Page 3-122 Sizing Thermal Storage For typical solar space heating systems, thermal storage capacity should
Capacity be adequate to store approximately two-thirds of the thermal energy that
collector subsystems can collect and deliver on a clear sunny day during
space heating seasons.

Assuming maximum solar energy collection of 800 Btu/(ft2aday)[9,120

kJ/(m2*day)]of collector on a mild winter day and 70°F (21OC) tempera-
ture increase in the thermal storage, the mass of pebbles required for
each square foot of caflector area is:

where: Typical specific heat of storage pebbles is 0.21 Btu/(lbm°F)

Additional pebbles must be added to the pebble bed storage to ensure
that pebbles at the bottom will remain near ambient room temperatures
all day. Accordingly, total pebble mass should be in the range of 50 to
75 Ib/ft2 (244 to 366 kg/m2)of gross collector array area. The larger
thermal storage capacity should be used whenever thermal load analysis
shows average daytime space heating load is less than 35% of daily

Packing factors for uniformly sized round pebbles are normally about
50%, and a typical specific weight for the pebble bed, including the
packing factor is, approximately 100 IbW (f ,600 kglm3). Thus, the
volume of the pebble bed thermal storage unit ranges from 0.50to 0.75
ft3/ft2(0.15 to 0.23 m3/m2)of gross collector array area for design pur-
poses. Inlet and outlet plenum volumes must be added to this 0.50 to
0.75ft3/ft2(0.15 to 0.23 m3/m2)pebble bed volume.
Configurations of pebble bed storage boxes to contain the required
volume of pebbles are compromises between conflicting design consid-

For example:

Vertical air flow promotes more uniform cross-sectional

flow distribution, but box height may be limited by avail-
able vertical space.

Higher head pressures are required to ensure uniform

cross-sectional flow distribution through pebble beds, but
higher pressures increase fan power requirements.

Larger inlet and outlet plenum volumes promote more

uniform flow distribution but increase overall box sizes
(length or height).

Increased depths of pebble beds improve temperature

stratification but increase total pressure head require-

Solar Design Manual

Seetion 3 - Detailed Design Storage Subsystem Design(AIC) - Page 3-123


The following guidelines should be used to address these requirements:

. Use vertical flow where possible.

Limit overall flow path through the pebble bed to 8 ft

(2,438mm) maximum.

Minimum bed depth should be 4 ft (1,219 mm) for 3/4- to

1 112-in. (19-to 38-mm) diameter pebbles.

Maximum total pressure losses through pebble beds

should be in the range of 0.15 to 0.30 in. (37 to 75 Pa) of
water. Use Table 3-21 for pressure loss data.

Limit velocity of air at pebble bed face to 20 Wmin

(0.1 0 m/s)maximum (total cf m + cross-sectional area).

Provide minimum depth or length of inlet and outlet

pienums equal to 10% of pebble bed depth.

Use round river stone if available, or clean, screened

concrete aggregate that passes a 1 1/2in. (38-mm)
screen and is retained on a 3/4-in. (19-mm) screen.
Review the source of the stones or aggregate to be sure
there is no chance of harmful radon generation.

Table 3-21. Pressure Loss in Pebble Beds (I-? Units)

Air Face Velocity Pressure Loss (in. WGlft length)

(wmln) 314-In. pebbles 1 11241. pebbles

1. For mixed sizes, use pressure drop for smaller site.
2. Data from "SolarHeating and Cooling of Residential Building
Design of Systems," 1980 Edition, US. Department of Commerce.

Table 3-21A. Pressurb Loss in Pebble Beds IS1 Units)

Air Face Velocity Pressure Loss (Pahnm length)

(mw 19-mrn pebbles 38-mm pebbles

~0te.s-sameas Tabla 3-21

Solar Design Manual

Section 3 Detailed Design Storage Subsystem Design(A/C) - Page 3-124 Pebble Bed Container Containers for vertical flow pebble storage boxes can be wooden framed
boxes, steel bins, reinforced poured concrete bins, reinforced concrete
block bins, or bins constructed fmm other appropriate materials. The
following factors are important and should be considered during the

Foundations tor containers must be capable of support-

ing total weight of boxes, including the container,
pebbles, and container insulation. Support pads shouId
be separated from the balance of concrete fkors or
Adequate supports for pebbles above lower plenums
must be provided. Metal screen or lath should be used
for this purpose. Supports for these screens should be
designed to minimize flow restrictions into or out of
plenums and pebble beds.

Openings for upper and lower plenums should provide

smooth flow transitions from or into connecting ducts to
minimize pressure head losses.

Side walls of containers must withstand lateral forces

from the pebbles' mass.

Air leakage into or out of containers should be mini-

mized. All joints should be sealed.

All surfaces, except the bottom plenum support, should

be insulated to R-10 (ft2*h*"F)/E3tu[I.8 (m2eoC)w.Rigid
insulation of R-4 (ft2*h*OF)/Btu[0.7 (m2-OC)/WIminimum
should be used to insulate the lower plenum from the
concrete support pad.

lnside surfaces of containers must be nonflarnmable.

Wooden boxes must be lined with nonflammable

A typical configuration of a pebble box is illustrated by Figure 3-42.

Constructiondetails of a framed wooden box are illustrated by Figure
3-43. Material requirements for a framed wooden box are listed in Table

If vertical flow pebble boxes cannot be installed, horizontalflow boxes

may be used. The additional design considerations are:
Internal horizontal supports and solid vertical baffles,
extending 4 to 6 in. (102 to 152 mm) from the top,
spaced approximately every 12 in. (305 mm) are
required, as illustrated by Figure 3-44, to eliminate open
channels near the top and prevent shunting of air flow
over the pebbles.

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Section 3 Detailed Design Storage Subsystem Design(A/C) - Page 3-125

The hot end, top, bottom, and sides of the pebble box
should be insulated to R-10 (ft2+0F)/Btu [1.76 (m2moC)/
WJ minimum. Cold ends of pebble box thermal storage
do not require insulation.

. Axial flow into and out of plenums is preferred to help

distribute flow over pebble bed faces.

Table 3-22. Framed Wooden Pebble Storage Box Requirements

All reinforcing ribs shall be dense, No. 1 Douglas Fir or Southern

Yellow Pine.

Plywood used shall be exterior grade plywood with the bonding glue
capable of withstanding continuously a temperature of 140°F (60°C)
for a 20-year period.

All vertical and horizontal structural support members shall be nailed

and glued to exterior grade plywood. All bonding glues shall meet
1 temperature specifications of item 2.

Connectors joining vertical ribs to bottom member must be capable

of withstanding the lateral thrust exerted by the rocks in the lower
part of the bed.

All timber in contact with concrete shall be coated with asphalt paint.

To provide a finished appearance, outer covers of the plywood

storage container shall be attached to reinforcing ribs with screws.
This exterior surface should be painted.

All joints, all timber-concrete contacts, and all cracks shall be

caulked with a silicone caulk. A 318-in. (10 mm) caulk bead is

Storage box shall be lined with fire-resistant material in conformity

with applicable codes. Storage Pebble and Preferred pebbles for thermal storage are rounded river stone of 3/4- to
Filling Requirements 1 1/2-in. (19 to 38 mm) diameter. Mixtures of crushed rock (screened
concrete aggregate) and pebbles this size that meet ASTM C-33 require-
ments for concrete aggregate may also be used. Sorted pebbles and
rocks should be washed per ASTM C-33 to remove all dirt, sand, dust,
and foreign materials and stored in clean, closed containers unlil used.
Insulated Walls

Hot Air Port /

Interior walls and ends
must be lined with

1 ft = 304.8 mm
1 in. = 25.4 mrn

. Metal Grate on Support

J I--. .I - z m

Figure 3-42. Typical Wood Vertical Pebble Storage Box

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Section 3 - Detailed Design Storage Subsystem Design(A/C) -Page 3-127

/ Ceiling

2 x 6 in. Verticals

2 in. Dead Air Space

Basement Floor

Figure 3-43. Cross Section of Typical Vertical Pebble Storage Box

Vertical Baffle
, Insulated Walls

Cold Air Port - Hot Air Port

Rigid insulation'"'."' \ Horizontal SuppoR

Figure 3-44. Typical I4oriaontal Pebble Storage Box

Solar Design Manual

Section 3 Detailed Design
Filling procedures for pebble boxes should specify the following:

Pebbles should be placed in the center of the box using

equipment to deliver the pebbles with minimum free fall
to avoid fracturing.

Pebbles should be loaded in increments to provide

layers approximately 6 in. (152 mm) deep.

After each loading increment, pebbles should be spread

carefully and evenly.

Temperature sensors in plenums and within boxes, if

required, must be installed during filling sequence.

Container tops shou!d be positioned and sealed to box


3.7.2 Thermal Storage/ Storage subsystems also provide interfaces between collector subsys-
Service Heating Interface tems and space heating and service water heating systems.

Figure 3-14 illustrates interfaces between collectors and heating sys-

tems. If various components; Le., motorized dampers, fans, and heat
exchangers for service water heating, can be integrated into air handler
units, overall designs are simplified but specially designed units are
required. Air handlers must be designed to minimize pressure head
losses during operational conditions of solar and nonsolar space heating

Ducting and control interfaces between solar storage systems and

service heating systems are covered in Section 3.8.

3.7.3 Storage Subsystem

Component Requirements Components Major components of storage subsystems include pebble bed thermal
storage boxes, ducting, filters, control dampers, backdraft dampers,
manual dampers, air handler units (if used), and air/water heat exchang-

Detail designs of storage subsystems are based on selected configura-

tions and performances of these components. Configurations and
performance requirements should be selected from the survey and
evaluation of currently available commercial components. Requirements
which are selected and used during the design process must be properly
documented to assure that configurations and expected performance of
components actually installed correspond to the design requirements.
This should be accomplished by specificationof pertinent requirements
on the appropriate component specification sheets provided in Section
4.3.3. Pebble Bed Thermal Thermal storage boxes are components that must be specifically de-
Storage Box signed for each application. Design requirements and guidelines for
fulfilling these requirements were discussed in Section 3.7.1. End items

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Section 3 Detailed Design
Storage Subsystem Design(A/C) -Page 3-129
of the design effort will be detail drawings which are used by solar energy
system installers to construct and fill storage boxes. Ducting Requirementsfor ducting for storage subsystems are the same as
ducting for collector subsystems (Section 3.6.2),except this ducting will
be used indoors and will not require weatherproofing of the insulation. Filter Assembly Filters are required on hot and cold air ducts delivering air to pebble beds
to prevent entry and accumulation of dust, lint, and other contaminants
into the pebbles. Filtration requirements should be the same as those
used for commercial HVAC applications. The net area of the filters
should be sized to limit face velocity (air flow divided by filter area) to 300
Wmin (2 Ws), or as recommended by filter manufacturer. If required
filter area is larger than the duct or if there is a mismatch of configura-
tions, transition slopes of the ducting between filter and ducts should be
provided. Filter assemblies should be designed for easy cleaning and re-
placement of filter elements with minimal air leakage around filter ele-
ments. Methods for indication of need for filter element replacements
should be provided. This indication may be local at filter units or a signal
to a remotely located indicator. In either case, indicators must be visible.

Specification requirements for filter assemblies include, but are not

limited to, those indicated in Section 4.3.3. Engineering judgment should
be used to determine values or inputs for parameters not discussed., Backdraft, and Control (motorized) dampers, backdraft dampers, and manual dampers
Manual Dampers required for subsystems should be nearly identical to those for collector
subsystems. The requirements discussed in Sections through are applicable. Airwater Heat The following conditions typically apply to service water heating options
Exchanger (Service Water Heat- included in the air collector solar space heating systems:
Airhvater heat exchangers are located in main flow paths
of air from the collectors to thermal storage boxes.

Setvice water heating is used only during nonspace

heating or low space heating demand seasons.
. Thermal energy delivery capabilities of collector subsys-
tems are much greater than service water heating
energy requirements.

An important requirement for heat exchangers is that their presence in

main flow paths must have minimal effects on the space heating perform-
ance of solar energy systems. Configurations must match closely cross
sections of flow passages, and coil arrangements and tube spacings
should limit pressure losses of air flowing through exchanger coils to
0.2 in. (50 Pa) of water. Thermal performance of heat exchangers or
heat transfer efficiency is of secondary importance to low pressure drop
across the air side.

If airlwater heat exchangers are located in bypass loop ducts, then

efficiencyof heat exchangers becomes more important. The require-
ments of such heat exchangers should be based on ;he desired service

Solar Design Manual

I water heating from the air temperatures of the available bypass air flow.

Specification requirements for air/water heat exchangers indude, but are

not limited to, those indicated in Section 4.3.3. Engineering judgment
should be used to determine any inputs or parameters not discussed. Components of Service Requirements of service water heating system components, except for
Water Heating Systems airlwater heat exchangers, are the same as similar components for liquid
system service water heating (Section 3.4.3). The same information and
requirements shouid be included in the air system component specifica-
tion sheets in Section 4.3.3.

3.7.4 Design Drawings and Design drawings and construction requirements generated during this
Construction Requirements phase must define physically the detail design, construction, and installa-
tion requirements of thermal storage subsystems. Minimum construction
and installationinformation and requirements should be reflected on
drawings or construction specifications. Where prevailing standards,
codes,and trade practices are applicable, they should be cited. As a
minimum, the following information must be included in the documents:
. Pebble Bed Thermal Storage Box

- Overall configurations with dimensions

- Materials, sizes, and shapes of various component
members, including grating to support the pebbles
- Methods for assembly of components into integrated
box assembly
- Sealing, finishing, and lining (if required) of interiors
and exteriors
- Materials, thicknesses, locations, and installation
methods for thermal insulation.
Thermal Storage Box Installation

- Locations and preparation of support bases for

storage boxes
- Installation and securing of boxes to support bases

- Physical requirements of pebbles

- Sorting and washing of pebbles
- Loading of pebbles into boxes

- Inspectionof pebble beds

- Closure and sealing of boxes
- Methods for attachment of hot and cold ducts.

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Section 3 Detailed Design
Storage Subsystem Design(A/C) -Page 3-131

. Ducting

- Ducting requirements fur storage subsystems should

be included in ducting drawings developed during
collector subsystem designs.
. Installation of Air Handlers (if used) or Related Corn-
- Location and methods for installation of units
- Fitup and attachment method for various interfacing
- Materials, thicknesses, and locations of thermal
Service Water Heating

- Requirements for sewice water heating documenta-

tion should be the same or similar to applicable
drawings and construction specifications discussed
in Section 3.4.4 for liquid collector service water
heating systems.

Const~ctionand installation requirements should be shown on the

various drawings, as applicable. Balance of requirements must be
included in appropriate sections of the construction specification de-
scribed in Section 4.3.3. Requirements for components to be procured
must be included in the specification worksheets in Section 4.3.3.

3.7.5 Design Review of Air Preliminary design reviews should be conducted in accordance with the
Thennal Storage Subsystems procedure in Section 3.10 when the following efforts have been com-
. Sizing of thermal storage capacity
. Selection of overall configurations and construction
method of thermal storage boxes
. Determination of permissible pressure losses through
pebble beds and other components

Preliminary selection of storage subsystem component


Questions and comments resulting from design reviews must be ad-

dressed and incorporated, as applicable, during design completion.

The final design reviews of this subsystem should be conducted in

conjunction with final reviews of collector subsystem and instrumentation
controls subsystem.

Solar Design Manual