Over $1 billion per year is currently being wasted on excess energy in apartment units in Texas. 70% of living units suffer from outdated and inefficient Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems used to provide space heating, cooling, and hot water. An interdisciplinary team of senior undergraduates from Stevens Institute of Technology has designed a unique hybrid water heating solution to vastly improve MEP systems in apartments throughout Texas.
Named Lone Star, the team of six comes from a diverse set of training and backgrounds including Systems, Electrical, Mechanical, Civil and Sustainable Engineering. Lone Star’s members are Frank Belardo, Caitlin Early, Samantha Rems, Daniel Richards, Jacqueline Riddle, and Richard Wengenroth.
The team is also sponsored by Thomas Velky, an alumnus of Stevens with over 35 years of experience in real estate development. Mr. Velky provided Lone Star an aging 100-unit apartment complex in Fort Worth, Texas to develop and pilot its innovative and cost-saving energy system. “Mr. Velky flew us to Fort Worth to conduct an on-site analysis and customize the design to meet the specific needs of the property,” says Caitlin.
“Lone Star has done an amazing job developing a system to reduce the utility costs for these units making them energy efficient and therefore lowering the rents,” says Dr. Leslie Brunell, the team’s faculty adviser. “By providing quality housing at an affordable price, Mr. Velky and Lone Star contribute to the community and help those who are economically disadvantaged.”
They culled each member’s expertise in their respected fields of engineering by designing a system for hot potable water as well as a space heating system. The upgraded water and space heating systems reduces energy consumption by nearly 50% and will save each apartment unit at least $1,200 per year in energy costs. For the initial testing phase, the system will be installed in one building of the apartment complex.
“The water heating system is implemented for both drinking water and space heating systems. Our design combines tank-less water heaters with a separate set of innovatively designed storage tanks that are well insulated to keep the water hot without the assistance of gas or electricity,” says Jacqueline. “The space heating system is done through a tank-less closed loop system that runs throughout the complex.”
Currently there is a single central system that runs through all the buildings in the complex, which is inefficient and prone to breaking down. “We will implement one system in each building, saving a significant amount of energy and improving reliability,” says Daniel.
Lone Star’s new system will be installed this summer and the results of the trial will be collected by the end of the year. A few members of Lone Star have been hired by Mr. Velky to continue to improve the system’s design beyond graduation and install it in apartment buildings and complexes throughout Texas.