Administrators at the University of California at Santa Barbara were looking for a way to save money and energy at the sprawling campus located along the Pacific.

The college, which was chartered as a land grant college in 1868 and has been part of the California university system since 1944. Other campuses include Berkeley, Davis, Hastings College of Law, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. Currently, 17,700 undergraduates and 2,300 graduate students attend the campus in Santa Barbara.

Virtual Chiller Plant

Although the university's current system was not having any performance problems, the university's consultants determined that instead of running eight chillers in different buildings on partial loads, money could be saved by running only three at full load. To accomplish this, the university created a virtual, central chilled-water plant by connecting several individual systems into one. The chillers are staged on demand saving energy and increasing efficiency.

For help in protecting the university's new investment, the project's consulting engineering firm, Verle A. Williams & Associates (San Diego), specified a Spirovent(r) combination air-dirt separator for the new system, beginning with the library chiller. The Spirovent is manufactured by Spirotherm, Inc. (Glendale Heights, IL). DB Sales & Service (Garden Grove, CA) was the manufacturer's representative on the project and Amelco (Los Angeles) served as the mechanical contractor.

According to Dan Jacobson, Spirotherm spokesman, the chiller project is ongoing and Spirotherm is furnishing separators for other chillers involved in the project on campus.

Construction began in January 2000, at the time of year when the chillers on campus are used far less because of California's cool temperatures in the winter, said Jacobson. "The unit was shipped in January and installed within a few weeks," he said.

Separating Dirt

According to Jacobson, the Spirovent uses a patented coalescing medium that fills the vessel and scrubs the air from the system fluid.

"The medium then provides a turbulence-free area to allow air bubbles to rise and dirt and sediment to fall into the collection chamber," he said. This is done to prevent noise and air binding in the piping. Air-free water is also more heat transfer efficient than an air-to-water mixture, Jacobson added.

Because of space constraints in the installation area, Spirotherm designed and provided a custom-built unit, which, while fitting the jobsite requirements, also maintained the correct coalescing surface requirements, said Jacobson. The ultimate size of the Spirovent used in the library chiller was 14 in.

Good Grades

The separators are up to the task at hand. Shortly after the new system went online, Ed Marini, the project manager, said, "The unit is already pulling out dirt and sediment from the piping. A combination of construction debris and sediment from flushing the system resulted in dirt particles the size of my thumb." He added that he is "satisfied with the performance and would like to see Spirovents on all new chillers."

According to Jacobson, the University of California at Santa Barbara was the ideal application in which to use the Spirovent and the separator has been used extensively in schools, colleges, and universities throughout North America. ES