Heat pump/solar thermal combination for Caritas Children's Village

The Caritas Children‘s Village (Photo: Ratiotherm)
The Caritas Children‘s Village (Photo: Ratiotherm)

Ratiotherm, a company which specialises in renewable heating and storage, has upgraded the heating system of the Caritas Children's Village in Marienstein, Germany, and is relying entirely on solar panels and heat pumps. The village consists of eight buildings, which provide space for residential and day centres for children with special education needs, therapy and counselling facilities, and a private elementary and secondary school. Around 190 children and youths are here every day with their care-givers.

Up till now, the village was supplied by a gas burner that distributes heat via a 40-year-old heating network. "On our first visit to the Village, we could immediately see how drastic the heat loss caused by the heating network was: You could see where the lines passed underground, because the snow had melted there," recalls Alfons Kruck, Head of Research and Development and founder of Ratiotherm.

Core elements of the new heating system are seven OSKAR stratified storage tanks with 740 to 2,000 L volume. The heat generated by solar panels and heat pumps is stored in a decentralised way in these. The solar heating system, which is distributed over several buildings, has a total collector area of over 130 square metres.  The storage tanks are also equipped with fresh water stations that cover the requirement of about 4,750 litres of drinking water a day.

High temperatures are fed directly into the heating and storage tanks. If the solar heating systems produce less than 40 °C, however, they augment the 13 OSKAR-MAX-SOL² hybrid heat pumps. These use the solar heat in their refrigeration circuit to raise the temperature of the evaporator, which increases its efficiency by up to 30%. 

This way, the gas boiler only has to be fired up at very low temperatures; the thermal network can be switched off completely from spring to autumn. Gas consumption is expected to fall to 80,000 cubic metres, down from 220,000 cubic metres, which is a saving of about 63%.

A large and complex system like this one, of course, is not without complex control technology. A customized control system ensures the seamless supply of each individual building. A building management system is installed in the middle of the village, which centrally records and controls all of the energy used.

Jan Gesthuizen

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