Allegations That Low-Cost Solar Space Heating Systems Are Being Ruled Out in the Solar in Federal Buildings Demonstration Program

EMD-82-22: Published: Oct 28, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1981.

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GAO was asked to examine the validity of allegations concerning the use of low-cost solar space heating systems in the Solar in Federal Buildings Demonstration Program. The allegations contended that an agency arbitrarily recommended requirements which would effectively rule out the use of low-cost solar space heating systems in the program and did not properly evaluate the low-cost solar space heating system proposed for two of the projects prior to concluding that the system was unacceptable for the projects. GAO examined whether the agency's recommended requirements and its evaluation of the low-cost system in question were based on supporting criteria and data.

GAO found that the agency's recommended requirements and evaluation of the low-cost system in question were based on guidelines commonly used in the heating and cooling industry and on data collected by eight independent laboratories that test the performance of solar collectors. In addition, the agency's evaluation of the low-cost system was based on data collected by one of the eight laboratories and additional data which the agency collected specifically on the system. According to agency officials, the heat from solar space heating systems such as those proposed for the projects should meet a minimum temperature requirement, and the recommended minimum temperature and axis requirements ruled out the low-cost system proposed for the two projects which were located along the Canadian border because they did not meet these requirements. However, the agency said that the system might be suitable for other projects in the program in regions with milder climates. On one project, integrating the solar system with the present heating system would result in no savings to the Government from the use of the system because of alteration costs. Based on its analysis, the agency determined that the solar system would provide practically no heat during the winter months on the second project.

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