Abstract A solar thermal cooling and heating system at Carnegie Mellon University was studied through its design, installation, modeling, and evaluation to deal with the question of how solar energy might most effectively be used in supplying energy for the operation of a building. This solar cooling and heating system incorporates 52 m 2 of linear parabolic trough solar collectors; a 16 kW double effect, water–lithium bromide (LiBr) absorption chiller, and a heat recovery heat exchanger with their circulation pumps and control valves. It generates chilled and heated water, dependent on the season, for space cooling and heating. This system is the smallest high temperature solar cooling system in the world. Till now, only this system of the kind has been successfully operated for more than one year. Performance of the system has been tested and the measured data were used to verify system performance models developed in the TRaNsient SYstem Simulation program (TRNSYS). On the basis of the installed solar system, base case performance models were programmed; and then they were modified and extended to investigate measures for improving system performance. The measures included changes in the area and orientation of the solar collectors, the inclusion of thermal storage in the system, changes in the pipe diameter and length, and various system operational control strategies. It was found that this solar thermal system could potentially supply 39% of cooling and 20% of heating energy for this building space in Pittsburgh, PA, if it included a properly sized storage tank and short, low diameter connecting pipes. Guidelines for the design and operation of an efficient and effective solar cooling and heating system for a given building space have been provided.