The thermal and heat transfer characteristics of lauric acid during the melting and solidification processes were determined experimentally in a vertical double pipe energy storage system. In this study, three important subjects were addressed. The first one is temperature distributions and temporal temperature variations in the radial and axial distances in the phase change material (PCM) during phase change processes. The second one is the thermal characteristics of the lauric acid, which include total melting and total solidification times, the nature of heat transfer in melted and solidified PCM and the effect of Reynolds and Stefan numbers as inlet heat transfer fluid (HTF) conditions on the phase transition parameters. The final one is to calculate the heat transfer coefficient and the heat flow rate and also discuss the role of Reynolds and Stefan numbers on the heat transfer parameters. The experimental results proved that the PCM melts and solidifies congruently, and the melting and solidification front moved from the outer wall of the HTF pipe (HTFP) to the inner wall of the PCM container in radial distances as the melting front moved from the top to the bottom of the PCM container in axial distances. However, it was difficult to establish the solidification proceeding at the axial distances in the PCM. Though natural convection in the liquid phase played a dominant role during the melting process due to buoyancy effects, the solidification process was controlled by conduction heat transfer, and it was slowed by the conduction thermal resistance through the solidified layer. The results also indicated that the average heat transfer coefficient and the heat flow rate were affected by varying the Reynolds and Stefan numbers more during the melting process than during the solidification process due to the natural convection effect during the melting process. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.