Written by Anonymous

Offset Your Oil-Guzzling Water Heater with Solar!

Offset Those Oil-Fired Water Heaters with SOLAR

Why oil-fired water heaters?  In many parts of the country there are no local gas lines for residential distribution.   In the Chesapeake Bay region where we operate, this issue is very common in the many river communities that are close to our world famous estuary.  The reason for this is primarily because there are so many peninsulas that don’t offer the high density to justify pipeline expenses.  In these areas, customers are forced to use other fuels like electricity, propane, and oil to heat their homes and domestic hot water.  This article will focus on the oil-fired boilers that are common in this region as well as in the Northeast US.

Cost of Gas Alternatives:  Many homes have heating boilers that run on fuel oil.  These boilers have tremendous heating power and can recover loads quickly.  They also tend to be relatively inefficient, dirty, and expensive to run.  Many of these boilers also have an on-demand water heating feature that adequately satisfies the household’s water heating load without the need for a standby tank.  This all sounds great except the price of home heating oil continues to climb with recent prices around $4/gallon on in our area.  To put that in perspective, the equivalent price for natural gas on an energy density basis would be about $1.00/gallon.  When oil users are paying 4 times the rate of those who have access to natural gas, they can hardly afford to be wasteful in how they operate their boilers.

Summertime Blues:  Here’s the dirty little secret about that on-demand oil-fired water heater on your boiler.  It is typically programmed to keep that big hunk of metal hot, all summer, waiting for you to call for hot water.  So a premium for your oil (compared to gas) is not the only thing you are paying for.  During summertime your air conditioner is competing with your heat-radiating oil-fired water heater.   So, here’s the way I – a not-so-proud owner of an oil heater – circumnavigated this issue:

My Solution:  I have solar photovoltaic (PV) on my home, but when I got into the solar business in 2008 the first thing I did was deploy solar water heating in my family’s home which allowed me to shut down our boiler for about half the year.  We also did some other control modifications for efficiency.  The first simple control is used to automatically reduce the boiler target temperature as the outside air temperature increases – for example, you don’t need 180 degree water to heat the house when its only 50 degrees outside.  Secondly, we converted the boiler to “cold start”, so it no longer wastefully heats on standby when we have a big tank of solar-heated water waiting to be used.  My family’s solar thermal system is slightly oversized (there are 3 forty square foot panels instead of 2) so that it could be integrated with our hydronic space heating system to give us a little space heating help from the sun.  [See our recent blog on combi-systems (hyperlink)].

So that’s the good news.  The GREAT news is that there has been absolutely no convenience impact on how we use hot water or space heating.  The system has saved us about $800/year in oil       expenses, the majority from offsetting our inefficient water heating, and the remainder from space heating.

Furthermore, the solar heating system is optimized in the summertime, all-but-negating the use of the oil-fired water heater.  The air conditioner has to work far less without having that heat-radiating boiler inside the home – like most are.

People are learning that different homes and circumstances often can benefit substantially more than others when you consider various renewable or energy efficiency technologies.  Oil fired water heaters are some of the sweetest low hanging fruit in solar.  In fact, I joke with my residential oil supplier that we should team up so he can get out in front of this trend that is eating into his oil sales.  He said, “no thanks – I’ll ride this as long as I can”.

If you forgot to make a new year’s resolution this year and you heat your home and your water with oil, then plant your flag!  If you’ve got some solar exposure, you must commit to get a free solar thermal assessment in 2014 and stop pouring money and finite resources down the drain.

Maryland Solar Company ,Commercial Solar Energy
Written by Lisa Walsh

Maryland Solar Pool Heaters – Top 10 FAQ’s

  1. Maryland Solar Company, Commercial Solar EnergyWhy Heat My Pool?
    Private swimming pools are a significant investment. As with any investment, it’s all about payback. A fully sized solar pool heater can raise the pool temperature 10 – 15 degrees, so many of our solar pool heating customers are able to swim from May until October – doubling their swim season, and doubling the payback on their swimming pool investment.
  2. How does a Solar Pool Heater work?
    Pool heating is the most fundamental use of solar energy. Much like when water is warmed in a garden hose, thin plastic solar pool collectors are custom-fitted to a nearby sunny roof. Automatically controlled pool water is pumped, using your existing pool pump, through the pool collectors and the heated water returns to the pool.
  3. How much does a Solar Pool Heater cost?
    A site visit (provided at no cost) is needed to provide an accurate cost proposal, as all pools, roofs and solar exposure levels are different. However, based on experience – most systems have an installation cost of $13 – $16 per square foot of collector area. This area size is equal to at least HALF of the surface area of the pool. (i.e. a 18’ x 36’ pool has a surface area of 648’ sq. ft. Therefore the homeowner would need at least 324 sq. ft of solar pool collectors).
  4. How does the cost of buying a solar pool heater compare with heat pumps?
    The upfront cost of installing a solar pool heater is much the same as installing a heat pump. However, with a heat pump the homeowner will continue to have elevated utility bills, whereas solar energy is free.
  5. Can community pools be solar-heated?
    Yes. The main requirement is a large enough nearby roof to house the solar collectors. Collectors can also be ground mounted if the facility has a large enough, unused ground area nearby.
  6. Can the solar collectors also be used to heat my home’s water tank?
    No. The solar collectors used for i) domestic water heating and   ii) solar electric are entirely different both from each other, as well as pool heating collectors. SES installs all three types of solar energy and can provide proposals for each.
  7. What about maintenance? Do I have to hire anyone to open or close the pool heater?
    Solar pool heaters require no regular maintenance. They are simply opened and closed with your pool at the beginning and end of each season. The panels drain automatically.
  8. Will the solar collectors hurt my roof?
    No. In fact, the collectors are made from a strong polymer compound that actually serves to protect your roof from the elements.
  9. How long can I expect my solar pool heater to last?
    We use Solar Industries (Aquatherm) pool collectors which were tested and survived a grueling 23 year life expectancy test performed in the Arizona desert.   In addition, Solar Industries offers the strongest warranty in the industry.
  10. How long does the installation take?
    Most installations take a single day, but sometimes two.
Solar Service,Commercial Solar Energy
Written by Lisa Walsh

Annapolis Restaurant Harry Browne’s Installs Solar Water Heater

Commercial Solar Energy,Solar ServiceSlowly but surely the skyline on Annapolis’ State Circle is starting to change. First, the Governor’s Mansion in 2009 and just this month, the ever-popular Harry Browne’s Restaurant (http://www.harrybrownes.com) has joined the ranks of businesses jumping on the solar bandwagon. Not only an enthusiastic and self-professed carbon footprint reducer, Rusty Romo, Harry Browne’s owner since 1979, is a savvy businessman, “Although I have a vested interest in reducing my carbon footprint, there’s no question that the solid Return on Investment was the final straw in deciding to install a solar water heater.” This viewpoint extends throughout Rusty’s business dealings, particular with regards to his restaurant’s waste production. Prior to January of 2012, annual trash pick up was costing the restaurant around $13,000 per year. That cost has now been reduced to $4000 due to Rusty’s implementation of two recycling solutions: 1) Veterans Composting visits several times per week to pick up all of the restaurant’s food waste turning it into compost for farmers, gardeners and landscapers. 2) A Cardboard baler compresses all of the restaurant’s cardboard, hugely reducing the bulk for taking to a dumpster storage facility where it is pulled and weighed. Harry Browne’s averages at least two tons every twenty eight days. Depending on the market cost, cardboard reclamation pays him from $30 – $100 per ton. Restaurants have a large hot water load, and Harry Browne’s is no exception. The 250-seat restaurant easily consumes the 160 gallons of hot water per day provided by the solar water heating system installed by Millersville based Solar Energy Services, Inc. (solarsaves.net) The system includes two, 30-tube solar collectors, (approved by the Historic Commission), mounted on a flat roof in the back of the restaurant. These panels are joined, via a copper pipe run and pump control unit to two, 80g stone-lined water tanks in the basement. The solar system acts as a pre-heat to Harry Browne’s conventional gas system, offsetting around 50% of his annual hot water load.

ABOUT SOLAR WATER HEATERS and SES, Inc.

Solar water heaters are a time-tested, mature technology that are deployed every day by Solar Energy Services, Inc. (SES) of Millersville (solarsaves.net). In addition to restaurants, apartment buildings, universities, carwashes, detention centers and other government and institutional buildings continue to expand SES’s customer list. Roger Perry, a 35-year solar veteran and partner at Solar Energy Services, Inc., is still servicing solar water heating systems that he installed during the early eighties. Roger notes that “Given current financial incentives, solar water heaters are a no-brainer for any business in MD and DC that has a daily hot water load.”

Commercial Solar Energy, Solar Energy Services
Written by Anonymous

Assisted Living Complex Installs Solar Water Heater

Commercial Solar Energy, Solar Energy ServicesGLEN BURNIE, MD:  Glen Square, a senior assisted-living complex in the heart of Glen Burnie, MD now have a solar water heating system that will offset a large portion of their natural gas water heating system.

The solar system is financed by Skyline Innovations, Inc., a Washington, DC based third party solar developer, who engaged Solar Energy Services of Millersville, MD to design and install the 42 panel solar thermal system.

solar services, installation, Commercial Solar Energy, Residential Solar Panels
Written by Anonymous

Capital Manor Housing Cooperative Goes Solar Thermal

solar energy, Solar Service,installationWASHINGTON, DC:  Earlier this week Solar Energy Services, Inc. completed the installation of a solar water heating system on Capital Manor Cooperative’s residence building on the 1400 block of W Street in Northwest Washington, DC.

SES was engaged by third party solar developer, Skyline Innovations, earlier this year to design and install the solar water heating system consisting of 48 evacuted tube solar arrays and three, 1,500 gallon solar storage tanks.

Commercial Solar Service,Residential Solar Panels
Written by Anonymous

Commercial Solar Water Heating on the Rise

Residential Solar Panels,Commercial Solar ServiceWhile still a relatively well kept secret among the general public, large scale solar water heating is popping up in more and more places. While this technology is relatively mature, the practical deployment is still in its infancy.

While we’ve seen lots of growth in recent years, what is holding back solar water heating? Three things actually: Awareness, Cheap natural gas, and Inertia.

We’re overcoming the awareness challenge slowly but surely. Every week there is another article in the trade press about a prison, dormitory, military barracks, restaurant or health care facility adopting this valuable technology. These systems are piquing the interest of facilities managers, engineers, and architects on the demand side and mechanical contractors and manufacturers on the supply side; helping to raise awareness among the traditional commercial water heating business community. This is particularly the case in markets like Washington DC, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, and California where solar water heating systems benefit from the existing solar PV incentive markets.

Cheap natural gas. I’ve written on this before, but it’s worth repeating. Today’s wholesale natural gas prices are close to a ten year low, and more than 75% below their most recent peak in July of 2008. Recent data indicates that prices are trending up again, but the current low price combined with economic uncertainty has facility managers and CFOs hesitating until they can see a faster payback on a solar water heating investment. While a 4 year payback may not seem enticing in today’s economy, the problem with waiting for the inevitable price increase of natural gas is that you forgo some of the best incentives existing today that will surely be lower or absent in the future. Remember, the solar fuel is free in the future, so increasing gas prices will only improve the economic return in the future.

Inertia is one of the most powerful social forces I know. It plays a huge role here. As engineers and architects continue to gain experience and confidence in specifying SWH systems, volume will continue to drive down costs in much the same way that we have seen with solar PV. The federal government has required the use of SWH on all of their new construction, if feasible. The number of contractors who are capable of installing and servicing these systems continues to increase, giving prospective system owners’ confidence that the systems will not be supported in the future.

Below are a few links highlighting some commercial systems recently commissioned in the U.S. Read on and learn how commonplace this simple technology is becoming.

Written by Anonymous

Annapolis, MD: Housing Authority Installs Solar Water Heating System

AGING PUBLIC HOUSING BUILDINGS IN ANNAPOLIS GET NEW SOLAR PANELS

At one of Annapolis’ public housing buildings last week, new solar panels on the roof collected energy to heat hot water for more than two dozen apartments below.

Written by Anonymous

Annapolis, MD: Housing Authority Installs Solar Water Heating System

by Erin Cox:  The Baltimore Sun

At one of Annapolis’ public housing buildings last week, new solar panels on the roof collected energy to heat hot water for more than two dozen apartments below.

Commercial Solar Energy Residential Solar Panels
Written by Roger Perry

Would that be One Tank or Two, madam?

Solar veteran Roger Perry discusses the pros and cons of One Tank Vs Two for Solar Back-up

Commercial Solar Energy ,Residential Solar PanelsAll solar water heaters in Maryland, D.C. and the mid-atlantic provide a family of four with around 75% of their annual hot water load. Most customers use their existing electric or gas sources for the remaining 25% backup (usually needed dead winter). When installing a solar system one question that will come up is “Should I use my existing tank and have it fed by the solar system?” or “Should I remove my existing tank and use the electric back-up that comes in the solar tank?”. A couple of situations make this an easy decision;

  1. An existing electric water heater with no room for another tank. This is especially satisfying and cost effective if the existing tank is leaking or on it’s last legs. It’s like getting $1500 off the cost of a solar system because that money would have needed to be spent anyway. In this case you would definitely chose a single tank system.
  2. The other is if you have a gas water heater. While not as cut and dry as the example above, using the electric element would mean using a higher cost fuel for back-up (not so much with propane). Much of this extra cost would be mitigated because the single tank back-up would not run as much because it would be affected by solar input without running a faucet. You would need to run an electric circuit (30 amp, double pole breaker). This may be difficult or very easy depending on the breaker box location and available space in it. Most jurisdictions will also require a master electrician and a permit for this to be done. In this case, I think, most people would shy away from a single tank system unless there was just no room for another tank.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each system;

SINGLE TANK PROS

  • Smaller footprint
  • Less heat loss
  • Electric element can sense the solar output and not come on from stand-by losses
  • Can go “all solar” just by turning off the element (essentially flipping a switch).

SINGLE TANK CONS

  • Less back-up in cloudy weather (can be compensated with a larger solar tank which will have a larger back-up capacity).
  • Less solar storage when the element is on (can be compensated for with a larger solar tank which will have more solar storage).

TWO TANK PROS

  • Usually greater back-up capacity

TWO TANK CONS

  • Greater heat loss
  • Larger footprint

The secondary backup tank can’t sense the primary solar tank temperature unless a faucet is turned on, sending the water through the two-tank system.  This causes the second tank to turn on from stand-by losses when the primary solar tank is already plenty hot.

Going all solar requires operating valves as well as turning off back-up.

Personally I’m a fan of single tank systems. For the most part their two main drawbacks can be compensated for by installing a larger tank. An upgrade from a 80 to a 120 gallon solar tank is only a few hundred dollars. For a 50% increase in solar storage it is a small price to pay.

solar water heating, solar energy, residential solar panel
Written by Lisa Walsh

Question of the Week: Why Does My Solar Water Heater Run At Night?

solar water heating, solar energy, residential solar panel“If my collector is at 136 degrees, my TST (bottom of tank temperature) is at 161 degrees and my S3 (top of the tank temperature) is at 154 degrees – why is my circulator pump still running? Won’t this cool the bottom of the tank?”

SES says: The pump runs intermittently for a minute periodically when the collectors reach 240 degrees. This keeps the collectors from overheating. Your maximum tank temperature is set to 160. If the bottom sensor, the TST reading, exceeds 160 degrees, the controller will run the pump briefly in the evening to bring the tank temperature back down to 160.

It has been our experience that setting the max temp higher than 160 leads to overheating problems. Yes, you are losing a little heat from the tank when the cooling feature comes on, but at this time of year it is excess heat. You are producing much more hot water than you are using at this time. This is the summer solstice; the collector and tank temperatures will moderate in a few months. Some customers add an extra loop to their solar tank and use that excess heat to heat a swimming pool or hot tub. Most just use control features to manage the excess heat.

Don’t worry about the power consumption. The Grundfos Alpha pump only uses about 5 Watts whether heating or cooling the tank.

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