Testing the solar waters
Owner of Glen Burnie apartments tries a little sun power
Maryland Management spends more $2 million heating hot water for the tenants of Crain Court Apartments each year. Company President Jim Clauson decided to do something about it.
In what Clauson and others say could be the largest project of its kind in the county, the firm is having two different solar hot water heating systems installed in two of its buildings in the complex off Crain Highway in Glen Burnie.
Once Clauson has had sufficient time to see which system works the best, he plans to install them in his other complexes around the area – potentially providing solar-heated water for up to 9,400 apartments.
John Love, owner of Severn-based Love’s Heating & Air, said this is the largest solar hot water system he’s ever installed.
“Our systems should give him no less than 50 percent or better reduction on each building we do,” he said. “Our goal is 70 percent.”
The two systems, which include 1,000 called solar evacuated tubes instead of solar panels, went live on Wednesday.
The specially coated, glass tubes are installed in a holding mechanism on the rooftop of the apartment buildings. Sunlight hits the coating, which in turn heats a copper rod inside the tube.
The rod sticks out of the end of the tube, touching a copper pipe that runs to the hot water system. The pipe contains a water/antifreeze solution, which transfers the heat to water stored in tanks.
Both systems, which each have different design elements, have two back up 120-gallon hot water tanks in case the water needs to be heated more before it goes to the apartments.
Clauson estimated the two-building pilot project at Crain Court Apartments, which has 126 apartments, will cost his company about $100,000.
With a 30 percent Federal tax credit and possible state grants, Love said Clauson could expect to be earn his expenses back within four years.
Normally, a management company would hire a contractor like Love and that contractor would purchase and install the solar tubes. In this case, Clauson bought the tubes from two different manufacturers so he could each out. Those suppliers referred him to Love.
“The tubes are much more efficient in what they produce,” Clauson said. “The biggest bang for the buck.”
Nate Greenleaf, a technician from manufacturer Eos Solar, is working as technical advisor on the project. He said solar panels are simply outdated.
“In 60 degree or less weather, a flat panel will lose its heat back to the cold ambient air,” he said. “Because a vacuum tube acts like a thermos bottle, the energy isn’t lost.”
Copyright © 2009 The Maryland Gazette and Capital Gazette Communications, Inc.