The Binnall House and its 134 apartments will be taking steps toward additional year-round efficiency with the replacement of aging solar panels in coming months.
(As seen in the Gardner News by Sam Bonacci, News Staff Writer)
Gardner -- The Binnall House and its 134 apartments will be taking steps toward additional year-round efficiency with the replacement of aging solar panels in coming months.
"This system was initially installed in the 1980s during the first energy crunch," said Ilene Mason of Rethinking Power Management, who is a consultant on the project. "We're replacing it with a system that could run year-round."
The Retirement Housing Foundation, which operates the downtown affordable housing facility, has been working on energy-saving measures at its facilities throughout the country, according to Ms. Mason. Much of the effort so far has focused on reducing energy and water consumption through lighting upgrades and new appliances, including the replacement of 840 refrigerators throughout the organization's New England properties.
"While we are looking across the properties at ... overall consumption, we are also looking at things that benefit the tenants," she said.
The panels and lines that run through the building will be replaced with a system that can run all year. Unlike solar photovoltaic systems that generate electricity, solar thermal systems are used to assist in the heating of hot water.
"It warms up a fluid ... and that fluid goes through a heat exchanger to preheat the domestic hot water," said Ms. Mason. "It is a fluid system instead of an electric system."
The racking system that holds the panels will be reused, reducing the cost of the project. The work will cost an estimated $90,000.
The panels will offset approximately half the cost for domestic hot water in the building, said Ms. Mason.
The changes will be funded through the Low Income Energy Affordability network, which receives stimulus funding as well as funding from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The project is the 22nd such effort being completed in the state through the program, said Ms. Mason.