Archive for Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New solar panels to heat water at Douglas County Jail

Jeff Morrow, owner of Solar Heat Exchange Manufacturing, works on installing solar panels Tuesday outside the Douglas County Jail. The panels will be used to heat water at the jail.

Jeff Morrow, owner of Solar Heat Exchange Manufacturing, works on installing solar panels Tuesday outside the Douglas County Jail. The panels will be used to heat water at the jail.

June 15, 2010


Douglas County Jail installing solar panels to heat water

The installation is expected to save $18,000 from the jail's budget during the next 15 years. Enlarge video

Inmates soon will be washing their hands, cleaning their dishes and cleansing their bodies using water warmed by a new set of solar panels at the Douglas County Jail.

The system — using five solar panels installed out back — is powering a push for sustainability in the county’s public buildings and, by extension, among county residents, organizations and businesses.

“This is the first in what I hope will be many projects where the county will lead the way in managing its resources sustainably,” said Nancy Thellman, chairwoman of the Douglas County Commission. “It’s also a way of leading by example. Our hope is, little by little, it will inspire our citizens to make even little changes in their homes, because this is the way of the future.”

The current incarnation of the future angles up toward the southern sky: glass-encased water pipes made of copper and attached to thin strips of metal coated with thinner — even microscopic — strands of metallic paint.

Together, the system cycles 120 gallons of room-temperature water through each of the panels until it reaches temperatures of up to 180 degrees. The water then is pumped back into the jail, into a heat exchanger where another 120 gallons is warmed by the passing fluid.

The system is designed to produce 500 gallons of 120-degree water each day during the summer — enough to meet the building’s needs through May, June and July and still enough to cut into natural gas bills during colder weather.

Expected savings: $18,000 during the next 15 years, enough to pay off the system within a decade.

“It’s basically free heat,” said Eileen Horn, city-county sustainability coordinator.

The system is one of two being installed this week by Solar Heat Exchange Manufacturing, a Perry-based company founded three years ago. The other will serve the Douglas County Youth Services building in North Lawrence.

The combined $19,996 contract is the county’s first major move at Horn’s suggestion. On Wednesday, commissioners will consider buying a new boiler for the Douglas County Courthouse, one efficient enough to cover the unit’s $50,000 cost within nine years.

County buildings soon will be getting fluorescent light tubes that are thin enough to use 50 percent less energy, and the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center is awaiting adjustments to its air-handling units to boost efficiency.

Even chandeliers in the County Commission meeting room will be getting compact fluorescent bulbs to save energy.

“We’re pursuing all measures that have the shortest payback period first,” Horn said. “We’re getting more efficient.”


Clark Coan 7 years, 9 months ago

All new public buildings in Lawrence should be LEED Platinum-certified green buildings. That means all City, County, USD 497, KU, and HINU buildings. There is no excuse anymore. Look at these:

Kansas • 5.4.7 Arts Center, Sustainable Prototype, Greensburg, KS (LEED NC v2.2) • Bucklin Tractor & Implement (BTI), Greensburg, KS (LEED NC v2.2) • Greensburg Incubator, City of Greensburg, KS (LEED NC v2.2) • Private residences (8 attached units), Greensburg, KS (LEED H) • Private residence (Studio 804), Kansas City, KS (LEED H)

headdoctor 7 years, 9 months ago

Maybe in your mind there isn't an excuse but in reality the cost and sound economics says otherwise.

headdoctor 7 years, 9 months ago

O' come on One-eye. Don't you just get that warm fuzzy feeling all under that the tax payers are saving natural resources at a cost that will no doubt work out to be three times the price of conventional systems and usage costs? You know all those savings projections put out by the companies that build these systems are so accurate. Those estimates always include engineering under sizing, prolonged cloudy weather, premature system failure, maintenance, along with Kansas wind and hail storms.

Ray_Finkle 7 years, 9 months ago

Explain to me again why they need (deserve) hot water?

Dan Eyler 7 years, 9 months ago

As a conservative I don't have to big an issue with this decision to heat water using solar panels. If it was really necessary to budget this project and over the course of the next 15 years we can save a hundred bucks a month I'm all for it. What wasn't mentioned is what the other bids were. They may have not been as green but it could have saved the taxpayer 300 bucks a month. I think the bean counters need to go with the bid that saves us the most money for the taxpayer and green projects need to come down in price. The taxpayer shouldn't have to pay more for solar just to say we have solar.

EarthaKitt 7 years, 9 months ago

Maybe they got burned in a sting....

(I'm stretching it now, aren't I?)

headdoctor 7 years, 9 months ago

You get up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, Agnostick? I would have figured you had been an internet junkie long enough to be able to see when someone is poking a stick for a reaction. I am neither a bitter, puckered, sour old persimmon nor an "Anything-for-a buck" environmental rapists" but since you decided to go that direction, we can. I don't believe the environment should be raped but at the same time I am not going to rape my own finances for that feel good feeling all under.

I noticed below that you put up a link to Greensburg, Kansas. Give me Government and insurance money and free volunteers like they had in Greensburg and I will gladly convert some houses and buildings because without outside money and help doing the whole efficiency thing still isn't financially practical or possible for many, many people especially in older houses. New construction is a different matter.

As far as the jail program, it is great that they are making some improvements. Where I start scratching my head is there are systems out there for half of that price that are designed for small to medium houses, mostly small houses, that are not big enough to do the job. I have to wonder if the system they added will actually do what it is suppose to or if in reality all it did is add $18k the utility bill over the next several years.

headdoctor 7 years, 9 months ago

BTW, Agnostick, perhaps you should ask yourself the question. In principle, is there any real difference between those raping the environment who are doing it directly or those who under the disguise of efficiency are driving people away from being able to cut back on natural resources by insisting on gouging for high prices that people can not afford or that makes any financial sense to do?

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

down the temp of the hot water to 95degrees, buy fewer panels, save more $, energy and water. or is that cruel and unusual?

Kirk Larson 7 years, 9 months ago

The shrinkage might decrease the risk of soap droppage.

sherbert 7 years, 9 months ago

It does seem like a long time to recoup costs. Did the city get tax rebate/credits?

Clark Coan 7 years, 9 months ago

As Amory Lovins with the Rocky Mt. Institute says, you get far more bang for the buck through energy conservation than first going to renewable energy.

Richard Payton 7 years, 9 months ago

Does the soap get dropped more often in hot or cold water? The city may want to pay a consullting group to study this issue haha!

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

It's a good system, had one in my previous home worked like a charm and always had plenty of hot water for family of 6 on one 80 gal. heater ew/solar drainback system, but not too popular due to 4 year payback and $5-6K expense for starters. The folks, the minions ought to have it but live so close to the belt the initial $5K can't be rationalized. If there is extra money there are better returns on investment and pressing needs for the cash elsewhere.

The people that could benefit most aren't in the tax bracket where the 30% tax credit tips the scales.

I seem to recall, a couple decades ago, the tax credit was 50% or greater. There was a mini boom for solar but not now. It's there for those that can afford to be green.

Nothing wrong with poking fun at Larryville though, it keeps them honest.

Matt Schwartz 7 years, 9 months ago

I like the bicycle hooked up to batteries....nice idea....earn your keep , or take a cold shower.

Clint Church 7 years, 9 months ago

Wouldn't it be cheaper and easier to put in tankless water heaters and power them with the solar panels or better yet a wind turbine.

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