Sun Showers

As of August 2010, the camp hadn’t used the system for a full season. However, some general observations were made–the temperature of the water coming from the system can be viewed easily, and water coming into the water-heater tank in the building has been estimated at 85 F to 90 F. This is a sharp contrast to the more typical 45 F to 50 F water that would otherwise enter the tanks. Also, the propane-fired hot-water heaters are fired less often, and for a shorter duration.

The solar-thermal system was designed to offset approximately 60 percent of the typical fossil-fuel usage in the shower house. The hope is to confirm this reduction in propane usage, and declare that the sun’s energy has eliminated the need for approximately 3,000 cubic feet of propane per year. Additionally, it will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by over 10,000 pounds per year.

The total cost of the system was just over $48,000. It will pay for itself within 10 years, after which the camp will provide hot water at a minimal cost for the balance of the system’s lifespan, estimated to be 25 years.

Beyond the very real environmental benefits inherent in a solar-thermal system, another advantage of the highly visible and frequently used facility is to introduce an important message about appropriate technology. Staff members developed an interpretive panel that explains the system in easy-to-understand terms so that the importance of green building can be passed along to campers, seasonal staff and visitors.

Stu Weinreb is the Director of Capital Assets & Planning at Mass Audubon. He can be reached at

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Related posts:

  1. Weighing The Options
  2. Spray-Equipment Productivity
  3. Safety and Risk Management Checklist
  4. Perpetual Heat
  5. Catching Sunshine

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