C.A.R.E.’s Solar Hot Water System Saves Money & Helps Environment

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A solar panel array on the roof of Community Animal Rescue Effort’s Adoption Center at 4927 Main Street, Skokie, may not be the most “adorable” part of the building (our cats and dogs wear that crown!). But those solar panels, purchased with the support of a generous grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and installed by Solar Service, Niles, Ill., are helping reduce C.A.R.E.’s utility bill considerably while preventing tons of carbon dioxide emissions from being released into the environment.

The solar system produces about 200 gals. of hot water per day or 80,000 gals. per year, reducing the demand for natural gas and saving money for the all-volunteer run organization.

Hot water and constant cleaning are an essential part of animal rescue. C.A.R.E. Adoption Center volunteers rely on ample hot water for daily loads of laundry, for bathing dogs, and for cleaning dog kennels, cat areas, and floors throughout the 10,000 sq. ft. building. To further save on water and heating bills, C.A.R.E. invested in high-efficiency front-loading washing machines, which handle eight to 10 loads of dog and cat bedding and towels each day.

“The sun provides free heating power, so why burn fossil fuels when sunshine can do the job?” says C.A.R.E. Past-President Linda Gelb, who oversaw planning and construction of the Adoption Center. ”C.A.R.E. is an all-volunteer organization with roots deep in our community. We are conscientious of our perception by the public and work hard to set a good example.”

The Nitty-Gritty Solar Details

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The Adoption Center’s solar hot water system consists of six flat plate solar collectors mounted on the south-facing roof above the kennel. The panels are connected by tubing to two large hot water tanks in the mechanical room below. Glycol fluid is circulated through tubes in the solar collectors where it is warmed by the sun. The solar-heated glycol travels down to our mechanical room into one side of a heat exchanger. A pump circulates cold water on the other side of that heat exchanger, so that heat from the glycol transfers to the water with each pass. The cooled glycol is pumped back up to the panels to be reheated, and the now-hot water is stored in two 119-gal. storage tanks.

Any time a hot water tap is opened, it comes from the solar-heated water tanks. In the event that the solar system cannot keep up with demand for hot water, C.A.R.E. can supplement with a gas-fired 50-gal. energy-efficient hot water heater. The system is designed to be fully automatic, and requires minimal maintenance outside of a yearly check-up.