Firehouses Add Solar Hot Water Heaters

nyfdFive solar hot water heaters added to New York City buildings may not sound like much, but this could be the beginning of something much larger. The five are firehouses in the Rockaways section of Queens, which had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Four suffered extensive flooding that required repairs basement equipment like furnaces and boilers. The installation was celebrated in a Natural Resources Defense Council blog.

The firehouses are ideal sites for solar hot water heating, where demand is high. And the solar thermal systems make each facility independent of the existing natural gas lines. The city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services initiated and financed the project.

Current solar hot water heaters are based on 100-year-old technology. Water from the building is piped up to the roof and then through a series of panels containing evacuated glass tubes. The water absorbs the heat of the sun, and then is piped down to a basement storage tank.

At the city’s St. Mary’s recreation center in the South Bronx, where a solar hot water system provides hot water for showers and the pool, the city is saving $39,000 a year on energy and cutting the complex’s carbon footprint by 141 tons a year.

The city, which owns almost 4,000 buildings and other facilities, is exploring how the technology might work in other buildings with large hot-water usage.

Between 2005 and 2012, under Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, greenhouse gas pollution from New York City government operations dropped by 19 percent, putting the city about two-thirds of the way to its 2030 goal.

Photo: emilydickinsonridesabmx Flickr photostream

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