Solar solutions for building owners

Cost-effective renewable energy, heat recovery growing in demand
Monday, July 29, 2013
By Roger Huber

For years, the sun’s energy has been harnessed to provide building heat and electrical energy. With new technology such as computer energy management controls, heating and cooling pumps, and ground source and heat recovery methods, solar panel energy is boosted, energy systems are even more efficient and a building can use and reuse its renewable energy sources while saving up to 65 per cent on gas and hydro bills.

Solar water heating systems are not only environmentally-friendly, significantly reducing the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, but they also save money.

Commercial installations are especially cost-effective for properties like multi-family buildings, hotels, hospitals, public pools and student residences that use a great deal of hot water and electricity.

At the same time, commercial buildings are encouraged to recover heat that is often wasted and that could considerably reduce their energy costs. Multi-residential buildings, hotels and pools that have to be heated 24-7 can often see a complete recovery of initial costs in three to five years.

Commercial buildings have large hot water consumption for domestic hot water, indoor/outdoor pools and laundry, so a heat recovery system would be greatly beneficial.

Waste heat recovery is an exciting renewable energy technology. Waste heat recovery units are an energy recovery heat exchanger that recovers heat from hot streams such as cooling towers, or air conditioners, drain water, sewers and diesel generators. Waste heat recovery units add to the efficiency of building energy needs, decreasing the cost of fuel and energy consumption, as well as dramatically reducing thermal and air pollution since most of the energy is recycled.

The best heat source for waste recovery is water, either drain water or ground water from a well, river or lake. Hotels, multi-residential buildings, public pools and hospitals are all large quantity users of water, and waste or drain water can be recycled back into the heating system. Waste water is piped to waste heat recovery units, which recover the energy and divert it back into building energy.

When installing a solar system, particularly for commercial buildings, building owners should always keep heat recovery in mind. Such a system is not expensive and yet produces far-reaching results. Today, the interest in solar and heat recovery is growing exponentially.

A contractor can offer free on-site solar evaluations and make a detailed proposal so building owners can look at how much it would cost, how much they could save and how the energy retrofit could be financed, including alternative energy equipment.

The newest technology available is a solar hybrid panel system that produces heat for domestic hot water, and space heating and electricity in one panel. This new solar hybrid panel is a heat exchanger with an elevated thermal exchange permitted by its particular structure. In fact, the solar hybrid panels prevent the heat loss, which would occur in all other metallic heat exchanger types, where the fluid or gas lose heat further to the surface by the flow through the bended or brazed tubes and therefore reduce the heat exchange capacity. It will produce heat to minus -20 C on rainy and overcast days and nights.

The goal is to solve building owners’ heating and cooling challenges in the way that saves them the most money. The return on investment is typically 20 per cent and higher.

Building owners need to look beyond what has been done and towards what can be done differently. Cost-effective renewable energy and heat recovery solutions are the way of the future.

Roger Huber is CEO of Pro Eco Energy. He has more than 25 years experience in solar and heat pump installations in Europe, and has conducted more than 500 solar installations and/or solar system designs.

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