A Business Using Solar Thermal

The following is a profile of a business using solar energy to its advantage. The car wash is located in Toronto, Canada, with only 6 months of reasonably sunny conditions (same latitude as Massachusetts). The site uses solar thermal, preheating its water to save a bundle of energy on its hot water bills. It's one of so many examples of smart, practical use of the sun's energy to save big bucks over the long term.

(used with permission from ARISE Technologies, Canada)

Solar energy is a perfect solution for pre-heating hot water used in car washes. Car washes experience their greatest demand during the sunny portion of the day. This is typically between 11am and 5pm when the maximum energy from the sun is available. By closely matching hot water demand with energy from the sun, energy and economic efficiencies can be obtained.

The Sunoco Car Wash located on McCowan Road in Markham, Canada, now pre-heats its water using 40 unglazed solar collectors - each one 120" x 50". The unglazed solar panels are similar to those used to heat residential pools. Unglazed collectors are basically plastic mats with no cover and no insulated back. They offer higher efficiency in warm calm conditions. A racking system tilts the collectors to maximize the heat collected. The unglazed panels make it necessary to use a low operating pressure in the collector loop.

The savings will be substantial, and even though Sunoco expects to reach a financial breakeven point in approximately 10 years (without use of government assistance), economic reasons are not the only motivation of the stakeholders.

"The opening of this car wash is another step in Sunoco's ongoing commitment to sustainable environmental developments. We hope this project will prove to be a viable, environmental innovation which can be used elsewhere both by Sunoco and others," says Neil Levine of Suncor Energy.

Car washes using conventional boilers fired by natural gas, generate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. By supplementing an existing water heating system with solar technology less natural gas is required and therefore the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere is reduced. The solar car wash will save an estimated 16,000 cubic metres of natural gas and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 tonnes each year at the Sunoco service centre.

Currently, some 1,500 commercial hot water car washes in Canada are using more than 2 million gigajoules of energy per year, equivalent to the annual energy used to heat 25,000 new homes during the winter in Toronto. On average, it takes approximately 260 litres of heated water to wash a single car. This represents the same amount of hot water used in one day by an average household.

The solar design used by Sunoco in Markham can easily be replicated to car washes across North America.

For more information contact solarsense.com.

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