The Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed into law nearly 10 years ago by President George W. Bush, was integral in establishing many of the energy management goals adopted by Federal Facilities in the United States. Fueled by government loan guarantees and incentives, renewable technologies have seen substantial growth in the public sector – particularly amongst U.S. military installations. One such Army base, Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County Virginia, set its energy reduction goal at 30 percent by fiscal year 2015. The recent installation of a solar pool heating system on its Benyaurd Pool brings the base closer to this goal; it is expected to save $11,477 per year – more than 40 percent of what it costs to heat the indoor pool annually using natural gas.
“The solar system works in conjunction with the existing natural gas fired heater, which will heat the pool on days when the sun’s radiant energy is nonexistent,” said Robert Zinkwich, Fort Belvoir Directorate of Public Works, energy manager.
A solar pool heater operates by sending filtered pool water to the solar collectors when usable solar energy is available. Pool water is warmed as it flows through the collectors before being returned to the pool. When the desired temperature is reached, the solar system is bypassed, and pool water completes its normal circulation loop.
The system was installed earlier this year by Solar Services of Virginia Beach, and commissioned mid-March. In all, there are 80 4’ x 12’ Aquatherm Solar Industries solar collectors heating the pool – a total of 3,000 square feet of collector area. In order to maintain the pool’s required filtration flow rate, a SPEC Model-95 pump was added downstream from the filter as an inline booster pump. When the solar is on, the 5-horsepower pump sends 260 gallons per minute through the collectors.
The installation was unique in that there are no mounting penetrations in the membrane roofing material, at the request of the Base. Instead, the collector array was mounted to on a long-lasting composite wood-alternative, which was secured to the membrane roof with an adhesive and sealant, as well as additional pieces of the same membrane material.
“The choice of solar energy for the Benyaurd Pool is the most cost-effective form of pool heating, with no additional operating cost, low maintenance and an endless supply of free heat from the sun.” Mr. Zinkwich further explains, “When the sun’s intensity permits and ambient outside temperature is above the 40- to 50-degree Farenheit mark continuously, the solar system will be the primary source of heating the pool.”
The solar system used to heat the pool is manufactured by Aquatherm Industries, Inc. of Lakewood, New Jersey, and is specifically designed for low-temperature applications. The unglazed solar thermal collectors can efficiently heat water to a maximum temperature of up to 100°F – perfect for heating a swimming pool. Constructed of durable, UV-resistant polypropylene, the polymer solar collectors have an average life expectancy of 15 years, according to the manufacturer.
Dave Sizelove, President of Aquatherm Industries, Inc., says that indoor commercial pools are a prime candidate for solar heating. “The advantage of an indoor pool, in terms of heating, is the ability to control humidity and ambient temperature – two major contributing factors of heat loss in a swimming pool,” says Sizelove. “Of course, the downside for any covered pool is the absence of natural solar gain from sunlight, meaning they must be heated.” According to industry statistics, an estimated 63 percent of the 400,000 commercial pools in the United States are currently heated.
Richard Good, Owner of Solar Services, said the proposal was originally submitted nearly three years ago to the on-base mechanical contractors. “Adding solar pool heating was definitely a priority once the funds could be appropriated. The base is currently evaluating the potential for adding solar heating to its three other pools.”
About Aquatherm Industries, Inc.:
An ISO 9001:2008 registered company, Aquatherm Industries, Inc. is the largest U.S. manufacturer of low-temperature, unglazed polymer solar collectors – primarily used for residential and commercial swimming pool heating as well as domestic hot water and process pre-heat applications. Within the company’s “pellets to panels” approach, Aquatherm’s extrusion, welding, and injection molding processes have been awarded four U.S. and two International Patents for its technology.
In addition, Aquatherm’s collectors were the first NSF-50 listed solar collectors in the world. Aquatherm distributors currently serve Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, all of North, Central, and South America, France, Egypt, and Jordan.