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New Hampshire SPCA Energy Upgrades

Three Years Later – How They Fared

Photo courtesy of  ReVision Energy

Photo courtesy of ReVision Energy

By George Harvey

The New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NHSPCA) had some very unusual energy problems at its shelter in Stratham, NH. These were addressed during the time from about 2008 to 2012. We can now look at the results.

The NHSPCA takes in all manner of animals – not just dogs and cats, but everything from gerbils to horses. There are many of them, about 3,000 per year, looking for new homes. To be a healthy place for these animals, everything has to be clean, and that means a lot of washing. So the shelter was using 1,600 gallons of very hot water, every day.

The old oil-burning boilers that provided heat and kept the water hot ran all the time, even in the summer. The financial burden was high, at $55,000 for fuel in 2009 to 2010. It should be needless to say, the environmental impact was also high. In addition to hot water, there were other reasons to upgrade the center’s energy profile. Replacing the system for heating water would naturally have an effect on the buildings’ heating systems, and this had to be reviewed. There were, of course, other energy-related issues to consider.

The start for almost any such program is to look at what support is available from the community and government. As the NHSPCA took its first small steps on lighting and heating controls in 2009, they discovered some of these avenues. They got help from the Community Loan Fund and the Office of Energy and Planning, and found that stimulus money was available, giving them access to loans and grants.

The Jordan Institute, located in Concord, provided an energy audit covering the energy needs. With the report of its findings, the NHSPCA was able to prioritize its efforts. This became an effort with three main elements.

A solar thermal system was installed by  ReVision Energy of Exeter, NH. Forty Wagner C20 solar hot water plate collectors were placed on the Adoption Center’s two south-facing roofs. These provide heat for a custom-built 1,600-gallon solar hot water storage tank. The daily hot water needs of the center are met by this system. It also supplies some heat for the center when it has a surplus.

The switch to solar thermal for heating water made it easier to reduce oil use elsewhere. Froling Energy of Peterborough, NH, designed and installed a system of three wood pellet boilers to provide most of the heat. The system also included two silos to hold fuel. The wood pellets come from nearby sources in New Hampshire. Compared to bringing in oil from someplace far away, this benefits both the environment and the local economy.

Meanwhile, Building Energy Technologies of Bow, NH, undertook the insulation and air sealing. This was completed with such great care that business was not disrupted in any way.

Since these systems have now all been in place for at least three years, it is possible to report on how they have done. NHSPCA Executive Director Lisa Dennison gave us a rundown on the successes and failures. We can make short work of the failures. There were none.

The NHSPCA completed what she called a “great project.” It was one of those things that was simply a joy, from beginning to end. This included not only the people and companies involved, but the results.

The first indication of success was the drop in the use of oil for heating water in the first summer the solar thermal system operated. Oil use dropped, quite literally, to zero. Instead of spending many thousands of dollars on oil, the 1,600 gallons of hot water used every day were heated by the sun. Pollutants from fossil fuel use disappeared with the fuel bills. Since then, the recently installed systems have continued to perform as intended. The money saved in fuel is quickly paying off the loans.

When she was asked if there was anything she regretted about the energy upgrades the NHSPCA got, Dennison said, “Yes. I regret that we did not do this 10 years earlier.”

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