Solar thermal project heats senior citizen housing in Berkeley
Solar system supplies hot water for heating and washing.

Thanks to solar water heating, elderly residents of a public housing project in Berkeley, Calif., will be more comfortable in their homes while spending less money.

Satellite Affordable Housing Associates based in Berkeley, California rehabbed 350 units in five apartment buildings. All the apartments got double-pane windows and other upgrades. Then about 288 apartments in four buildings were upgraded with solar hot water systems installed by Berkeley’s Sun Light & Power for both household hot water and heating.

The 43-year-old apartment buildings are occupied primarily by Chinese immigrants over the age of 62, said Barbara Sanders, a consultant with Satellite Affordable Housing. She said the residents don't pay for utilities but do pay 30 percent of their income in rent. 

The solar systems are a welcome change to help the agency reduce costs and increase comfort. Lower utility bills will help the agency's funding go farther.

"This is a big improvement in terms of consumption of power, and in providing more resources through lower utility bills and the ability to increase the mount of funds that could be spend on support services for the residents," Sanders said..

Dubbed the “Satellite First Communities” project, the rehabilitation of these properties includes seismic upgrades, energy efficiency measures, replacement of major building systems, community area renovations, and facade improvements. The various green attributes for each building include no VOC paint and materials, recycled material carpeting, drought tolerant landscaping and low wattage lighting. 

The solar hot water systems provide hot water for bathing and household as well as power the hydronic central heating system in each building. 

Through financing from Citibank and Enterprise Community Investment, the completion of these rehabs in June 2013 will allow these properties to provide quality affordable homes for low-income seniors for decades to come. Pacific Gas & Electric also provided rebates to help fund the project.

The Durant Street building in Berkeley is comprised of 12 Heliodyne Gobi 4x10 solar hot water panels; 21st street in Oakland is comprised of 28 Heliodyne Gobi 4x10 solar hot water panels. The two other affordable housing buildings in Oakland (on 8th street and Park Boulevard) have 10 and 12 Heliodyne Gobi 4x10 solar hot water panels, respectively.

Get more information on solar power.

Photos: Sun Light & Power

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