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Four Berlin homes receive solar thermal systems

A solar thermal system is being installed here at 311 Madison Avenue by BAREI (Berlin Area Renewable Energy Initiative) volunteers. Photo by Jody Houle. (click for larger version)
March 20, 2013
BERLIN Berlin Better Buildings teamed up with BAREI (Berlin Area Renewable Energy Initiative) and PAREI (Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative) in a collaborative effort to install solar thermal systems in four Berlin homes to qualified homeowners.

On Saturday, BAREI and PAREI volunteers installed solar thermal systems in two out of the four homes in Berlin. Two were part of a summer project, and the last two, one on Madison Avenue, and the other on Hillside Avenue were winter projects. Berlin Better Buildings provided funds to train a group of local volunteers in the preparation and installation of the systems. Following in the foot-steps PAREI, BAREI formed in 2012 as an organization dedicated to educating and encouraging the community to conserve energy. BAREI Members have been fully trained in the organization, preparation, and installation of solar hot water systems and solar PV systems. The homeowners who were considered as candidates for solar thermal systems had to meet certain requirements in order to qualify.

The four homeowners were chosen from a raffle held by Berlin Better Buildings. Rebates from Public Utilities and tax credits almost covered the whole price of the installations. One of the many qualifications was that the homes had to already have energy-saving upgrades such as pellet boilers and air-sealing installation.

"Homes should be reducing energy, as well as producing renewable energy at the same time," said co-founder of PAREI, Sandra Jones. She also co-invented the models used in the systems along with Peter Adams.

In a solar thermal system, copper heat tubes are inserted into a manifold with glass tubes that heat up to about 200 degrees by the sun. A solar panel rack is installed on the roof of the home where the tubes are placed. The tubes absorb sunlight and retain it. A non-toxic chemical called glycol charges the system and cold water is pumped to the solar panel, which is then heated up by the sun. The evaporated heat is pumped into the boiler and distributed as heat energy throughout the home though hot water baseboards. The systems provide an increase of 15 percent of energy efficiency.

BAREI is individually self-organized. Ed Solar, Roland Goulette and Chip Labreque and three core volunteers of BAREI who have been trained and guided to install the systems. Cimbria Badenhausen of Berlin Better Buildings, which is officially closing at the end of May, said that the volunteers are not getting anything out of it. BAREI is an organization that she hopes will last.

"I couldn't have dreamed of a better team of guys," said Badenhausen. "Berlin Better Buildings is leaving this legacy," she said referring to BAREI.

Chip Labreque was fitting some copper pipe together on a workbench in an enclosed porch at one of the homes, and he took a minute to comment on the project:

"We all work together. The team is very cooperative and very Berlin. I get very excited when I talk about this and I trip over myself. I just love helping," he said.

Berlin Better Buildings and BAREI is holding a Lunch and Learn today, March 20, at the Enriched Learning Center on 26 Exchange Street at 12:p.m. To RSVP for the free lunch and workshop, call 449-2086.

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