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‘Pre-cycling’ and energy efficiency

We’ve all heard of recycling. It’s been a very long time since we were first bombarded with that concept. Together we have made significant strides in reducing our impact on the environment. But … there is always more that can be done.

Consider, if you would, a truly forward-thinking idea — that of “precycling.” It essentially eliminates the need for recycling; it reduces waste by not producing it in the first place.

A simple, everyday example: while recycling paper is encouraged, reducing the number of pages that are printed is an even greener endeavor. Before hitting the “print” button, many business people now consider whether hard copies are really necessary. Instead of recycling, they are thinking ahead and are “precycling.”

Beyond paper, many Pagosans are actively employing the concept of precycling in their daily lives. For example, those folks who use cloth bags to haul their groceries out of the store are reducing waste by not using the store’s plastic or paper bags. Another example, obvious for those of you who know me, is bicycling to where you want to go rather than driving in order to precycle gasoline. If you are thinking green, precycling is greener than ever.

Here at the recreation center we try to conserve every way possible. We see an average of about 120,000 user-days per year. Ninety-five percent of them use either the showers, toilets or sink faucets. This translates into a whole lot of water. Earlier this spring, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District pitched in to help us further conserve our water consumption by providing newer, water-saver shower heads, waterless urinals and faucet aerators — all at no cost to us. These improvements were funded through a grant that PAWSD received from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Looking to use the sun’s energy for the recreation center’s hot water supply, we just successfully saw the installation of a highly efficient solar thermal system. Energy efficiency, yeah!

Solar water heating is not awfully high-tech or complicated, but it is cost effective. Up to 60 percent of installed costs could be covered by the Governor’s Energy Office and a new federal tax credit.

Although new solar industry standards promote quality products and installations, some things haven’t changed. You still need to be a smart shopper to be sure solar water heating can meet your expectations for performance and savings.

Here in this country, a typical solar water-heating system is likely to meet more than half of a household’s water heating needs over the course of a year. That means your bill for water heating could be cut in half. The system at the recreation center is sized to meet almost all of our domestic hot water demand based on an average of 450 gallons per day.

The amount of water you use is an important factor in solar economics. Solar contractors usually figure that an average person uses 20-30 gallons of hot water per day and that an average household has three people. Also, bear in mind that electric water heating accounts for only 8 to 14 percent of a typical homeowner’s electric bill. Before incentives, the typical installed cost for a two-panel household solar water heating system today runs between $5,000 and $9,000, depending on the level of freeze protection and other features.

So, if you think you might be interested in solar energy, you might find that solar water heating is the simplest and most cost-effective way that you can put this renewable resource to work. If you would like to look at the Recreation Center’s new system, please call us at 731-2051. We will be happy to show you how it works.

Here are more details of the recreation center’s solar water heating system for those who might be interested. We hired Endless Energy to install seven 4x10 thermal solar collectors with black chrome absorbers on the south facing roof over the natatorium. They also installed three 120-gallon solar storage tanks with internal heat exchangers next to our existing water heater. The total cost of this system was $27,966. After the Governor’s Energy Office rebate of 30 percent and a federal tax credit of another 30 percent, the final cost to us is only $11,186.