Car Wash in Stamford Is First in United States to Use Sun to Heat Wash Water

Rocky Hill, Conn., April 20, 2011 – The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) announced today that the solar thermal installation at Greenwich Avenue Car Wash it funded through the Solar Thermal Incentive Program is now completed and successfully operating. This car wash, located at 229 Greenwich Avenue (Route 1) in Stamford, Conn., is the first in the country to use energy from the sun to heat wash water. A rebate of $28,875 from CCEF covered approximately 75 percent of the project cost. 

Although warm water cuts dirt and grease better than cold water, almost all car washes use cold water in order to save money. But when Gregg Mercede, chief executive officer of Stamford Property Holdings LLC, decided to build a new, high-tech, environmentally safe car wash, he wanted to offer the best possible service to his customers at a competitive price, so he explored the possibility of using the sun to heat his wash water. With help from CCEF’s Solar Thermal Incentive Program, he installed 12 innovative, highly efficient collectors on the roof of the Greenwich Avenue Car Wash. They provide more than half of the 1,400 gallons of hot water used by the car wash every day. Although the system cost more than conventional hot water heaters, the annual fuel savings, coupled with CCEF’s rebate and the federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, will pay for the system in less than one year. After that, the system will be producing free hot water, even on cloudy, wintry days, thanks to its highly efficient evacuated tube collector technology.

“I can offer a better car wash now, for the same price as my competitors. And I’m doing it using a minimum of fossil fuels,” Mercede said. “It made good economic sense, and I’m proud to have reduced my carbon footprint to a fraction of what it would have been if I’d used a conventional heating system. Between my solar hot water system and the solar electric system we installed last year, we’re reducing our emissions by over 12 tons of carbon dioxide every year. It’s like taking two cars off the road, or not driving 28,000 miles.”

“Businesses are just beginning to realize how much money they can save using solar thermal systems to heat water,” said Dale Hedman, acting president of CCEF. “Hot water systems are rarely metered separately, so the cost of heating water is a ‘hidden cost’ for nearly everybody. However, water heating accounts for about 20 percent of a typical American home’s total energy costs. A family of four spends about $900 per year on hot water heating if it uses electricity, $350 per year if it uses natural gas and $500 per year if it uses oil. For organizations that use a lot of hot water in their operations, such as laundries, restaurants, hotels, nursing homes and hospitals, hot water represents a significant, but often hidden, cost.” 

The CCEF Solar Thermal Incentive Program was made possible by a federal grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. To qualify for the CCEF incentive, projects must be operating by April 30, 2012.

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