San Francisco Department of the Environment

Multi-Family – 21 Units in Alamo Square

Solar Domestic Hot Water for Multi-tenant Building

When Linda Erkelens & Ron Dion acquired this 21-unit building in 2004, it came with a solar water heating (SWH) system that had been installed in the early 1980s. Although the system was still functioning, it was not performing well and needed major repairs.  Linda had always been interested in using solar energy at her properties prior to owning 1801 Turk. The need to replace this system provided the opportunity for her to install a new solar system to provide the domestic hot water for her tenants at this location using free fuel from the sun.

After receiving a couple of proposals for the job, Linda selected SunWater Solar. She values the fact that they specialize in solar water heating systems and found them to be very communicative and responsive to her needs throughout the installation process. When dealing with projects that impact tenants, Linda noted it’s important for landlords to have sufficient time to provide 24-hour notice when required at certain points during installation. Because of this, she found it very helpful that SunWater Solar staff offered her daily updates of their progress and what to expect next.

Linda’s new rooftop system is mounted on the existing racking from the previous equipment and is comprised of 14 Schüco PremiumLA collectors, which have a sleek modern look and offer a total harvestable area of about 400 sq ft. Along with 4 Rheem tanks providing 480 gallons of storage for the solar pre-heated water, and a new high efficiency condensing modulating boiler, it is expected to provide over 75% of the energy needed to heat water for domestic uses in this building. This system is also the first to use a new monitoring system from Schüco that allows her and SunWater Solar to see the performance of her system at any time over the internet. Linda was excitedly analyzing the information displayed on her mobile smart phone on the morning of our interview. This service also allows any problems to be recognized and addressed quickly. 

As a long-time owner of rental properties, Linda understands the benefits that will come from using solar energy. “I like saving money and I like doing it for good reasons. And, I like tax advantages. That’s what makes it doable.” Along with the SWH system at this property, she will also be installing a new solar PV system to serve the common area loads, and is installing SWH systems on three of her other buildings. She was also quick to highlight other benefits to landlords that can come from making green improvements to their buildings, including being able to offer these features to prospective tenants when trying to fill vacant units. “We’re putting it in our craigslist ads now!”

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