There are about 20 small lights throughout the campground to help guests get around safely at night. Each had a small 7 watt bulb that stays on whenever power to each of the campsites is on, so essentially 24 hours a day during the camping season. Ideally, each of the lights would have a sensor to turn them on only at night. This is the eventual goal, but an easy solution in the meantime was to replace all 20 7 watt lightbulbs with LED lights that use about 1/2 watt each. The LED bulbs we got are direct screw in replacements for the old incandescent bulbs. We decided to get blue lights to give a distinctive look to the campground at night.
We replaced the existing fridge in the family apartment at the campground that was about 40 years old with a new Kenmore Energy Star rated unit about a year ago. I couldn’t find exact specs on what the old fridge used electricity wise, but I found a site that estimated it at over 2000 kWh per year. The new one is estimated to use about 416 kWh per year of electricity. At 10 cents per kWh it will pay for itself in about five years. If you went for one without the stainless steel front, or if you have higher electricity rates it could have a faster payback.
Some solutions that can reduce energy use are the most simple to implement. We replaced basically all of the regular incandescent light bulbs around the campground with compact fluorescent bulbs. Many of the other fixtures already use fluorescent tubes. About a dozen bulbs were replaced in total, many of which were 100 watt bulbs. The new CFLs with the equivalent light output of a 100 watt bulb use only 26 watts. Again, not hard to implement and won’t save the world on its own, but if everyone did it we could decrease electricity use across the country substantially.
It seems that the lights in the restrooms/shower house are always being left on when guests leave. Signs are posted to remember to turn off the lights when leaving, but for whatever reason the lights are often left on, sometimes overnight. An easy way to keep this from happening is to install a motion activated light switch, or “occupancy sensor” as the manufacturer calls it. I decided to pick one up to install and try out first before replacing all of the switches. The switch has been installed for a total of 30 minutes, but so far it seems to be functioning properly. The switch turns on when someone enters the restroom, and stays on as long as there is movement. The time before the lights turn off is adjustable. I set ours for 15 minutes; hopefully, this will be long enough as I don’t want the lights to go off on anyone in the shower. We will see, and will install another in the second bathroom if this one seems to work ok. The switch can still be turned on and off manually. The Leviton PR150 switch was about $20.
Laundry facilities are located at the campground for guests to use. Three 50 year old Speed Queen washing machines are being gradually replaced by new high efficiency Maytag commercial units. We have replaced one at a time over the past two years, and as you can see in the photo we have one left. This last unit will be replaced this spring. The new washers use less water and electricity than the old units, and customers seem to like them better. Hopefully these new machines last as long as the Speed Queens they are replacing.
(above: new Maytag high efficiency commercial washers, last old Speed Queen on right)
I got interested in solar water heating a year or so ago, and decided that the campground was the ideal location to install a system. There are a total of 6 showers, 10 sinks, and three washers that all use hot water. An 80 gallon propane water heater provided (or at least attempted to) all of the needed hot water. A solar system to produce enough hot water for all of the needs was considered to be prohibitively large and expensive; however, building a solar water pre-heater to raise the temperature of the incoming water to the propane unit was more feasible.
A system modeled after the one constructed by Gary Reysa at http://www.builditsolar.com was chosen. BuilditSolar has many great projects, and Gary is an excellent resource for do-it-yourself renewable energy projects. He has detailed construction information for many projects, including a solar water heater like the one we constructed.
(above: completed solar collector, constructed from parts available at many local hardware stores)
An active drain-back system was constructed from materials mostly available at any hardware store. The system consists of a solar collector, solar storage tank w/ heat exchanger, differential temperature controller, pump, and all of the plumbing, wiring, and other parts to get the thing working. Basically the temperature controller turns a pump on to circulate water from the storage tank through the collector whenever there is solar heat available. Incoming water to the propane heater passes through a heat exchanger in the solar storage tank to transfer heat from the solar system to the existing hot water heater. The system is considered to be closed-loop in that water passing through the solar collector is never physically used as consumable hot water, only the heat is transferred for use.
(above: poly storage tank and PEX heat exchanger, suction and return lines to solar collector)
Systems in cold climates need to offer some kind of freeze protection. Some use antifreeze, ours uses a drain-back design in which all of the water returns inside to the storage tank whenever the pump shuts off. I installed the system this past spring and have been out of the country since cold weather has set in. The system has not turned into a giant sprinkler due to freezing pipes as I feared, and seems to be functioning and draining as designed.
(above: differential temperature controller that turns the circulation pump to the collector on and off based on collector and storage tank temperatures)
(above: tank insulated with 1.5″ of polyiso rigid insulation, another 1.5″ was added later for a total of 3″ of insulation or about R=20-24)
Well, I decided it’s time to start sharing the progress to reduce energy and water use at the family business and home. A small business/home is the perfect application to demonstrate green projects, as projects can have a much larger impact than a normal house while at the same time being applicable to homeowners who are interested in tackling similar upgrades. Over the next few days I will upload the results of work that has been completed over the last year or so. More upgrades are currently being worked on and will be uploaded when complete. We have a very long list of ideas to adopt; hopefully, all of them will eventually take shape at a financially limited rate. 🙂 I am always open to feedback and other ideas, so feel free to share!