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Solar Panels are Cost Efficient and Environmentally Friendly

by Emily Santich

The Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District has been looking for ways to make environmental and financial changes to the school. Two years ago LGHS started looking for ways to better heat the swimming pool. The old system used a big boiler that heated the pool’s water. This was inefficient, and bad for the environment. LGHS recently installed thermal solar panels as a solution.

This technology converts the sun’s energy into thermal, or heat, energy. In this system, water is moved through black tubing and heated by the sun where it is cycled back into the pool. The tubing is lightweight, durable, requires little maintenance, and will not become brittle when exposed to the sun. In the summer these thermal solar panels will be able to completely heat the pool independent of a boiler. In the winter, however, the boiler will still be needed, but the panels will act as a supplement, converting as much of the sun’s energy as they can.

Thermal solar panels are sometimes confused with photovoltaic panels, which convert the sun’s energy into electricity, not heat, and are used in lighting, air conditioning, and computers. These panels, in addition, are more costly, but LGHS might utilize this technology in for classrooms in the future.

Because of the new system, LGHS is expected to save at least 16 percent in natural gas costs, which will be around $17,899 in savings annually. Within two years the system will pay for itself, and after that LGHS will begin to save.
Since projects such as the thermal solar panels take to several years to plan and install, it is important that students and faculty take simple steps to make LGHS more green such as turning off lights and computers when they are not being used. With the new panels and an environmentally conscious mindset, LGHS can reduce its carbon footprint and become environmentally friendly.

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