Join us as we talk with Dr. Stephen Benham and discuss the importance of his system.
SunMaxx Testimonial with Dr. Stephen Benham
Todd: Hi this is Todd Paternoster with SunMaxx Solar, continuing with our Sidney New York Solar Tour. This is one of the pioneers, Dr. Stephen Benham…one of the SunMaxx certified installers installed for him a 180-square foot solar thermal system tied into two tanks. He’s got a 275 (gallon) non-pressurized tank, and an 80-gallon pressurized tank. He’s got four collectors on the roof and two on the ground. Here’s Dr. Benham right now, so thanks for coming out and joining us Dr.Benham. I just described that you were one of the pioneers in Sidney with solar thermal, and you hired one of the best installers to get the job done, and spared no expense to make sure it was done right. So you’ve really set a model for everybody…so could I just off the cuff tell you what your initial gut reaction to your solar thermal system?
Dr. Benham: Well, it’s working pretty nice.
Todd: So you’ve got the hot water and heat for your system. You did some of the installation yourself, you were fundamental in getting the ground-mount going and dug the trenches. You’ve put a lot of thought into orientation, and so, what direction are we facing here?
Dr. Benham: Well, they are facing 190 on the compass, 193 for this area would be perfect.
Todd: Okay so you’ve got 190. And then what angle did you decide to go with?
Dr. Benham: degrees up, to maximize for the spring and fall. Not necessarily for the dead of winter and certainly not for summer.
Todd: What would you say your average temperature is during the spring and fall months?
Dr. Benham: Average tank temperatures…probably 140-150, but I have it maximized for my domestic hot water.
Dr. Benham: So that gets heat first. So that gets up…right now I have it set for about 160-165. So it gets to 160-165 and the rest of the tank heats up a little bit faster after that.
Todd: Great. So you’re prioritizing your domestic hot water load?
Dr. Benham: Right.
Todd: Very good.
Dr. Benham: And after a while you learn that when the sun’s out that’s when you do laundry and the dishes.
Todd: So you’ve modified your lifestyle a little bit to fit the solar.
Dr. Benham: A little bit. Not a lot, but a little.
Todd: Good. Any suggestions or things you wish you had done a little differently or not at all with this design?
Dr. Benham: (Pause) Whew…
Todd: Well I guess that’s a good sign. (laughter) You get this guy to pause for two minutes and that’s a good sign.
Dr. Benham: No there are a lot of things that were done right. There are a lot of unknowns, a lot of decisions that we made along the way. But there had to be compromises made along the way and so they were.
Todd: Yup, very good…the frame on this flat-roof, he decided to shorten the spread by raising the back row up so that the front row doesn’t cast as much of a shadow on the back row. It decreases the overall footprint.
Dr.Benham: Or cast any shadow at all.
Todd: No shadow. I do remember having conversations with you about using some of your sloped roof and you put a lot of thought into it. You didn’t want any roof penetrations there, so in fact we’re not even penetrating the roof here it’s just sitting on these frames here.
Dr. Benham: Yup.
Todd: And obviously you don’t have any roof penetration here. One nice thing I can point out is that in the summertime Dr. Benham does reduce his production by covering these collectors up. And that can effectively reduce his need for heat dump, although you do have a heat dump.
Dr. Benham: I do.
Todd: I suspect it probably doesn’t operate too much throughout the day, perhaps an hour or two each day.
Dr. Benham: Well it depends. If you get several sunny days right in a row during the summer, then it takes on for the last couple of hours for each day.
Todd: And you’re blowing hot air out a window.
Dr. Benham: Yup.
Todd: Very good. Okay, well thanks to Dr. Benham, appreciate the time. And I appreciate you being a pioneer for solar thermal in Sidney alone. But Sidney, New York is, as many of you may realize, is one of the pioneers in the country, in terms of numbers square-footage solar thermal collectors per person. We have many more to go and we’re burning daylight, so let’s say goodbye for now and we’re gonna move on.