We want to make the world greener and cleaner! United Helpers has made a commitment to our community and to our environment to become more sustainable. In fact, it is one of our on-going corporate goals. A Sustainability committee works to brainstorm and develop new ways for United Helpers to reduce our carbon footprint. As one of the largest employers in St. Lawrence County, we know that we can make a big impact. Our Sustainability Committee works with the employees, residents, family members, and vendors to ensure that our impact is a positive one.
Here are some examples of our work:
Photovoltaic Energy -
Catching Rays - Capturing the sun’s rays and harnessing the power of the sun has long intrigued man. Photovoltaic systems can capture those rays and turn them into energy. This is an initiative that the United Helpers organization has committed to at its Lisbon Intermediate Care Facility.
You may think of solar panels when you think of any type of solar energy, but in actuality solar panels are a bit different than the cells used in a photovoltaic systems. Solar panels are used to generate hot water or steam, while solar cells convert sunlight directly to electricity.
Here’s how it works. Cells are attached to a roof or a mounting system as shown here. When the sun shines, the light hits the panel generating direct current (DC) that is then transferred to an inverter. The inverter creates alternating current (AC). AC current is the type of electricity that powers appliances. Once generated, the current travels into your house. If electricity is currently being used, a television set or a blender, the current travels to the appliance. If electricity is not being used in the household, it can be stored transferred to the energy supply grid, where it will be used by another consumer. United Helpers worked with Fourth Coast Construction and Engineering from Clayton, NY, who assisted with the design and installation of the system. New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also provided financial incentive to offset the cost of the project.
Solar Hot Water System -
A drain back solar hot water system is installed at the McIntyre Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA). Equipped with a 120 gallon storage tank for hot water, the building now has three solar collectors on the roof that is used for heating hot water.
So how exactly do drain back solar hot water systems operate? There are two temperature sensors that control a solar system. One is the Hi-temp sensor on the outlet of the collectors. The other is the Lo-temp sensor on the coldest part of the tank. In the morning when the solar collector temperature rises to about 18oF hotter than the tank temperature, the controller turns the collector pump ON. Water is pumped from the bottom of the tank (the coldest part) through the collectors, picking up heat as it goes. The warmed water spills down the return line into the drain back tank. This process goes on as long as the collectors are at least 5oF hotter than the tank, heating the tank continually. At the end of the day when the difference falls below 5oF, the controller turns the pump off and all the water drains from the collectors back into the tank.
The use of solar panels allows the IRA to get energy from somewhere other than a main power grid. Therefore, there is no need to run long power lines. Once solar panels are installed, they begin making up for their initial installation investment immediately and are very low-maintenance. A grant from NYSERDA and help from Matt Bullwinkle from Sensible Solar in Potsdam were the key components for installation and funding.
The drain back system used at the McIntyre IRA is durable, scalable to fit a building large or small, works in any climate, will not freeze or boil, is virtually trouble free, has few parts, and only requires regular maintenance. This system also uses a glycol mix, which has the highest heat transfer characteristics, and it does not have a heat exchanger between the tank and the collectors. With no exchanger between the tank and collectors, the drain back system transfers 100% of the collector heat to the tank.