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Thursday, February 7, 2008

RIT: Orange, Brown, and Green?

With President Destler running campus this year, he is apparently pushing to make RIT a "greener" campus. From the President's website, he is trying to initiate a movement to produce "...the nation's first "Innovation University"..." by hosting the "Imagine RIT" creativity festival that aims to attract about 30,000 people from the Rochester area.

RIT recently launched the Golisano Institute for Sustainability which from what I can reason would be a stepping stone to "greening" RIT. So with the buzz on campus for a more sustainable outlook to life and industry practices, what better time than now to help out?

I am part of a First Year Enrichment group that is designing a renewable energy alternative for RIT. Our project simply started with an idea for the class project and has grown into an interest to see if our idea is feasible to be implemented on campus.

Our group is researching the idea of providing some of the hot water used in a couple dorms with solar hot water. Hot water is one of the most energy demanding commodities used during the day. According to Solar Roofs, the average electric home water heater can use more energy than the average car per year; only by a little bit, but never-the-less a surprising reality.

Solar hot water is used to pre-heat the water before it enters the water boilers. This reduces the temperature difference that the water heater needs to use energy to heat the water. Groundwater is typically 45 F and the average hot water temperature is roughly 110 F, a difference of 65 F. Even with a solar hot water system that brings the temperature of the water to 50 F during the winter on a cold day, is still saving the energy used to heat the water by 5 F. During the summer, a system could bring the water up to 110 F and provide a relatively large percentage of the hot water during peak usage.

We are working on our final presentation for class and will then, time permitting, push this further and try to gain some support from campus. As I said before, this is a personal interest among the group members. We are only required to provide an outline for class, and we are already computing statistics and other data such as cost. Being Electrical Engineering majors, we are running off of our enthusiasm and hope to learn more from this project while being able to at least stir some interest among the community here on campus.

If there are any comments on this, please feel free to share them!


  1. This sounds like a cool idea, do you have any plans to setup an application example? Like a small scale demo or something?

    What building do you think would benefit from this the most?

  2. We are researching a few dorm buildings right now, it all depends on what boilers are feeding which building. Even though we are trying to do this on a dorm building, the problem of distance of the collectors to the boilers. We are only looking at the feasibility, if we were to design a system that would actual be installed we would have to keep the distance less than 100 feet, which makes a 12 story building a bit tall for the application. Implementation of the system on a smaller dorm such as colby, bell, peterson, fish, etc is more practical in that sense. A small academic building would also be a good candidate. As for models... we will build a small scale model of a solar heating system if we decide to participate in "Imagine RIT". Thanks for the interest!