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Bainbridge, WA Heats Community Pool with Solar System

Solar panels help heat Bainbridge pool

A network of tiny black tubes heats water on the roof of the Bainbridge Aquatics Center. Tad Sooter / Special to the Kitsap Sun

A network of tiny black tubes heats water on the roof of the Bainbridge Aquatics Center. Tad Sooter / Special to the Kitsap Sun

 — Silence is the sound of savings this summer at the Bainbridge Aquatics Center.
The park district switched off its propane furnace at the Madison Avenue pool complex last week and let its new solar water-heating system take over for the first time.
“That was a nerve-racking day,” said Douglas Slingerland, who managed the solar project.
There was no cause for worry.
The solar heater, which is warming one of the center’s two pools, has kept water temperatures relatively steady since going into operation last week. The district expects the $27,000 system to pay for itself through energy savings within four years. A similar system was installed at the North Kitsap Community Pool in 2009.
The technology is remarkably simple.
The heater is comprised of 60 large panels lining the west-facing roof of the Ray Williamson Pool. Each panel is actually a mesh of tiny black tubes, which soak in the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Small electric pumps push pool water up to the roof and through the black tubes. Warm water is circulated back down to the pool.
The heater works even on overcast days, so the district hopes to keep the system running into October before it switches back to propane exclusively for the winter. It plans to turn the solar system back on in April.
Recreation Services Director John DeMeyer said the district tries to keep the 25-yard-long Williamson pool heated to about 80 degrees. With the solar heater working, the pool temperature starts at about 78 degrees in the morning, climbing to 82 degrees in the afternoon, DeMeyer said.
The six-lane pool is used mostly for competition and exercise, and some swimmers have welcomed the cooler morning temperatures.
Joshua Scott, 56, said the pool is easier to exercise in when it’s a few degrees cooler.
“It’s harder getting in, but you can stay in longer,” he said between laps Tuesday morning.
One lane over, swimmer Elliot Leiter wasn’t as impressed. The 80-year-old said it was a touch chilly for him.
“I’d like it a little warmer,” he said.
DeMeyer said the district is interested in building a solar heater for the Don Nakata Memorial Pool next door, but that project is fraught with challenges. The Nakata pool has a flat, rubber membrane roof which would be difficult to install the solar tubing on. Plus the Nakata is a favorite for families with young children, and those smaller swimmers might not be so forgiving of cooler water temperatures.
“Their teeth might be chattering a little,” DeMeyer said.
The Ray Williamson solar system is one of several cost-cutting projects the district has completed this year at the Aquatics Center. They include a more efficient boiler and ceiling fan for the Nakata pool, and a new pool cover and improved fluorescent lighting for the Williamson. A variable drive also was installed in the Aquatics Center heating and air-conditioning system to allow it to be adjusted automatically to meet the building’s demands.
This fall, the district plans to install heat recovery coils in the Nakata pool’s ventilation system, which will recycle 85 percent of the heat vented from the building. Taken together, the improvements are expected to save the district about $30,000 per year.

Source: Kitsap Sun (

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