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Multi-Family Solar Thermal

Case Study: Community Corporation of Santa Monica

The Community Corporation of Santa Monica’s (CCSM) commitment to develop and manage affordable housing is a great service to the Santa Monica community.  Solar Santa Monica is pleased to announce that CCSM’s commitment is also sustainable. Recently, seven CCSM properties installed solar thermal systems.  The solar thermal systems will help CCSM save money by alleviating the natural gas needed to heat the domestic hot water.

The Process

After a budget was allocated by CCSM to look into solar, CCSM sought assistance from Solar Santa Monica. First, the team at Solar Santa Monica analyzed the rooftops to ensure enough solar thermal panels could be installed to effectively heat water for the number of tenants at each property. Second, Solar Santa Monica analyzed the gas bills from the last 12 months to determine how many panels would be needed and the approximate savings CCSM would receive over the life of the solar system.

Plenty of room for solar here! 


Next, the team drafted a Request for Proposal (RFP) to be sent to Solar Santa Monica’s list of Preferred Solar Contractors. All of the bids included the following: 

  1. Systems sized to eliminate 60% of annual domestic hot water gas costs for each building.
  2. Systems located on each building to leave maximum room for future photovoltaic arrays. Proposed locations shall also comply with all local codes, including line-of-site provisions.
  3. Panel collectors by size, brand, and type. Indicate the maximum weight of each when filled with liquid. 
  4. Mounting and racking method and equipment.
  5. The size and quantity of thermal storage tanks.
  6. The number and type of pumps, automatic controls, mixing valves, solar bypass, and other included circulating equipment.
  7. Insulation of hot water pipes.
  8. Earthquake straps where required.
  9. The type of solar collector piping proposed.
  10. Any costs for equipment or labor not covered by the bid.
  11. Permitting costs.
  12. Any applicable sales tax.
  13. System warranties.
  14. Proposed schedule of work with allowances for design, permitting and installation. Installations at the different locations may be phased – i.e. the work is not required to be done simultaneously at all locations.

After a job-walk and bids from five contractors were submitted, CCSM eventually chose Environmental Solar Design, Inc. to install all seven systems.

Miguel Ceballos, CCSM Maintenance Consultant, leads the job-walk.

Contractors inspect the existing hot water heating equipment
for condition and compatibility.

How the system works

Cold water from the city is diverted through insulated pipes up to the solar panels on the roof.  

A small electric pump, controlled by a programmable thermostat and temperature sensors control the water flow.





When hot water levels in the storage tank drops, new water is pumped through the panels and fills the storage tanks. 

When a resident turns on the hot water faucet, water from the storage tanks enters into the gas heater tank where it will be heated if necessary.


Often the gas heater does not have to ignite thanks to the hot temperatures the panels and storage tanks provide.






Last updated: Thursday, 02/28/2013

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Multifamily Solar Study Cover
Fostering a Future Multifamily Solar Study pdf
Profile highlighting Santa Monica's efforts to promote solar on multifamily properties.  




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Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment
1685 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 · (310) 458-2213 · TTY (310) 917-6626