Solar savings

Families in Transition – New Horizons expects to cut the bill for heating its two Bicentennial Square buildings in half thanks to energy upgrades paid for by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

The Manchester-based nonprofit operates 16 apartments in its buildings at 5 Market Lane and 9 Odd Fellows Ave. The first floor of the Market Lane building also contains a secondhand boutique run by the group, which provides housing and social services to people transitioning from homelessness.

But Families in Transition – New Horizons didn’t realize when it started the Concord project in 2004 how expensive the buildings would be to heat, said Maureen Beauregard, the group’s president.

“We were very concerned about, ‘How are we going to keep this up?’ ” she said.

In stepped the state housing finance authority, which had helped the group buy the buildings in the first place. It put up about $114,000 to install 12 solar panels for heating water on the Market Lane building, as well as gas boilers in both buildings. The work began in June and finished up last month.

Between the solar panels and the switch from steam to natural gas, heating costs will be cut nearly 50 percent, Beauregard said.

That’s a big help, because tenants only pay 30 percent of their income for rent, she said. As a result, the group loses money on the buildings every year.

If the buildings ever start turning a profit, she said, Families in Transition – New Horizons would have to start repaying the no-interest loan. But since that probably won’t happen, the money is essentially a grant, she said.

“I just can’t say enough about New Hampshire Housing and what they do,” Beauregard said.

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