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A Consumer’s Guide

Heat Your W with theSun

Bringing you a prosperous future where energy is clean, a...
       What is solar heating? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Heat Your W with the Sun
Would you like to learn more about how the sun can help meet your
home’s heatin...
What is solar heating?                  have an unshaded area that faces
          Glazing                            Flow tubes
          frame                                           ...
Air vent          Collector

                          Cold water in     Collector
contractors must pay careful atten-         directory of certified systems on
tion to roof design because the             ...
Investing in Solar Thermal Technologies
Why should I invest in a                conscious, responsible decision to
solar t...
freezing, and other factors will        How big should my solar
also affect the type of solar heating   thermal system be,...
water heater involves determining        Sizing a solar thermal system
the total collector area and storage     for heatin...
A Check valve
                                                Vacuum breaker/auto-air relief
   B Gate valve
heater is higher than that of a gas     25% of its home energy costs on
or electric water heater. FSEC want-    heating wa...
Savings and cost for solar               One common way to finance a solar
space heating                            system...
What are the maintenance               may need to be cleaned in dry
issues and repair costs for            climates where...
Selecting a solar heating contractor
Who sells and installs                Has your company installed
solar thermal system...
about solar installations through       One solution is to ask for bids
one or more of the following:           on systems...
Before you put solar heating to work
Do I need a conventional               The ICS system stores hot water in
system as a...
certainly need a backup system.        the price of obtaining permits and
Space-heating systems require a        inspectio...
Getting Help
American Solar Energy Society (ASES)   Solar Benefits Model Software
2400 Central Avenue, Suite G-1         w...
About the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
A Strong Energy Portfolio for a Strong America
Energy efficienc...
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Heat Your Water From The Sun


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Heat Your Water From The Sun

  1. 1. A Consumer’s Guide Heat Your W with theSun ater Bringing you a prosperous future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable
  2. 2. Contents Background What is solar heating? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 What are the basic components of a solar thermal system? . . . . . 2 How have solar systems improved? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Investing in solar thermal technologies Why should I invest in a solar thermal system? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 How much will your solar heating system help the environment? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Is my home a good place for a solar heating system? . . . . . . . . . . 6 How big should my solar thermal system be, and which features should I look for? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 How much money will my solar thermal system save, and how much will it cost? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 How can I finance the cost of my solar thermal system? Are there incentives? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 What are the maintenance issues and repair costs for a solar thermal system? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Selecting a solar heating contractor Who sells and installs solar thermal systems? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 How do I choose among solar thermal system providers? . . . . . 13 How do I choose among bids? Is the least expensive the best deal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Before you put solar heating to work Do I need a conventional system as a backup? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Will I need any permits or inspections? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 What about insurance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Will I need warranties? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Will I need a maintenance agreement? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Getting help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Cover photo: The people living in this house enjoy hot water that is heated with a solar thermal system. (Courtesy of Industrial Solar Technology/PIX12964) Photo opposite: Flat-plate solar collectors heat this pool in Oregon. The unglazed polymer collectors sit on top of a flat roof and provide shade to the patio below. ii
  3. 3. Heat Your W with the Sun ater Would you like to learn more about how the sun can help meet your home’s heating needs without straining your budget? Today’s solar heating systems not only keep swimming pools warm— they can also heat much of your home’s water and interior space. Their popularity is increasing, for several reasons. Solar heating systems are reliable, adaptable, and pollution-free because they use renewable energy from the sun. Many systems include sleek, attractive, low-relief collectors that people often mistake for skylights. Did you know that solar heating systems work well in many different climates? Some applications, such as pool heating, are widely cost- effective today. The cost-effectiveness of other applications depends on specific circumstances, such as the type and cost of your usual source of energy. Today, special financing is available to help you purchase the system that’s right for your home. If you’d like to find out more about solar heating for your home or pool, this booklet is a good place to start. Here, you’ll learn how solar heating systems work, how they’re used, their benefits, and how to purchase one yourself. Please note, however, that this booklet isn’t a technical guide to designing and installing a system. For that, you’ll need to consult an experienced solar heating contractor; see “Getting help” in this booklet for more information. A solar heating system is a substantial but rewarding investment. It can reduce your monthly heating bill while helping to protect our environ- ment. Being informed and planning carefully will ensure that you’ve chosen the right system for you and your family. Gen-Con, Inc./PIX09320 1
  4. 4. Background What is solar heating? have an unshaded area that faces south, southeast, or southwest, Solar heaters, or solar thermal such as a roof. In some cases, a solar systems, provide environmentally professional may recommend west- friendly heat for household water, facing roofs for solar collectors. space heating, and swimming pools. The systems collect the sun’s energy The type of system you choose, to heat air or a fluid. The air or including the type of collector fluid then transfers solar heat and whether it is active or passive, directly or indirectly to your home, depends on several factors. These water, or pool. include your site, the climate you live in, installation considerations, Solar water heaters, sometimes cost, and how you would like your called solar domestic hot-water solar heating system to be used. systems, may be a good investment for you and your family. Solar water What are the basic heaters are cost effective for many applications over the life of the components of a solar system. Although solar water thermal system? heaters cost more initially than Solar water heaters and solar space conventional water heaters, the fuel heaters are made up of solar collec- they use—sunshine—is free. Solar tors, and all systems except pool heating technologies can be used heaters have some kind of storage. in any climate. To take advantage In pool systems, the swimming pool of solar energy, you usually need to itself is the storage, and the pool’s filtration pump circulates the pool water through the collectors. Active systems also have circulating pumps and controls; passive sys- tems work without this added Roof-top collector equipment. Solar-heated Three types of solar collectors are tap water used for residential applications: flat-plate, integral collector-storage Solar storage tank/ (ICS), and evacuated-tube collectors. conventional backup heater Flat-plate collectors like the one Swimming pools and your home shown on page 3 are the most may also be heated using solar energy common type. Glazed flat-plate collectors essentially are insulated, Simplified representation weatherproofed boxes that contain of a solar water-heating system a dark absorber plate under one or more glass or plastic (polymer) 2
  5. 5. Glazing Glazing Flow tubes frame Outlet connection Inlet connection Enclosure Absorber plate Insulation Glazed flat-plate collector covers. Unglazed flat-plate collec- coating that absorbs solar energy tors are simply a dark absorber well, but which inhibits radiative plate, made of metal or polymer, heat loss. Air is removed, or evacuat- without a cover or enclosure. ed, from the space between the glass Unglazed flat-plate collectors made tubes and the metal tubes to form a from polymer materials are typically vacuum, which eliminates conduc- used in solar pool-heating systems. tive and convective heat loss. In the See the photos on pages 1 and 7 United States, evacuated-tube col- and the diagram on page 9 for lector systems are used most fre- examples. quently in commercial applications. Integral collector-storage systems, Most solar water heaters require also known as ICS or “batch” sys- a well-insulated storage tank. tems, are made of one or more Solar storage tanks have an addi- black tanks or tubes in an insulated, tional outlet and inlet connected glazed box. Cold water first passes to and from the collector. Active through the solar collector, which solar systems usually include a preheats the water, and then con- storage tank along with a conven- tinues to the conventional backup tional water heater. In two-tank water heater. ICS systems are sim- systems, the solar water heater ple, reliable solar water heaters. preheats water before it enters the However, they should be installed conventional water heater. In a one- only in mild-freeze climates because tank system, like the one shown the outdoor pipes could freeze in on page 4, the backup heater is severely cold weather. combined with the solar storage in one tank. Evacuated-tube solar collectors are usually made of parallel rows of Active solar water heaters use transparent glass tubes. Each tube pumps to circulate water or a non- contains a glass outer tube and freezing heat-transfer fluid from metal absorber tube attached to storage tanks through the collec- a fin. The fin is covered with a tors. Active systems are usually 3
  6. 6. Air vent Collector Cold water in Collector sensor P/T relief Drain valve Controller Hot water out Air Element eliminator Pump Heat exchanger Fill/drain assembly Pressure Expansion tank Drain Tank gauge FSEC Active indirect one-tank system more expensive than passive should not be used in climates systems, but they are also usually where temperatures often go below more efficient. freezing. Passive systems are typical- ly less expensive to purchase and Direct circulation systems use a maintain than other types of solar pump to circulate household water systems. They are also inherently through the collectors and into the more reliable and may last longer. home; they work well in climates However, passive systems are not where it rarely freezes. Indirect usually as efficient as active systems. circulation systems use pumps to circulate a non-freezing heat- ICS passive solar systems may transfer fluid through the collectors be best in areas where temperatures and a heat exchanger. This heats rarely go below freezing. They are water that then flows into the also good in households with home. Indirect systems are popular significant daytime and evening in climates prone to freezing hot-water needs. temperatures. Thermosyphon systems work Passive direct solar water because water flows through the heaters, like the one shown on system when warm water rises as page 5, move household water or cooler water sinks. In this system, a heat-transfer fluid through the the collector must be installed system without using pumps or below the storage tank so that electricity. Passive systems work warm water will rise into the tank. during power outages, but they These systems are reliable, but 4
  7. 7. contractors must pay careful atten- directory of certified systems on tion to roof design because the its Web site along with system water in the storage tank is heavy. performance ratings. FSEC publishes Thermosyphon passive solar sys- similar information specific to tems are usually less expensive than Florida that is useful in other states active systems, but more expensive with similar climates. See the than ICS systems. “Getting help” section for contact information. How have solar systems The appearance of the systems has improved? also improved. Today’s collectors Since the early 1970s, the efficiency can usually be mounted flush with and reliability of solar heating sys- the roof for a streamlined system tems and collectors have increased that looks like skylights. Unglazed greatly and costs have dropped. polymer collectors for solar pool Improvements to materials, a rating heating are now available in terra system for consumers, and more cotta colors as well as black, so attractive designs have all helped homeowners can choose the color to make systems more successful. that will best match their home. Low-iron, tempered glass is now used Freeze ICS Collector instead of convention- prevention al glass for glazing. valve Improved insulation From and durable selective collector coatings for absorbers have improved effi- ciency and helped to To collector reduce life-cycle costs. Pressure The Solar Rating relief valve Drain valve Shutoff and Certification valve Drain valve Check valve Corporation (SRCC) Isolation valve and the Florida Solar Cold water in Energy Center (FSEC) Three-way Pressure/ certify and rate solar ball valve temperature relief valve thermal systems and equipment. SRCC Hot water out evaluates product reliability and rates Top element the performance of solar water-heating Bottom element systems by subjecting Water heater tank Dip tube them to technical Drain reviews. SRCC has a FSEC Passive direct system 5
  8. 8. Investing in Solar Thermal Technologies Why should I invest in a conscious, responsible decision to solar thermal system? help reduce harmful emissions from fossil fuels, while maintaining your The first question many people ask quality of life. when considering a home expense is, “How much will it cost?” The How much will your solar answer depends on the type of sys- heating system help the tem, how you want to use it (water or pool heating, for example), and environment? your geographic location. But most Depending on the type of conven- solar thermal systems cost between tional fuel used, replacing an elec- $2,000 and $4,500. Although this tric water heater with a solar heater is usually more than the cost of a can offset the equivalent of 40% to conventional gas or electric system, 100% of the carbon dioxide emis- today’s solar heating systems are sions of a modern passenger car. cost competitive when you consider your total energy costs over the Carbon dioxide traps heat in our entire life of the system. atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect, which alters Your monthly gas or electricity bills our planet’s climate and ecological will usually be lower and more systems. Using solar energy in place predictable for as long as you own of nonrenewable fuels may also the house. Also, solar heating sys- reduce nitrous oxides and sulfur tems will insulate you from rising dioxides, which are components fossil fuel costs and protect you of smog. from fuel-price inflation over time. Investing in a solar thermal system Is my home a good place for could also increase the resale value a solar heating system? of your home. Often, the entire initial cost of the system can be The first consideration when build- recovered when you sell your ing a solar thermal system is the property. In addition, you will site. If your site has unshaded areas be earning an annual 6% to 25% and generally faces south, it is a tax-free rate-of-return on your good candidate for a solar thermal investment, depending on how system. A professional installer can much hot water you use and how evaluate your roof as a location for much energy you save. collectors. If your roof doesn’t have enough space, you can also install Another important reason to invest the system on the ground. Please in solar systems may be less tangi- refer to the system-sizing section of ble. When you purchase a solar this booklet for more information heating system, you support tech- on space requirements. The amount nologies that are good for the of sun that your site receives, environment. You are making a how often temperatures dip below 6
  9. 9. freezing, and other factors will How big should my solar also affect the type of solar heating thermal system be, and which system you choose. features should I look for? Before getting under way, you need Some of the answers to questions to consider your homeowners about system size and features association rules and neighbor- depend on how you plan to use hood bylaws, also known as codes, the solar system. Here, you’ll find covenants, and restrictions (CC&Rs). general information on sizing In Arizona, California, and Florida, systems for water heating, swim- state laws prohibit CC&Rs that ming pools, and space heating. restrict solar system installations. To locate more specific information, Nine other states have similar laws please see “Getting help” on barring regulations that unreason- page 17. ably limit solar energy use in planned communities. Some cities Sizing a solar thermal system and counties have ordinances or for heating domestic water require permits for home improve- Just as conventional water heaters ment construction, including solar come in different sizes, so do solar system installation. water heaters. Sizing your solar Heliocol/PIX08874 Solar pool heaters are efficient and economical 7
  10. 10. water heater involves determining Sizing a solar thermal system the total collector area and storage for heating swimming pools volume you need to meet 90% to Heating your swimming pool with 100% of your household's hot water solar energy requires a collector needs during the summer. Solar- that is 50% to 100% of the surface equipment experts use worksheets area of your pool. Your geographic and computer programs to help location and other factors deter- determine system requirements mine the exact size. and collector sizing. For example, a 15-by-30 foot Contractors usually follow a swimming pool in Florida typically guideline of about 20 square feet requires a collector that equals (2 square meters) of collector area 100% of the pool’s square footage, for each of the first two family which translates to 450 square feet members. For every additional per- of unglazed flat-plate collectors. son, add 8 square feet (0.7 square This is because many Florida swim- meters) if you live in the Sun Belt ming pool owners use their pools area of the United States, or 12 to year round. In contrast, in northern 14 square feet (1.1 to 1.3 square California, most pools are used only meters) if you live in the northern 6 to 8 months per year, so systems United States. are typically sized at 60% to 70% For active systems, the size of the of the pool’s surface area. solar storage tank increases with In general, adding more square the size of the collector—typically footage lengthens the swimming 1.5 gallons per square foot of collec- season and allows owners to use the tor. A small, 66-gallon system is pool in colder weather. A pool cover usually big enough for one to three or blanket reduces heat loss and people; a medium-size, 80-gallon helps maintain warm temperatures system works well for a three- or for a longer period. four-person household; and a large, 120-gallon system is appropriate Sizing a solar thermal system for four to six people. for space heating In recent years, homebuilders have In contrast to solar water heating, begun including solar water heating solar space heating usually requires systems as standard features in a larger, more complicated system. some subdivisions. The systems are Space-heating systems have to store the same size for every home, and heat for use when solar energy is they all work equally well. However, least available and your house is large families with greater hot-water coldest—at night and during the demand find that a smaller percent- winter months. Solar space-heating age of their hot water is provided by systems are usually combined with the solar energy system. water heating, and they are sized to accommodate both uses. 8
  11. 11. A Check valve Vacuum breaker/auto-air relief B Gate valve Collector C Chlorinator (if applicable) D Drain valve E Bypass valve F Booster pump Sensor (if necessary) Automatic control box D Gate Pump A valve E B F Filter Fossil fuel heater C (if applicable) Pool water in Warm water returns to pool FSEC Solar pool-heating system The amount of solar collector area the size and type of your system. needed to heat your home depends Other factors can include the on many factors. These include the climate, the contractor, and the available solar energy, collector effi- system rating. Your state may offer ciency, local climate, and heating solar rebates or other incentives requirements. Heating requirements that will reduce costs. are based on insulation levels, the house’s airtightness, and the life- Savings and costs for solar style of the residents. Generally, the domestic water heating area of solar collector is about equal Solar heating systems can save to 10% to 30% of the floor area of you money in the long run. FSEC the house. studied the potential savings to Florida homeowners who use How much money will my common water-heating systems, solar thermal system save, including solar, in comparison and how much will it cost? to electric water heaters. FSEC undertook this study because the Your savings depend on how your initial installed cost of a solar water solar system will be used, as well as 9
  12. 12. heater is higher than that of a gas 25% of its home energy costs on or electric water heater. FSEC want- heating water. ed to explore costs and savings over time, beyond the initial installation If you are building a new home period. The study found that solar or refinancing because of a major water heaters offered the greatest renovation, the economics are even potential savings. Annual utility more attractive. Including the price costs for solar water heaters were of a solar water heater in a new 50% to 85% lower than those for 30-year mortgage usually amounts electric water heaters. to between $13 and $20 per month. The federal income tax deduction The cost and benefit of purchasing for mortgage interest attributable a solar water heater vary from to the solar system reduces that region to region, so check costs in by about $3 to $5 per month. So, your area. Depending on the price if your fuel savings are more than of the conventional fuel, a solar $15 per month, the solar invest- water heater can be more economi- ment is profitable immediately. cal over the life of the system than On a monthly basis, you are saving heating water with electricity, fuel more than you are paying. oil, propane, or even natural gas. That’s because the fuel—sunshine— Savings and cost for solar is free. swimming pool heating A solar heating system for your However, at historically low prices pool usually costs between $3,000 for natural gas, the total cost of and $4,000 to buy and install. This owning a solar water heater with provides a payback of between a backup natural gas heater may 1.5 and 7 years, depending on the be more expensive than owning cost of the fossil fuel your system a natural gas heater alone. replaces. The actual cost and pay- Nevertheless, as natural gas back depends on your site, the type becomes more costly and its avail- of system you choose, financing, ability more volatile, solar water and the length of the pool season. heaters become more economical. Solar water heaters are often quite Often, a payback cannot even be cost-competitive in new homes. calculated, because many people choose not to heat their pool at all, In many places in the United given the extra $300 to $600 on States, homebuilders choose their energy bill. A solar system electric water heaters because they allows these people to swim in a are easy to install and relatively pool that was previously too costly inexpensive. Research shows that to heat and too cold to use. the average household with an electric water heater spends about 10
  13. 13. Savings and cost for solar One common way to finance a solar space heating system is through your mortgage or The cost of a solar space-heating through a home-equity loan secured system depends on many factors, by your home. Mortgage loans including the size of your house, offer lower interest rates and longer how airtight it is, how much of pay schedules than conventional your heat will be supplied with a bank loans, and interest on your conventional backup, the system mortgage loan is tax-deductible. you choose, and your site. In Financing your system when you general, solar space-heating systems apply for your mortgage—whether can provide 40% to 60% of your because you are building or refi- space-heating needs. These systems nancing—can make the application are most economical for consumers process simpler and less costly. who would otherwise be heating Conventional bank loans are with electricity, rather than with another way to finance your solar natural gas or other fuels. system. However, your system is a But solar space heating is needed long-term investment; this should most when sunlight is least be reflected in the pay schedule for available, during the winter and the loan. Look for longer terms and at night—and needed least when lower interest rates, which will help sunlight is most available, during keep your solar thermal system the summer and the daytime. So affordable. today’s solar technologies are not Incentives likely to be a cost-effective solution for active solar space heating in Many states have incentives for most homes. However, a good alter- buying solar technologies. Check native is to simply to use passive with your state or local energy solar building techniques. See the office or your state departments EERE Web site,, of revenue or finance for informa- for more information. tion. Some electric utilities offer rebates to customers who install How can I finance the cost solar energy equipment because of my solar thermal system? these installations help utilities Are there incentives? reduce energy use during times of high demand. Financing You can also check the National Financing the cost of your solar Database of State Incentives for thermal system is not as tricky Renewable Energy (DSIRE). DSIRE as it may seem. Although some is prepared by the North Carolina special programs are available to Solar Center. It provides informa- help you purchase solar thermal tion on financial and regulatory technologies, most of the financing incentives to promote renewable options are familiar ones. energy technologies. For informa- tion, see “Getting help” on page 17. 11
  14. 14. What are the maintenance may need to be cleaned in dry issues and repair costs for climates where rainwater does a solar thermal system? not provide a natural rinse. The costs of maintaining your solar Regular maintenance on simple thermal system depend on the type systems can be as infrequent as of technology you choose and how every 3 to 5 years, preferably by often temperatures in your area fall a solar contractor. Systems with below freezing. Properly maintaining electrical components usually your system will keep it running require a replacement part or two smoothly. after 10 years. Simple, regular sys- Passive systems do not require tem checks can also be effective. much maintenance. For active For example, one easy way to systems, discuss the maintenance check the system is to carefully requirements with your system feel the hot-water pipes going provider and consult the system into the storage tank after the owner’s manual. Plumbing and system has been working on a other conventional components clear, warm day. If the pipes are require the same maintenance as hot, your system is working conventional systems. Glazing properly. Industrial Solar Technology/PIX12963 Specialists can safely and efficiently install solar thermal systems 12
  15. 15. Selecting a solar heating contractor Who sells and installs Has your company installed solar thermal systems? solar thermal systems for solar water heating, pool heating, Depending on your area, the or space heating? simplest way to find a solar thermal systems contractor is to Choose a company that has look in the yellow pages under experience installing the type of “Solar Energy Equipment and system you want and servicing Systems—Dealers.” Most of the the applications you select. listings will probably be for solar How many years of experience water heating, photovoltaic (solar does your company have with electric), or electric systems solar heating installation? contractors. Obviously, the more experience You can also contact your utility the better. A business that has company to get information on been working with these systems recommended vendors, or search for a long time will be more on the Internet for solar water professional, know more about heating, solar pool heating, or current technologies and recent solar space heating, depending on advances, and be less likely to the application you are interested make costly mistakes. Request a in installing. list of past customers who can Your state may have an active provide references. chapter of the Solar Energy Is your company licensed? Industries Association (SEIA), a trade association of contractors, Having a valid plumber’s or solar distributors, and manufacturers. contractor’s license is required in See “Getting help” for contact some states for solar thermal information. system installation. You can confirm licensing by contacting How do I choose among your state contractor licensing solar thermal system board. Local requirements may also include a local contractor’s providers? license. Call your city and county One way to choose a contractor for information on other required is to check your list of potential licenses. companies for the ones nearest you. Ask them what products and For you to obtain certain rebates, services they offer. Here are a few your contractor may have to questions you might want to ask demonstrate special knowledge potential vendors. 13
  16. 16. about solar installations through One solution is to ask for bids one or more of the following: on systems certified by the Solar Rating and Certification • Possession of a solar contractor Corporation (SRCC). If possible, specialty license issued by a have each bid specify system type local building jurisdiction and size, energy output, mainte- • Certification in solar thermal nance requirements, and cost. systems by a group such as the Cost should include having the state chapter of SEIA system installed and getting it up and running, as well as the • A letter from the solar heating cost of hardware, permits, sales manufacturer that indicates tax, and warranties. that the installer has the neces- sary experience and training to A system warranty is crucial in install solar systems. comparing bids. A solar rebate program may require a written Does your company have any installation warranty, for example pending or active judgments a 2-year parts-and-labor warranty or liens against it? in addition to manufacturers’ As with any project that requires warranties on system components. a contractor, due diligence is The company may offer other, recommended. Your state contractor longer warranties, particularly licensing board can tell you about on the collectors. However, solar any complaints against state- systems are more than collectors; licensed contractors. The Better active systems include electronic Business Bureau is another good components, pumps, valves, and source for such information. wiring. Make sure you know what your warranty covers and that How do I choose among bids? the company stands behind the Is the least expensive the full warranty. best deal? If you have several bids, you may It is usually a good idea to get more wonder if the lowest bid is the than one bid for installation of your best deal. Sometimes it is not. A solar system. Make sure that all the solar thermal system installer is bids you receive are based on the in business to make money; over- same information and require- head and operating expenses must ments. For example, comparing a be covered. A low price could be bid for a system mounted on your a sign of inexperience, or of a roof with a bid for one mounted company without staying power. on the ground would not tell you Contractors that expect to stay in how the two bids compare—it business must charge enough to would probably tell you more about cover their products and services how the two types of installations plus make a fair profit. Price is compare. not the only consideration. 14
  17. 17. Before you put solar heating to work Do I need a conventional The ICS system stores hot water in system as a backup? addition to collecting solar heat, and the instantaneous water heater Whether you need a backup system provides hot water when solar heat for your solar thermal system is not available. depends largely on the type of system you choose and where you Most people do not need or use live. Solar water-heating systems a backup heater with solar pool almost always require a backup heaters. In freeze-prone climates, system for cloudy days and times solar pool heaters are used mainly of increased demand. This backup in summer. Spas or hot tubs are system is typically a conventional an exception. Spa owners may use gas or electric water heater and their solar system to heat both the may already be part of the solar pool and the spa, but will use a system package. It may also be backup heater to get the spa to a part of the solar collector, such as higher temperature. In climates rooftop tanks with thermosyphon where it rarely freezes, pool heaters systems. For example, an integral may be used year-round. collector-storage system (ICS) If you decide to install solar thermal may be packaged with an instanta- space heating, you will almost neous gas water heater for backup. Sun Systems/PIX05978 Rooftop collectors can be installed on most roofing materials 15
  18. 18. certainly need a backup system. the price of obtaining permits and Space-heating systems require a inspections is included in the bid large collector area, significant and final cost estimate. storage volume, and a highly efficient building envelope to What about insurance? produce enough energy to heat If you are buying a solar heating your home at night and during system for your home, your regular the winter. Solar space heating homeowners insurance should usually provides 40% to 60% of cover your needs. However, if your home’s space-heating needs. insurance coverage becomes an A backup system ensures that issue, please refer to “Getting help” your house is comfortably warm on page 17. during power outages, cold snaps, and extended cloudy periods. Will I need warranties? Many building codes and mortgage lenders require a conventional Warranties are an important factor backup space heater. in the bidding process and an important aspect of the system Will I need any permits you choose. Make sure you know or inspections? the warranties that your system manufacturer and installer offer If you live in a community with for your equipment and hardware, a homeowners association, check as well as parts-and-labor war- to see if any approvals, permits, ranties. Check to make sure the or inspections are required. Always manufacturer can provide support obtain the necessary approvals and supplies if the installer is from the association before begin- not available. ning construction. Homeowners associations, towns, cities, and You can usually obtain a full-system counties usually have a legal right warranty plus parts-and-labor for to require approval before building. at least 1 to 3 years. This means However, some states have solar- you will not be responsible for rights laws that may apply if system problems covered by the approval is denied. warranty in the first year or two of system operation. You will probably need to obtain permits from the building depart- Will I need a maintenance ment that has jurisdiction in your agreement? state, county, or city. Plumbing, building, and electrical permits may A maintenance agreement may be required. These permits typically be part of your warranty. Have require a final inspection after the the contractor prepare a schedule system has been installed. Check of required or recommended with your solar heating system maintenance before you purchase contractor to find out whether your system. 16
  19. 19. Getting Help American Solar Energy Society (ASES) Solar Benefits Model Software 2400 Central Avenue, Suite G-1 Boulder, CO 80301 solarbuildings/sbm.html Phone: (303) 443-3130 Solar Energy Industries Fax: (303) 443-3212 Association (SEIA) E-mail: 1616 H Street NW, 8th Floor Washington, DC 20006-4999 Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) Phone: (202) 628-7745 Fax: (202) 628-7999 Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) Solar Rating and Certification Public Affairs Division Corporation (SRCC) c/o FSEC Phone: (321) 638-1015 1679 Clearlake Road Fax: (321) 638-1010 Cocoa, FL 32922-5703 E-mail: (See standards document OG-300) National Renewable Energy Laboratory Phone: (321) 638-1537 Solar Energy Technology Program Fax: (321) 638-1010 E-mail: Craig Christensen, NREL/PIX12943 Solar thermal technologies work in a variety of climates 17
  20. 20. About the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy A Strong Energy Portfolio for a Strong America Energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy will mean a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and greater energy independence for America. By investing in technology breakthroughs today, our nation can look forward to a more resilient economy and secure future. Far-reaching technology changes will be essential to America's energy future. Working with a wide array of state, community, industry, and university partners, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in a portfolio of energy technologies that will: • Conserve energy in the residential, commercial, industrial, government, and transportation sectors • Increase and diversify energy supply, with a focus on renewable domestic sources • Upgrade our national energy infrastructure • Facilitate the emergence of hydrogen technologies as vital new "energy carriers." The Opportunities Biomass Program—Using domestic, plant-derived resources to meet our fuel, power, and chemical needs Building Technologies Program—Homes, schools, and businesses that use less energy, cost less to operate, and, ultimately, generate as much power as they use Distributed Energy & Electric Reliability Program—A more reliable energy infrastructure and reduced need for new power plants Federal Energy Management Program—Leading by example, saving energy and taxpayer dollars in federal facilities FreedomCAR & Vehicle Technologies Program—Less dependence on foreign oil, and eventual transition to an emissions-free, petroleum-free vehicle Geothermal Technologies Program—Tapping the Earth's energy to meet our heat and power needs Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Program—Paving the way toward a hydrogen economy and net-zero carbon energy future Industrial Technologies Program—Boosting the productivity and competitiveness of U.S. industry through improvements in energy and environmental performance Solar Energy Technology Program—Utilizing the sun's natural energy to generate electricity and provide water and space heating Weatherization & Intergovernmental Program—Accelerating the use of today's best energy-efficient and renewable technologies in homes, communities, and businesses Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program—Harnessing America's abundant natural resources for clean power generation To learn more, visit The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a DOE national laboratory, produced this Consumer’s Guide for: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy 1000 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20585 December 2003 • DOE/GO-102003-1824