Solar General Information



 

Solar heating & cooling (SHC) technologies collect the thermal energy from the sun and use this heat to provide hot water, space heating, cooling, and pool heating for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. These technologies displace the need to use electricity or natural gas. Today, Americans across the country are at work manufacturing and installing solar heating and cooling systems that significantly reduce our dependence on imported fuels. 

Did You Know? Solar Heating & Cooling Fast Facts

  • Solar heating systems are affordable for families. The return on investment can be as little as 3-6 years. Commercial systems help companies reduce and manage their energy bills, managing long-term costs. Meanwhile, fossil fuel prices fluctuate considerably and are expected to rise significantly over the next decade
  • Water heating, space heating, and space cooling accounted for 72 percent of the energy used in an average household in the U.S. in 2010 ? representing a huge market potential for solar heating and cooling technologies!
  • In 2010, the U.S. saw 35,464 solar water heating systems and 29,540 solar pool heating systems installed, heating a total of more than 65,000 homes, businesses and pools.
  • Post=2010 has also produced some record-breaking solar air heating installations, with systems ranging up to 10,000-50,000 ft2 on a single wall being installed across the country, showing the large scale energy opportunity in addressing space/ventilation heating.
  • Three out of four (74 percent) Americans agree, ‘the growth of the solar water heating industry will produce jobs and help the American economy.’ This support is strong across regions of the country and across party lines.

 

Basics of Solar Water Heating Technology

Solar water heating systems can be installed on most homes in the U.S., and are comprised of three main elements: the solar collector, insulated piping, and a hot water storage tank. Electronic controls can also be included, as well as a freeze protection system for colder climates. The solar collector gathers the heat from solar radiation and transfers the heat to potable water. This heated water flows out of the collector to a hot water tank, and is used as necessary. Auxiliary heating can remain connected to the hot water tank for back?up if necessary. 

Basics of Solar Air Technology

Solar air heating is a solar thermal technology used for commercial and industrial buildings in which the energy from the sun is captured and used to heat air. It addresses one of the largest usages of building energy in heating climates, which is space heating. It is also used for agricultural drying.

Most solar air heating systems are wall-mounted, which allow them to capture a maximum amount of solar radiation in the winter.  Specially perforated solar collector panels are installed several inches from a south facing wall, creating an air cavity. The air is generally taken off the top of the wall and is heated anywhere from 30-100 degrees F above ambient on a sunny day.  The solar heated air is then ducted into the building via a connection to the HVAC intake.

 

Frequently asked Solar questions

Does my house have to be situated in a very sunny spot?
The more sunshine you have, the more power your system can produce. But the amount you can save on your bills also depends on the price you pay for electricity and the available credits and other incentives from federal, state and local governments. Most panels are placed facing south, where they get the most exposure. Ideally, your solar panels shouldn't be shaded by chimneys, trees or anything else on the rooftop.

About how much power can I expect to get?
Most systems can provide 25-100 percent of a  homeowner's electricity needs. Solar installers will be able to collect information about the amount of electricity you use, how much you pay for it and what you'll save if you opt for different-sized systems.

Is it possible to save up power to use at night or during a power outage?
Disconnecting from the grid isn't really practical yet. though they re fairly pricey right now, you can have batteries installed along with the solar panels that allow you to store power generated during the day for use at night or a later date.

My are is prone to storms. Can hail and lightning damage solar panels?
Better-quality solar panels have impact-resistant, tempered glass that can take a beating without damage. But that doesn't mean you'll have warranty coverage if a  hailstorm ruins a panel. Amend your homeowner's insurance so that the cost to repair or replace solar equipment is covered for fire, impact and other damage.

Will panels damage my roof?
Properly installed panels should not cause any damage to your roof. In fact, the panels tend to protect the roofing materials they cover by shielding them from precipitation, light and heat. That said, a roof's working life can range anywhere from 15 top 30 years, and a PV system's service life can be upward of 25 years. So install the PV system on a roof with at least as long an expected life as that of the solar components. Consumer reports notes that if you have sufficient land, you can have a ground mount system installed out of view of the house.

Aren't these systems expensive?
Buying a system outright will probably save you the most money over time, but it requires a large up-front investment. The typical installation costs about $15,000 to $21,000 in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
If you install a system before Dec. 31, 2016, you're eligible for a federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the amount you spend. So if you spend $18,000, you can slice $5,400 off of the federal taxes you owe. Some states and local governments provide additional incentives. State-by-state information on discounts is available  at dsireuse.org. Be sure to ask your municiple office whether there are any local perks. Solar panels are usually warrantied to last 20-25 years, and the systems often pay for themselves after 5-10 years, so you have the potential for free electricity for the rest of their lifetime.


SEIA.org, Consumer Reports


Heating & Cooling Solutions
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