- Air Conditioning systems
- Financing Options and Barter Payments Available!
- High-efficiency tankless water heaters
- Indoor Air Quality
- Integrated systems
- Oil- and gas-fired boilers and furnaces
- Pellet-fuel boilers and furnaces
- Radiant and other forms of heating/cooling delivery
- Solar heating
- Wood-fired boilers and furnaces
Solar energy is ideally suited to heating water. In most cases, technology progresses as a result of the ability to store energy. Let’s face it: energy is everywhere, in all manner of forms, from light to heat to chemical and nuclear forms. What can be difficult is actually storing that energy. Gasoline stores a lot of energy in a small space, and is relatively safe and easy to transport, whereas batteries are generally low in terms of energy-per-pound, which is why there are few electric cars and many gasoline cars on the road.
Solar collectors take light energy from the sun and convert it to heat. We can store that heat in water, in an insulated tank, and use it when we like. Clearly, some heat will be lost over time, so you can’t store heat in the summer and expect it to still be there in the winter, but with modern tanks you can store heat for up to a week. Of course, you’re likely to use that heat up before it goes away due to “standby losses” through the insulation. So, we’d need to give you a very large tank of water to store enough heat to make that practical for the typical home. And we’d need a large solar collector to capture enough energy during the winter to account for the heating demands we have here in the Northeast.
We can, however, use a very reasonably-sized tank to provide you with enough storage to collect solar during the day and store it for your domestic hot water needs (showers, baths, clothes washing, etc.). That tank might not even be any larger than the water-heater you currently have.
Modern evacuated-tube solar collectors are far more efficient than the old flat panels that you may have seen on roofs in the past. A modern installation will typically have a framework holding 20-60 tubes (from street level, it will likely look like a skylight to most people), which are held slightly off the roof and spaced slightly apart. The overall panel size ranges from 80x57 inches to 80x169 inches for most installations, and will be governed by your hot water needs. Collectors of that size may be broken up into two panels, depending on the size of your roof. Larger installations are possible for heavier demands, like swimming pool heating and the like.
Regardless of size, the tubular shape and spacing of the individual elements allows snow to slide around and between the tubes, reducing or eliminating any need to clear them after a storm. The tubular shape is also extremely strong, which allows them to be rated to withstand golfball-sized hail. Honestly, I had to call the manufacturer to find out about getting replacement tubes, because they sell them so rarely that they aren’t even listed in the catalog. However, if you do manage to break a tube, the system will still operate on the other tubes; the heat exchanger at the top of each panel keeps the tubes separate, so a broken tube does not affect its neighbors, and can be replaced when convenient. Unless a tree falls on your house, this should never become a concern, as the tubes are rated to withstand hail.
But the best thing about the evacuated tubes is not their durability; it’s their efficiency. They are capable of extracting more heat from less light, and in less-than-ideal conditions, when compared to traditional systems. Older systems needed to be aligned almost due-south to work, while these new systems can actually tolerate anything from east to west, although they do work best in the south-east to south-west range. Even with the SE to SW alignment, that makes it far more likely that we will find suitable roof area to mount the collectors. And, once they are mounted, we can “fine tune” each tube by rotating it to best align with the sun, for optimum efficiency.
The collector tubes also contain an automatic thermal protection system that shuts them down if the temperature is too high for safety. Dangerous over-heating situations are prevented, right at the source. This also improves the lifetime of the heat-transfer fluid, which is a special non-toxic antifreeze that is designed specifically for solar use. The heated fluid transfers heat to a storage tank located in your house by means of a heat exchanger. There are several methods to tie that tank into your existing hot-water system, so you will have comfortably-hot water even when the sunshine is not strong enough to cover all your needs. Alternately, that tank can be tied to a tankless water heater, for even greater energy savings (we use Noritz tankless heaters specifically because they are durable enough for solar use).
Prismatic flat panels are also an option for those who want to install a solar water heating system without the expense of evacuated-tube collectors. They offer reasonably-high levels of efficiency, at a very affordable price.
What it all boils down to, is that we can put a solar collector on more roofs, with better reliability, and with enough efficiency to typically eliminate 50-80% of your hot-water costs!
All our installs are engineered according to the manufacturers specifications, which means that they will work correctly and enables you to get tax credits to offset part of the installation cost. Improperly-installed systems do not work correctly or qualify for the credits, so a “fly-by-night” install may save you money now, but cost you in the long run. Solar systems operate at high pressure and need to be designed and installed to high standards in order to operate efficiently and safely. A quality solar hot water system is an investment in your future, and will save you money for year after year with minimal maintenance.