Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Study Reveals Enormous Potential for Solar Thermal Technology

According to international energy experts, solar thermal technology could replace almost a sixth of the world’s low-temperature heating use by 2050.

Yesterday, Paolo Frankl of the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented a technology roadmap for solar heating and cooling at the International Conference on Solar Heating and Cooling in Buildings and Industry. The study found that a stable, long-term policy framework for solar heating and cooling should be a key task for governments in the coming decades.

The Paris-based IEA says solar energy has the potential to tackle climate change and strengthen global energy security, particularly when used in low-temperature heating and cooling applications. Clean, renewable solar power could replace fossil fuels used for heating and electricity for hot water and for heating buildings.

"The IEA's Solar Heating and Cooling Roadmap confirms the great opportunity that lies in using solar thermal to replace fossil fuels and electricity,” says Werner Weiss, chairman of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, which provided important expertise to the roadmap. “It rightly identifies reliable long-term framework conditions as the key challenge for the coming years. And, it does not overlook the role of non-economic factors that currently hinder an even quicker adoption of solar thermal energy technologies.”

Heliocol solar panels are successfully used in industrial solar water preheating applications.
Solar water pre-heating successfully makes use of low-temperature solar thermal technology to 
reduce dependance on fossil fuels and electricity. This large-scale, industrial pre-heating system 
uses Heliocol solar collectors.

Without decisive action, energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide will more than double by 2050 and increased oil demand will heighten global concerns over the security of supplies, says IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.

“We can and must change our current path, but this will take an energy revolution and low-carbon energy technologies will have a crucial role to play,” says van der Hoeven.

Among solar thermal applications, hot water production and space heating are the most important. By 2050, 213 Million Tons of Oil Equivalent (MTOE) could be covered by solar energy, the IEA finds. The nascent market for solar heat for industrial processes could be the second largest with 171 MTOE in 2050. Solar swimming pool heating and solar cooling could provide another 45 MTOE. 

The IEA says it is calling on all stakeholders to work toward realizing the vision outlined in the roadmap, with a specific call for governments to take a lead role in creating a favorable investment climate by creating a stable, long-term policy framework for solar heating and cooling.

Sudden changes in available financial support have proven detrimental to the development of a healthy solar thermal industry in many countries. Therefore, the IEA concludes, economic incentive schemes should be independent from state budgets to avoid "stop-and-go.” 

However, support policies should not only focus on economic aspects, the IEA says. In many regions of the world, solar thermal is already cost-competitive with conventional technologies, but barriers, such as higher upfront investment and lack of trained installers keep people from choosing solar heating and cooling.

According to the IEA, more research and development could jump-start the adoption of solar heating and cooling solutions in emerging areas, such as heat for industrial processes and cooling.

Governments should provide the necessary R&D funds to support these developments, the organization says.

"We can only underline the importance of research, demonstration and development,” says IEA SHC chairman Weiss. “Our program provides a very successful framework for international cooperation in the research on solar thermal and solar buildings. By working together, governments can help achieve our even more ambitious goal: to supply, by 2030, 50 percent of the low-temperature heat demand with solar energy.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Local Solar Company Educates San Luis Obispo County Residents on the Benefits of Heliocol Solar Pool Heating

Solarponics, a Heliocol solar pool heating dealer in California, is working to educate San Luis Obispo County residents about solar pool heating and how it can benefit the environment, pool usage and pocketbooks.

Solarponics is the longest continuously-owned and operated solar company in California. The company wants residents to understand that solar pool heating is the most cost-effective use of solar and has the fastest return on investment.

“If you are heating your pool with gas the payback is usually around three years and if you are heating it with electricity then the payback is likely one year. After the payback period then its free heat for years and years. Its very similar to conventional heating methods except you are utilizing free energy,” said Kristian Emrich, Vice President of Solarponics.

A beautiful Heliocol solar pool heating installation on arbor roofs by Solarponics in California.
A beautiful Heliocol solar pool heating installation by Solarponics in California. The solar
collectors are installed on the pergola roofs for maximum efficiency and aesthetics.

The initial cost of solar pool heating is comparable with other popular pool heating methods, electric and gas, without the operating costs. Furthermore, solar pool heating systems keep your pool warm for months longer than typical heating methods. Solarponics clients reported being able to utilize their pool up to four months longer than before.

Solar pool heating panels heat the water by capturing heat from the sun and transferring it to the pool using solar collectors, or tubes, which are different from Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. A pump circulates the water from the pool through a filter, then through the collectors to heat the water before returning it to the pool.

“Solar pool heating is a very simple concept. If the temperature of the panels is greater than the temperature of the pool water, the system turns on and starts pumping water through the collectors. Typically the system runs with your filtration schedule so that your energy bills do not increase, rather your pool pump multi-tasks,” said Emrich.

Solar pool heating systems are operated automatically, ensuring the pool stays the perfect temperature. Solarponics only uses Heliocol collectors, the same collectors utilized by the summer Olympic games.

Monday, June 18, 2012

UMA Solar Corporate Office Now Hiring in Central Florida

Are you ready for a career in solar? UMA Solar, manufacturer and distributor of the industry's highest-performing solar products for residential and commercial applications nationwide, is now hiring at the corporate office in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

The Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that by 2016, increased demand for residential and commercial solar installations will add hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs in research and development, manufacturing, construction, sales and marketing, and other fields. Have you considered joining the “green collar” workforce?

UMA Solar is seeking candidates for the following positions within the Marketing and Engineering departments:

Marketing and Communications Specialist

The Marketing Communications Specialist is responsible for content management, graphic design, research, and much more. This position is an integral part of the marketing department. The right candidate will be able to work independently, as well as collaboratively within a team. There is a lot of freedom of creativity with this position, but with that includes the responsibility of producing results. Below is only an overview of the position. Each day is different and brings with it new tasks and duties.

  • Press releases
  • Product bulletins
  • Company newsletters
  • Website content
  • Industry articles
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Literature content

  • Market research
  • Competitor research
  • Product research
  • Industry research

  • Write and update company blog
  • Regularly administer and update company presence on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Research and identify new social media opportunities to further promote the company and its brands.
  • Assist with the production of company videos for YouTube and other web sites.

  • Write website content optimized for search engines containing keywords, backlinks, social share, etc.
  • General understanding of search engine marketing concepts including keyword research, metadata, and link building.
  • Utilize website analytic software to determine strengths and opportunities for improvement.

  • Respond to dealer correspondence
  • Create, prepare, and edit presentations
  • Update and maintain dealer contact database
  • Utilize Customer Relationship Management software
  • Coordinate with sales department to make sure projects are properly implemented
  • Administrative assistance and support for the Director of Marketing

  • Company meetings
  • Tradeshows
  • Dealer reward trips
  • Review and order necessary collateral and promotional items
  • Identify marketing opportunities within tradeshows
  • Inventory and organize tradeshow booths
  • Analyze and recommend new tradeshow opportunities

  • In need of the right candidate with a sense of urgency and project ownership to coordinate and support the Marketing Department's four goals:
1. Develop leads for the Sales Department and Company Dealers
2. Promote the company and its brands to the industry and general public
3. Maintain and strengthen established relationships with national network of dealers.
4. Ensure Company's business development initiatives are based on thoroughly researched market data.
  • Required proficiency in Microsoft Office including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook
  • Required proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects) or comparable software.
  • Marketing, Public Relations, or Business degree preferred, but can be substituted with relevant experience and stable career history
  • Enjoys working for a results oriented company in a casual and modern work environment
  • Takes initiative
  • Coachable
  • Can work under the pressure of the occasional tight deadline
  • Reports directly to Director of Marketing

  • Full-time position
  • Compensation is salary
  • Full medical, dental, and vision benefits provided after 90-day probationary period.
  • Eligible for company sponsored retirement plan with company match after one full year of employment.
  • Paid Time Off (PTO).
  • Paid Holidays.
  • Typical work week is Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm, but longer days and weekends are occasionally necessary based on project requirements.

Please reply with:

1. Copy of your resume and salary history
2. Cover letter detailing why you feel you are a great candidate for this position
3. Examples of previous work. This can include articles, press releases, interviews, graphics, print collateral, online collateral, videos or any other item you personally created in previous work experience.

Please submit to:
UMA Solar
950 Sunshine Lane, Altamonte Springs, Florida  32714

Engineering Assistant / Experienced Engineer

  •  Specific knowledge in:
    • Mechanical engineering
    • Thermodynamics of water systems
    • Modeling in programs with energy system profiles
    • Capable of solving complex engineering solutions
  • Familiarity with solar water heating a plus
  • Familiarity with AutoCad a plus
  • Familiarity with process of product certifications
  • Technical writing and communication skills

Salary negotiable with experience.
Part-time or Full time position

Please submit your resume to:
950 Sunshine Lane, Altamonte Springs, Florida  32714

UMA Solar manufactures and distributes the industry's highest-performing solar products for residential and commercial applications nationwide. UMA Solar features industry-leading products including Heliocol, the world's top solar pool heating systems; Solene Solar Water Heating Systems utilizing the industry's highest-rated domestic water heating systems with more than 100 OG-300 systems available; and, Heliolectric, photovoltaic (PV) solar electric equipment packages, individual components and complete systems. UMA Solar offers its products through its network of more than 700 dealers nationwide. Five distribution locations are strategically placed throughout the U.S. for convenient and continuous availability. For more information, call UMA Solar at 1-800-79-SOLAR or visit http://www.umasolar.com.

Monday, June 4, 2012

UMA Solar to Display Advanced Solar Thermal Technology at Intersolar North America

UMA Solar will feature advanced solar thermal technology as the centerpiece of the company's exhibit at Intersolar North America, July 10-12, 2012 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif.

At booth #7916, visitors can obtain information on UMA Solar's products and services including SunStar and Heliocol solar pool heating systems and Aurora solar hot water collectors by Solene.

"We're proud to feature our flagship solar pool heating systems," said UMA Solar Director of Marketing Tod Ellington. "SunStar's unique technical features, including individual tube design, ultra-efficient operation, one-piece 'overmolded' construction and innovative, strap-free mounting system, make it an ideal collector for use in commercial and residential solar pool heating applications.

SunStar solar pool heating systems are ideal for both commercial and residential solar pool heating applications.
SunStar solar pool heating systems are ideal for both
commercial and residential solar pool heating applications.

"Heliocol is also designed for both commercial and residential use," Ellington added, "making it a favorite choice among the most exclusive clients in the industry since 1977."

A large Heliocol solar pool heating installation saves money while keeping the outdoor pool at UC San Diego warm and comfortable.
A large Heliocol commercial solar pool heating installation at UC San Diego.

Aurora solar panels, also to be displayed, generate more energy per square foot than any other collector, making it the best flat-plate collector on the market.

An impressive array of Aurora Solene solar water heating collectors at the exclusive Admiral's Cove yacht club in Florida.
An impressive array of Aurora Solene solar water heating collectors
at the exclusive Admiral's Cove yacht club in Florida.

"Aurora's durable design provides years of convenient, free energy with the convenience of traditional water heating systems," said Ellington. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Community Pool to Save up to $100,000 Per Year Using Combined Solar Power from Heliocol and Solene

The new EagleVail Community Pool officially opened for business this month near Vail, Colorado. Heated with a combination of Solene Aurora flat-plate solar thermal collectors and unglazed Heliocol solar pool heating panels, the town expects to save close to $100,000 a year in energy costs.

EagleVail Community Pool heated with a combination of Solene Aurora flat-plate solar thermal panels and Heliocol solar pool heating panels.
The new EagleVail Community Pool, near Vail, Colorado, is heated with a combination of Solene Aurora flat-plate solar thermal panels and Heliocol solar pool heating panels, saving the town as much as $100,000 per year in energy costs.

To maximize efficiency, the adjacent buildings were expressly designed to accommodate the solar systems. Nearly every foot of available roof space is covered by the two types of solar collectors.

A total of 17 Solene Aurora flat-plate solar thermal panels were installed on a steep pitch to generate maximum energy in winter, spring and fall while allowing any accumulated snow to melt and slide away. Because the region experiences extreme winter weather, the panels were filled with glycol and installed as drainback loop systems. The panels keep the outdoor pool at an even 55 degrees in winter to prevent freezing.

In the summer months, 37 Heliocol solar pool heating panels will keep the pool warm and comfortable. Heliocol's wide variety of panel sizes gave the design and installation team the flexibility to cover nearly all of the remaining roof space. The Heliocol panels were installed at a low angle to maximize summer performance.

The pool was built with $24,000 in county funds from the Eco-Build fund to help cover the costs of the $86,000 project. The installation was completed earlier in the year by Capitol Solar Energy in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MAGEN eco-ENERGY Acquires UMA Solar and Heliocol USA

MAGEN eco-ENERGY  has acquired 100 percent ownership of UMA Solar — national distributor of Heliocol, Solene, SunStar and Heliolectricsolar energy solutions — from partner Victor Eyal.

For more than 30 years, MAGEN eco-ENERGY and Victor Eyal shared 50/50 ownership of UMA Solar and its affiliates. Magen's acquisition and resulting 100 percent ownership of the company puts UMA Solar and MAGEN eco-ENERGY at the forefront of the global solar thermal market, enhancing each company's future growth and performance.

"We have seen a tremendous opportunity for growth in the U.S. solar thermal market," said MAGEN eco-ENERGY CEO and UMA Solar Chairman, Mati Bavli. "We believe the solar thermal industry in the United States is still at the ground floor level. The acquisition of UMA Solar creates new growth opportunities for our current and future partners."

Key leadership personnel at UMA Solar and Magen eco-Energy.
From left: Mati Bavli, MAGEN eco-ENERGY CEO and UMA Solar Chairmain; Itzik Amar, MAGEN eco-ENERGY VP of Marketing; and Victor Eyal, UMA Solar President and CEO.

UMA Solar CEO and President Victor Eyal said the acquisition gives the company the ability to expand aggressively, further maturing as the nation's top solar thermal manufacturer and distributor.

"Our long affiliation has shown us that we share a vision of growth and innovation," Eyal said. "Our combined organization has the people, technology and quality of service required to lead the solar industry."

Eyal retains his position as CEO and President of UMA Solar and its affiliates.

"UMA Solar remains a U.S.-based company," Eyal added. "And we will continue to manufacture and distribute top-quality solar energy solutions, including products meeting the requirements of the Buy American Act. Our pursuit of new partnerships with contractors and distributors nationwide will carry on while our investment in engineering, marketing and research and development will significantly increase."

About UMA Solar

UMA Solar manufactures and distributes the industry's highest-performing solar products for residential and commercial applications nationwide. UMA Solar features industry-leading products including Heliocol, the world's top solar pool heating systems; Solene Solar Water Heating Systems utilizing the industry's highest-rated domestic water heating systems with more than 100 OG-300 systems available; and, Heliolectric, photovoltaic (PV) solar electric equipment packages, individual components and complete systems. UMA Solar offers its products through its network of more than 700 dealers nationwide. Five distribution locations are strategically placed throughout the U.S. for convenient and continuous availability. For more information, call UMA Solar at 1-800-79-SOLAR or visit http://umasolar.com.


MAGEN eco-ENERGY, an Israeli-based global manufacturer of renewable energy solutions, is the parent company of the Magen International Group. In the nearly forty years since the company was founded, MAGEN eco-ENERGY has grown into a world leader specializing in the R&D, production, and marketing of ecological, economical solutions for each of its major product lines:  Solar Heating for Swimming Pools, spas and Jacuzzis, Solar Water Heating Systems for domestic and commercial use, Natural Salt Chlorinators, Industrial & Agricultural Heat Exchangers and Pre-Heating solutions. Magens' known brands are: Heliocol®, Sunstar®, eco-Flare®, eco-Spark®, and Heat-Kit. Committed to quality, the company is ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 approved. For more information, visit http://www.magen-ecoenergy.com.

For more information, please contact Tod Ellington, Director of Marketing at tellington@umasolar.com.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

City of St. Petersburg Could Save $20,000 Annually Thanks to Solar Water Heaters Installed by Solar Source

Solar Source, a UMA Solar dealer, recently installed 21 Solene solar hot water systems at various municipal buildings for the City of St. Petersburg. The solar water heaters are expected to help the city save over $20,000 per year on operating expenses through reduced electricity bills.

An Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 paid for the systems.

Solar Source installed the at four fire stations, the Sanitation Operations building, three sewage treatment plants, the Water Resources Building, the Sunshine Center, the Enoch Davis Rec Center, City Hall, the city golf courses, and the Coliseum. (Click here for a map.)

The solar water heaters are part of a broader renewable energy push for the city, which includes the Solar Parks Initiative Grant Project. Solar Source is installing photovoltaic systems on recreation centers and park facilities throughout the city through the Solar Parks Initiative. The PV systems will include an interactive educational display at the Science Center of Pinellas County where residents can learn how solar power works.    

“The ‘Sunshine City’ was wise to invest in solar power,” said Jeremiah Rohr, Commercial Sales Representative for Solar Source. “Using grant money to invest in solar hot water systems will immediately reduce the monthly operating costs for the city. As energy prices continue to rise in the future, this investment will continue to generate even more savings for the city.”

St. Petersburg is known as the "Sunshine City" because it holds a Guinness World Record for logging the most consecutive days of sunshine - a stretch lasting 768 days that began in 1967, according to the city web site. St. Petersburg Councilmember Karl Nurse was a strong advocate for the clean energy investment plan, which also includes a solar hot water purchasing program for city residents.

The solar thermal systems, also called domestic hot water (DHW), use the sun’s energy to heat water, which is pumped into a storage tank. The pre-heated water greatly reduces the need for traditional fuels to heat the water in the tank. Replacing a typical water heater with a solar powered system will reduce more than 40,000 pounds of CO2 emissions over 20 years and potentially hundreds of dollars per year in utility costs.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Line up an Installer NOW to Cash in on May 3 Solar Rebates in Florida

Florida Power and Light (FPL) is reopening the application period for solar rebates on May 3, but interested customers must act quickly as the first-come, first-serve funding is expected to run out almost immediately.

FPL is offering up to $20,000 in rebates for solar electric systems (PV) and $1,000 for solar water heaters.

Act quickly to take advantage of FPL solar rebates opening May 3, 2011.
Florida Power and Light customers should act quickly to
take advantage of solar rebates on offer May 3, 2012.

Although the solar water heating rebates are smaller, solar thermal technology is less expensive than PV systems and customers will reap savings immediately. According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, a solar water heater can cut a family's water heating costs by up to 85 percent.

As part of a five-year pilot program authorized by the Florida Public Service Commission, FPL is offering $1,000 for every new residential solar water heater. The rebate is available to all existing FPL residential customers with electric or gas water heating.

The Residential Solar Water Heating Rebate is for solar thermal collectors, pumps, mounting hardware and water storage tanks. All systems must be approved and certified by the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) and have an FSEC system certification number. There is no minimum or maximum size limit. This program is for domestic water heating only. Solar pool heaters do not qualify. All products installed must be new, not refurbished or previously installed. 

Under the same pilot program, solar electric systems can qualify for$2 per watt of DC output of a PV system, up to $20,000.

The rebates are not available for new construction or PV systems that are already installed. Applicants must be current account holders of the premise where the solar photovoltaic system is being installed. 

The Residential PV rebate is for solar electric panels, mounting hardware, grid-interactive electric inverter(s), optional battery systems, associated cabling, and for systems over 10 kilowatt AC, disconnect devices. This rebate program is only for grid-interactive PV systems with a minimum nameplate rating of 2 kilowatts direct current (DC) and a maximum nameplate rating of 2 megawatts. All components must be tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing and certification laboratory for continuous interactive operation with an electric distribution system in compliance with the applicable codes and standards of IEEE 1547, IEEE 1547.1, and UL 1741. All products installed must be new, not refurbished or previously installed.

UMA Solar distributes Solene solar hot water systems and Heliolectric solar electric systems, both of which qualify for the FPL rebate as well as federal incentives. To find a solar contractor qualified to install these systems in your area, visit the Solene and Heliolectric websites.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Solar Thermal Heat Method Produces Cement with Zero CO2 Emissions

Cement production is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, second only to coal-powered electricity. More than 3 billion tons of cement was consumed globally in 2010 alone, the production of which caused environmental damage at all stages including airborne dust and gas pollution and injury to land areas from quarrying.

St. Mary's Cement Plant, Charlevoix, Mich.

But according to a recent study in Chemical Communications, researchers from Virginia's George Washington University have developed a method for cement production that relies on solar thermal heat to eliminate CO2 emissions. The scientists believe the process will also be cheaper than current production techniques.

The research team explained that 60 to 70 percent of CO2 emissions during cement production occur during the conversion of limestone into lime. CO2 is a byproduct of the conversion process. The remaining emissions come from burning fossil fuels to heat the reactors used during the conversion.

The new method would eliminate CO2 from both processes using solar thermal technology. First, solar heat would assist in an electrolysis method of separating the lime from the limestone. Instead of producing carbon dioxide, as in current methods, the new process would produce only oxygen and graphite. The graphite could be stored as solid carbon, researchers said, and by separating it from oxygen atoms, it no longer poses a threat to the atmosphere. Solar thermal heat would additionally replace the fossil fuel heat sources currently in use.

The study estimates that the new method could also be cheaper than current lime production techniques because carbon monoxide produced during the high temperature reaction can be sold and used in other industries.

As an added benefit, researchers said the new solar thermal method isn't limited to cement production. Any industrial application that converts limestone to lime, such as purifying iron, producing glass, paper and sugar, softening water and removing phosphates from sewage, can take advantage of the technology.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

America Loves Solar Power! (Infographic)

A whopping 89 percent of Americans think it's important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power, according to a research survey published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). For the fourth consecutive year, the survey found that about nine out of 10 Americans strongly favored solar energy. The statistics are particularly telling in this fourth year, however, because the survey took place following the much publicized Solyndra bankruptcy.   

Further research from SEIA predicts America's love affair with solar energy will continue over the next two years. The association says some analysts predict the U.S. will become the world's largest solar market by 2014. In addition, solar is already the fastest growing energy sector in the U.S. and will likely be the largest source of new energy capacity in America by 2014.

Take a look at UMA Solar's detailed infographic to learn more about American support of solar energy.

Infographic displaying 6 surprising facts on America's love affair with solar power.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Solar Points: Solar Pool Heating as an Affordable Luxury

A recent article in the March 2012 digital issue of AQUA Magazine highlights solar pool heating with heavy input from our industry-wise Heliocol solar pool heating staff. Kudos to Director of Marketing Tod Ellington, Vice President Bob Zrallack, National Sales Manager Loren Zucconi and Senior Professional Engineer Michael Studney for sharing their considerable solar industry knowledge with AQUA Magazine readers.

Solar Points, AQUA Magazine, March 2012
by Eric Herman

Experienced pool and spa owners will often complain that it simply costs too much to heat their water. Rising energy prices result not only lighter billfolds but also shorter swimming seasons and ultimately diminished use and enjoyment of their vessels. For those reasons and more, solar water heating systems have remained a popular heating option, which when installed properly can transform the frustration of obtaining warm water into the joy of affordable luxury.

A recent AQUA Magazine article detailing solar pool heating facts.
A recent article in AQUA Magazine outlining the benefits of solar pool heating systems.
The notion of harnessing the sun’s energy to serve our earthly needs in the form of a ready and renewable energy source is hardly anything new. There’s an inescapable logic to utilizing the inexhaustible source of energy that is our sun in favor of burning fossil fuel.

And as energy prices continue to rise, the appeal of heating water for pools and spas in particular using the sun becomes more and more enticing for many consumers who want to both save money and extend their swimming season without their lips turning blue. And for those concerned about “going green” it doesn’t hurt that solar heating leaves virtually no carbon footprint.

That’s all been good news for solar manufacturers, who currently report that even through the tough economic conditions of the past four years, the market for solar heating, both on the residential and commercial sides of the market, has remained steady and has even made inroads in places they wouldn’t have expected. Even homeowners in areas such as the upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S., regions considered less likely to turn to solar to due their colder climates, have embraced solar heating.

Despite the ironclad logic behind solar thermal heating systems, successfully applying the technology does require hitting a handful of key technical concepts as well as governing client expectations. Here are a few of the main issues that need to be addressed in order for consumers to enjoy the limitless bounty of the sun’s free energy.

The good news is that all of these points boil down to basic common sense and when presented to clients in the right light, solar heating becomes more appealing and attainable.

Proper Installation

Those who install solar heating systems must be part plumber, roofing contractor and electrician. That’s why manufacturers strongly recommend that homeowners turn to qualified dealers to size and install their systems and not take on the challenge themselves.

Hydraulic calculations, although not terribly complex, need to be considered with issues such as pump sizing
relative to the flow requirements of the solar panels, as well as resistance provided by vertical lift to the panel locations. And the plumbing connections need to be properly installed to avoid leaks.

On the electrical side, solar systems require connections to automated valves and heating control systems.
Again, although not complex by any stretch, those connections require an understanding of basic electrical installation techniques and hardware.

And finally, rooftop installations require making small numbers of penetrations to secure panel-mounting hardware. Proper use of sealants and flashing is therefore critical to avoid leaks.

For these basic reasons, solar pool heating should not be viewed as a do-it-yourself proposition.

Performance Anxiety

As is true of most technologies, consumers should be informed in clear and understandable terms what to
expect from their systems in terms of performance.

They need to first understand that solar heating systems operate when the sun is out and therefore it’s necessary to circulate their pool’s filtration systems during the day, as in the vast majority of cases, the solar system will run off the primary circulation pump.

Consumers should be aware the solar heating is most effective when viewed as a daily heat maintenance source. How fast a system will raise water temperatures depends on the exposure to the sun and the desired
temperature rise — which in pools will typically top out at about 90 degrees. Depending on ambient temps and other variables, solar heating systems may take two to three days or longer to generate desired water temperatures.

A client who swims for exercise may only want temperatures in the mid-70s and in a mild climate, a properly
sized solar heating system will bring the water to the temperature in relatively short order, and evenly maintain
it over time. By contrast, a client who wants temps in the high-80s and lives in a cooler climate can also achieve that, but it will take longer to raise the temperature to the desired level.

Because solar heating systems are subject to the weather, clients should be reminded of basic pool facts such
as the cooling effect of rainfall and the required time needed to reheat the water. In most cases, clients are surprised by what they can achieve in terms of heat rise and maintenance, so long as they’ve been properly informed about the realistic limitations of their systems.

Meets The Wallet,
Meets The Eye

When it comes to payback on investment, solar systems consistently outperform expectations. The variables
impacting return on investment include cost of heating in the area, the size of the pool, desired temperature and, of course, prevailing climatic conditions.

Clients who have used fossil fuel to heat their pools can easily calculate the savings — and the numbers are typically impressive enough to motivate serious interest in obtaining a system. As a general rule, manufacturers report that in the vast majority of situations, the systems repay their initial costs within two years.

By contrast, perhaps the most vexing client concern involves the appearance of the panels themselves.
Because they do consume significant surface area and are typically installed on roofs, the panels are quite visible. Some suppliers now offer panels in different colors that help blend with roof material.

Beyond that, the message to consumers is that most people come to see the panels in the way they see a satellite dish, television antenna or even power lines. They simply become part of the accepted scenery. And when the cost savings and increased enjoyment of the water is factored in, the appearance of the panels becomes far more forgivable and even potentially a point of pride.

Size And Exposure

Manufacturers size solar systems based primarily on surface area of the water rather than volume, based largely on the fact that approximately 70 percent of all heat loss in a body of water is due to evaporation. It’s common for suppliers to recommend that the surface area of the panels equate to 80 percent of the surface area of the water.

Again, depending on climate and desired heat rise, the sizing may change, perhaps taking the size of the
panels up to 100 or 120 percent of surface area. By contrast, there are situations, especially in warm climates, where systems can be sized as low as 50 percent of water’s surface area.

Because evaporation plays such a huge role in heat loss, all solar heating professionals recommend the use
of some type of solid cover, whether a floating solar cover or a solid safety cover. Simply preventing evaporative losses using a cover will typically more than double overall system efficiency.

As a side note, when systems include fountain elements or waterfalls, which can dramatically add to evaporative losses, many installers and manufacturers will recommend upsizing the panels to compensate.

Exposure to the sun is essential, of course, and in situations where adequate exposure is not possible, the
most staunch solar heating advocates will admit that the systems may not be worth the cost and will most likely only lead to unsatisfied customers.

The rule of thumb here is simple. In the Northern Hemisphere, solar heating panels should optimally be
mounted when facing within 45 degrees of southern exposure. Otherwise they will only be in direct sunlight during the summer months, when heating is less of a concern. East and west facing exposures can still be effective, although they could require upsizing or moderated client expectations for performance. Systems installed on flat roofs are perfectly acceptable.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The "Right" Way to Save with Solar Hot Water

A recent blog article on The News & Observer website reported significant power bill savings among Raleigh, N.C.-area Progress Energy customers who switched to solar hot water systems.

Solene solar hot water systems can save homeowners up to 80% on their water heating utility costs.
A solar water heating system, such as this one by Solene,
can slash water heating utility bills by as much as 80 percent.

In Progress Energy's report to the N.C. Utilities Commission, customers in their year-long pilot program saved an average of $235 a year by switching to solar water heaters. The savings represented a 63 percent average annual savings on the water heater portion of each customer's power bills.

As part of the pilot, Progress contributed $1,000 to the purchase cost of each customer's solar water heating system. Progress reported that the solar systems cost anywhere from $4,000 to $12,375 per home.

Naysayers were quick to jump on the cost of the systems as a major deterrent, recommending traditional water heaters or do-it-yourself solar thermal collectors. But well-designed and professionally-installed solar hot water systems come with distinct advantages over both DIY and traditional water heaters.

To begin with, a homeowner rarely pays the full price of a solar hot water system. In North Carolina, for example, solar water heaters qualify for a 30 percent federal tax incentive and a state tax credit of up to $1,400. Other states offer similar rebates and incentives, as do many utility companies, cutting the cost of a new solar system by about half.

Homeowners will also enjoy more savings over time using a solar water heating system, despite the initial investment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), water heating bills should drop between 50 to 80 percent after installing a solar system. Because solar energy is free, homeowners also  have long term protection from future fuel shortages and utility price hikes.

If you're building a new home or refinancing, the DOE says the economics are even more attractive. Including the price of a solar water heater in a new 30-year mortgage usually amounts to between $13 and $20 per month. The federal income tax deduction for mortgage interest attributable to the solar system reduces that by about $3–$5 per month. So if your fuel savings are more than $15 per month, the solar investment is profitable immediately. On a monthly basis, you're saving more than you're paying.

So why not enjoy those savings with a DIY solar water heater? Although the technology behind solar water heating is simple and numerous plans for do-it-yourself solar systems are available on the internet, a DIY solar hot water system can be an expensive mistake.

Firstly, to qualify for most state, federal and utility rebate programs you'll need to show that your collector and/or system is rated or compliant with various governing agencies. Some of these organizations include the Solar Ratings & Certification Organization, the Florida Solar Energy Center and the Industry Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials. These independent organizations develop codes and criteria specifically for solar thermal systems to protect consumers and to hold manufacturers accountable for the safety and quality of their products.

A high quality solar thermal collector will also come with a comprehensive warranty, protecting the purchaser for an extended period of time. Aurora solar hot water collectors by Solene, for example, come with a 10 year warranty plus a bonus lifetime limited warranty. It is important to note, however, the warranty requires that the collector is installed by a trained, authorized installer.

In addition to warranty coverage, homeowners should seek a trained professional for a solar hot water system installation for performance, safety and protection from liability.

Proper installation depends on a variety of factors including climate and local building codes. A qualified solar thermal contractor can ensure you're getting the best performance and return on your investment while adhering to code requirements.

Working on the roof (where most solar thermal collectors are mounted) can be dangerous, especially when working with large panels, electric wires (in the case of active systems) and water. You should consider the long term protection of your home, as well. An untrained individual can make mistakes leading to a myriad of future problems in your roof and attic, not the least of which could be flooding and fire.

By choosing a licensed contractor to perform the installation, you'll protect yourself from liability in the case of injury, damage and future property values. (Having work done on your home without a proper permit must be disclosed to future buyers.)

A trained solar professional can install a solar hot water system with safety and performance in mind.
A trained solar professional will get the best
performance from a solar water heating system.

A solar hot water system can be an excellent investment with long-term benefits for your budget and the environment.  By choosing your system and your installation professional carefully, you can reap the rewards of clean, renewable solar energy for years to come.