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Is Solar Heating For You?, Part 2

Choose Solar Heat for your new home... It may just be the brightest thing you have done in a long time!!

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We are often asked:

"What is it like to live in a solar heated home?"
"What is the best kind of solar energy system?"
"Does solar really work where I live?"
"How much can solar really do for me?"
"How long does it take for solar to pay itself back"
"What will it look like on my house?"
"How long will a solar energy system last? How reliable will solar be?"

The purpose of this site is to help you with these questions. A solar energy system is not for everyone, but a look at some basic information will help you decide if it would be good for you and your family.

What is it like to live in a solar heated home?

A solar heated home could very well be the most comfortable home you haveever had, and you may be able to retrofit a solar energy system to your existing home. A solar energy system from Radiantec Company uses underfloor radiant heating, the most comfortable heating system that there is.

For much of the year, you will have all of the heat and hot water you want; for free. You will be able to open windows and enjoy luxurious ventilation. You will enjoy long showers without cost or guilt during sunny periods. During colder, cloudier periods, you may need to conserve energy like everyone else and use backup heat, but not as much as you would without the solar system.

In warmer months, you will have all the domestic hot water that you want, and your solar system will work in reverse to give you a limited amount of free cooling. All of the water that your household uses, for showers, laundry, outside watering, etc. will pass through the floor first before it goes to the fixtures. In the process, heat will be taken out of the house for free. Now isn't that better than paying money for air conditioning? In very humid climates, you will still use a much smaller amount of air conditioning to dehumidify the air for comfort.

When you live is a solar energy home, you live in luxurious comfort while you are doing the right thing for the environment.

What kind of solar of solar energy system is right for me?

There are two kinds of solar collectors, 1) solar thermal collectors, that make heat, usually in the form of a warm liquid, and 2) photovoltaic collectors, that make electricity.

Unfortunately photovoltaic collectors are much more expensive than thermal collectors, and they are considerably less efficient. It is almost never a good idea to make electricity with photovoltaic collectors and then use the electricity to make heat. You should have used a solar thermal collector in the first place.

Solar photovoltaic electric systems will have an important place in our future energy mix, but they are not a good way to make a lot of heat, and they will not be in the foreseeable future. It is our opinion that electricity is a premium energy source, and its use should be reserved for end uses that require its unique qualities and properties, and where its expense can be justified. Radiantec, http://www.radiantec.com,  is a solar thermal company. We suggest that you consult with Solar Works Company for your photovoltaic needs. Their website is http://www.solar-works.com/

Most of the energy that a typical residential household consumes is used for simple thermal tasks such as space heating, the production of domestic hot water and cooling. A simple solar thermal system is most appropriate for these needs.

There are several simple solar thermal systems described at http://www.radiantsolar.com/options_index.php


Radiantec Company is located in Northern Vermont and we hear these questions quite a bit. Northern Vermont can be bitterly cold and is subject to prolonged cloudy spells, particularly in November and December and sometimes during the springtime. Other parts of the continental US are also subject to cloudy spells such as Buffalo NY and Seattle, WA.

But the answer is "Yes, it is possible to use solar energy in these areas." It is just not as easy as it is in Colorado. A solar energy system must be very efficient and well thought out to be practical in some areas, but it can be done. That is a proven fact.

A solar performance calculation is not hard; basic arithmetic really. We look at four things:

  1. The Solar Resource.
  2. The energy requirement to be met.
  3. The ability to store solar energy for use in cloudy periods.
  4. The efficiency of the system.

We will start with a narrative discussion about what solar energy can do. For many people, that will be enough, and you can always consult with Radiantec technicians. Click here.

Then, for the people who are interested, we will present a simple, common sense analysis method so that the individual with basic arithmetic skills can figure these matters out for him or herself. Click here

Then, for those really interested, we will present carefully collected scientific data from controlled studies for an in depth understanding of the phenomena. (Please look in the INFO LIBRARY, and consult the DOE Report, the Scientific Paper, and the magazine articles. Click here.

How long does it take for solar to pay itself back?

A solar energy system is an investment like many others, and should yield a good return immediately. Consider how much money the solar energy system saves you on an average monthly or annual basis.Then compare this with the "opportunity cost" of the money that the solar system costs. The "opportunity cost" is either what the money costs to borrow, or the money that you forfeited by taking the money out of another investment.

If you are not making money immediately, perhaps the solar system is not a good investment and you should not build it. A solar heating system that does not make good economic sense often does not make environmental sense either.

Cost benefit analysis for a solar energy system in the Boston, MA area predicts that the investment will yield about 12% per year. If the cost of conventional energy such as fossil fuels goes up in the future, the value of the solar investment goes up, too. You should keep in mind that the income from the solar investment is tax-free. More information about cost benefit is available in the US Department of Energy Report. (in the INFO LIBRARY) http://www.radiantsolar.com/pdf/DOEREPORT.pdf

What will solar collectors look like on my house?

Many people do not put the solar collectors on the house at all. Solar collectors can be mounted upon the garage, or a woodshed, storage shed, or pool cabana. You can use array of solar collectors as a fence and landscape it nicely. If you do place the solar collectors on the house, there will be a small efficiency benefit because of shorter pipe runs.

If you select an efficient solar energy system, fewer panels will be needed to do the job, and they will be easier to locate.

Most solar collectors are black under the glass and have dark brown sidewalls. They blend in well with dark roofing materials.

How long will a solar energy system last?
How reliable will it be?
What maintenance is needed?

The solar energy system should last the life of the building that it serves. The exterior portion (the solar collectors) is made of tempered glass, and extruded aluminum, like a quality commercial storefront window. The copper pipe is protected by anti corrosion agents in the antifreeze and should last over 50 years. Pumps have been lasting over 25 years because of their high quality and the lubricating effect of the antifreeze. The antifreeze solution should be checked every 10 years and replaced when needed. It is likely to last for 25-years. The solar storage tanks are like other domestic hot water heaters except that they are of high quality and have ample anticorrosion rods. They should last over ten years. Underfloor heating materials are made of high-grade plastics and will last the life of the building. The controls are all solid state.

The use of an installation package is strongly recommended. An installation package is economical, and you get all the right parts in a form that only goes together the right way. You will save a lot on labor.

We invite you to explore this website and to click on "Next Step" if you would like more information.

Our solar technicians are always ready to answer questions.

Call 1-800-451-7593

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