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Hot water from the sun warm your toes with solar energy.

Sustainability means the ability to keep something in existence. We have an incredible friend of the Earth that sustains us for free every day: our sun. It powers the water cycle, makes the winds blow, and provides light, heat and energy to all living things on Earth. Consider the incredible efficiency of this great star: every fifteen minutes, the sun produces enough power to supply the earth for an entire year. No wonder many civilizations present and past worship(ped) the sun. They knew, and still know today, that our very life depends on it. Unlike our nonrenewable fossil fuels, such as coal. petroleum and natural gas, the sun has a life expectancy of at least five billion years. And what is the primary source of energy that fossil fuels are of made of. Solar energy. Doesn't it makes sense to go to the source, the gift that is so freely given and use it to power our homes, heat our water and warm our hearth? Isn't it wonderful that solar energy can be absorbed. reflected, transmitted and insulated so we can do just that, without polluting our wonderful home?

So when installing a solar hot water system in your home. consider this: your fuel source is free. The equipment and installation cost can vary depending on the size of your hot water needs, the efficiency and quality of the system components and location of your home. A typical domestic use system can start at $5,000 and less when applying the new federal tax incentives of thirty percent and North Carolina's tax credit of 35 percent. Although this is usually more than a conventional gas or electric system, today's solar heating systems are cost competitive when you consider your total energy costs over the entire life of the system and the fact that you will be insulated from rising costs of fossil fuels. Investing in solar could also increase the resale value of your home. More buyers are looking for renewable energy homes and often the entire initial cost of the system can be recovered when you sell your property

Installing a solar hot water system that covers 75 percent of your hot water needs is equivalent to reducing eighty percent of the CO2 emitted from an average passenger car in one year or 110 percent of CO2 removed by one acre of forest. A decision to go solar definitely has a positive impact on the environment.

A typical solar heated water system starts with a solar collector that absorbs the sun's radiation and converts it into energy used to heat water. The stored heated water is then applied to supplement the heating of household water, hot tubs. swimming pools or hydronic radiant floor heating systems.

If your home gets five to six hours of sunlight a day, you can install solar. The first step toward installation is to have an installer check your property with a pathfinder instrument to clarify how much sun you can actually use and if your collectors will be on the roof. ground or outside wall of your home. Then. based on your hot water needs and the type of warranties and efficiency ratings you would like from your system you and your installer choose a system custom designed for your home.

Today's technology offers choices. The basic flat plate collector has come a long way in its efficiency and style, costs less and can only be installed on the roof or ground mounted rack. Solar Evacuated tubes, a newer technology, are much more efficient than flat plate collectors. They may cost more, but they can be installed in indirect sunlight, on the roof, free standing or on a wall.

If you're building a home this year and trying to decide on an efficient heating system, or remodeling an existing home, consider hydronic radiant floor heat. Radiant floor heating has been around for centuries and can be powered by fossil fuels, but the real savings are applied when powered by solar. Heated water is pumped through pex (a type of non-toxic plastic) tubing laid in a pattern underneath the floor. The tubing can also be embedded in a concrete foundation slab. a lightweight concrete slab on top of a subfloor, or over a previously poured slab A wide variety of floor coverings can be used such as tile, wood, concrete or laminates. There are no vents blowing hot dry air, a great relief for allergy sufferers, and the system is quiet, so you don't hear a furnace going on and off. Because the heat radiates up front the floor, your body stays warm and there is even heat distribution in the house, which means your thermostat stays set lower, saving energy. And remember, most of your heat source, the sun, is free. The rest (propane. electric, or other) is backup for consecutive cloudy and extremely cold days.

When considering renewable energy, heating your home with solar heated water and hydronic radiant floor heat is one of the most financially feasible options. With system lifetimes well above thirty years and short paybacks beginning at seven years, solar heated water will bear fruit for many years to come. Your solar hot water system would not only be heating your home, but taking care of hot water for your laundry, kitchen and bath. You'd have the comfort of rolling out of bed to the touch of a warm floor on cold winter mornings, and basking in the heat of yesterday's sunshine as you shower But the best bonus yet is peace of mind. knowing that while you have satisfied your own physical comforts and need for a healthy home, you've also made a contribution to a healthier planet.

For more research, visit ...

NC Solar Center:

US Dept of Energy:

Alternate Energy Technologies:

Thermo Technologies:

Radiant Panel Association:

Laura Sorensen and her husband Ole own Solar Dynamics in Asheville, NC, which provides renewable energy and hydronic heating systems with design and installation services. Contact them at 828-665-8507 or visit their website at
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Author:Sorensen, Laura
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Previous Article:Future sustainable community: right now.
Next Article:Q&A: shedding light on solar tax credits.

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