Yardley Voice – Going Green Solar Column – October 2012
by Mark Bortman
How would you like to have your cup of coffee made with water that has been heated by the sun? Well, at the Green Line Café in Philadelphia, that is just what you get.
According to owner Dan Thut, “Our solar water heating system is a great way for us to show that we are good neighbors. By not burning fossil fuels, we are helping our environment. In addition, it is saving us money.”
When people hear “solar energy,” they usually think about the solar panels that generate electricity. These are called photovoltaics or PV. You’ve probably seen these popping up in fields, on roofs and even on telephone poles in New Jersey.
Solar water heating systems, however, use a completely different technology to capture the sun’s heat. These systems are called solar thermal systems and they use the energy from the sun for heating water and space heating.
Around the world, solar thermal systems are much more common than photovoltaics. They are relatively low cost and are very efficient at converting the sun’s energy into heat that we can use.
Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was a big push for solar thermal systems in this country. There was even a solar water heating system installed on the White House!
Many of those systems are still in place in our area, are still generating lots of hot water and saving money.
Think of all the places you use hot water. Certainly you use it at home for showers, dishwashing and laundry.
In addition, many businesses and other places need hot water as well – hospitals, restaurants, health clubs, hotels, laundromats, even prisons. All of these places would be great locations for solar water heating.
Demand for solar water heaters is increasing as PECO rates and oil prices rise. The addition of a rebate (good until the end of the year) and a federal tax credit and the cost of a system is reduced by an incredible 50%.
Many people don’t realize it, but water heating typically accounts for 15-25% of your overall utility bill. With a relatively small upfront investment, you can reduce your utility bill and help the environment.