For the better half of the last century solar hot water has been efficiently used to replace/supplement domestic hot water for almost any application hot water is needed. In Vermont a solar hot water system (SHW) is typically designed to cover approximately 70% of the hot water demand on site. Most of the production comes from March through September when temperatures gained can be above 140 degrees. During the less sunny months of the year the system acts as a pre-heater to bring water temperature up to a more usable temperature reducing the amount of energy required by the existing system. A solar hot water system can be added to any existing system without major retrofits.
Currently the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation of (VEIC) offers various incentives available through the state of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Resource Center (RERC). The RERC provides incentives to customers who chose to have a system installed by a Partner of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) found at: www.rerc.org
The average households stand to receive approximately $900-$1500 per system installed. Most REV Partners provide a free site analysis to help potential customers determine the location and orientation that best suites the installation of a Solar Hot Water system. The installer should be able to explain the proposed system in detail to include, collector orientation and location, pipe run location, size of system, and the various components that make-up the system, as well as how they integrate into the existing system.
Most towns require some documentation for the installation of a Solar Hot water system. A good installer will secure all necessary paperwork for the installation to include but not limited to; Local permits, State permits, State incentives documentation, State historic review, local historic review, and tax credit application assistance. Every project will require some sort of documentation or permit in order to begin construction. The installer should be well versed in this area and provide most of what is required.
The average cost of a residential solar hot water system tends to be around $10k before tax credit or incentives. Currently the 30% federal tax credit for both residential or businesses is available for all projects until 12/31/2016. The remaining cost of a system after all tax credits and incentives are taken into account typically remains just over $5k. Depending on the existing fuel used to heat the hot water the average return on investment is between 6-10 years. Most solar thermal Collectors are under warranty for a minimum of 10 years. Other components like pumps and storage tanks will vary based on the installer. High quality components should be used in all SHW systems, reduced quality will lead to reduced efficiency, performance, and system longevity. A well built solar hot water system should last 30 years or more with the only maintenance being a system flush at least every 10 years. Quality and efficiency will always pay for itself.