By Andrea Eastman
Three central VT area residents have cut their fuel dependency by tackling their domestic hot water (DHW) systems. Each homeowner chose to go ‘green’ for energy savings — but in different ways.
Gordon Clark, of Braintree chose to install a single panel, roof mount system. Enthusiastic about saving even more, Clark also made sure to insulate along inside and outside plumbing lines with a foil faced material, ensuring optimum heat transfer (zero loss in temperature) from tube to tank.
Braintree do-it-yourselfer Eric Best replaced existing flat panel collectors with evacuated tubes for better energy production all year ‘round.
Eric installed a ground mounted tri-panel array to support the DHW for a family of 4 and to contribute to radiant heat in colder weather. Solar water heating provides a great boost to radiant systems because it commands a much lower operating temperature than the baseboard heating found in most mid to late century, 1900’s homes. However, most fossil fuel boilers will not accept solar (pre-heated) heated water. Advice to the new builder: consider solar supported radiant heating and DHW equipment from the start. For a reasonable initial outlay, it will cut your costs of operations and fuel consumption tremendously over time. When substituting traditional equipment with solar, look for components that are user friendly, have adequate water storage, and integrated backup fuel systems.
Another property gone ‘green’ is that of Mark and Nancy Hutchinson. They converted a fossil-fuel-heated 300 sq. ft. radiant floor addition to Solar Evacuated Tube panels.
This 2-panel array will completely service their DHW needs through the warmer months and contribute to their space heating and hot water demands the rest of the year. A third panel can be added as needed if further reductions in back up fuel are called for during the darkest days of the year. As a 5-person household today, the Hutchinsons chose to start with the 2-panel system, potentially 72,000 BTU’s of energy production daily. For their future demand as a 2-3 person household, that will be plenty to fuel their needs.
So, as you sort through advertisements for solar solutions, start with water heating. It’s where the return on your investment is still the highest. A system that can withstand sub-zero temps is one that stands out. The bigger your needs, the more fossil fuel expenses you can slash from your budget.
Information contributes by Daedalus Solar Works, Williamstown, Vermont: www.daedalussolarworks.com