Exploring the Solar Thermal Option for Home Heat

UPDATE: I heard back from Senator Whitehouse’s office that his staff is “still checking” into the solar tax credit issue.

Tired of oil bills going up hundreds of dollars every year? Want to help reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere? Perhaps you should consider a solar thermal heating system for your home. All you need is an unshaded house and the ability and will to invest your heating cost dollars up front.

We had a representative from Solarwrights come to our house recently and estimated we could put in a solar thermal system for about $15,000. Unfortunately, we have two large oak trees that shade our house and they would need to be removed, and we are not willing to do that. So solar thermal is not an option for us at the moment.

If we were able to get the solar thermal system, we would have received payback in reduced oil costs in about 15 years. That’s assuming that the solar thermal could generate about 50% of the energy for our home and the other 50% would continue to be paid out in oil costs. In other words, our average oil costs for this year look like they’re going to be about $2,000. Once a solar thermal system was installed, we would pay about $1,000 a year for oil.

Also, it is estimated that you can recover about 65% of your cost for a solar thermal system with the tax credits that were available, and that hopefully will continue to be available. See this post for more about the removal of this tax credit from a current energy bill. I have also contacted Sheldon Whitehouse’s office about the solar tax credit and am hoping to hear back about when and where this will be reintroduced.

It is estimated that the average value of a home goes up by $20,000 when a solar thermal system is installed. If it’s really true you can earn your money back in 10-15 years (and that’s at current oil prices — the payback will grow shorter if oil prices continue to rise) and on top of that, you can recover 65% of your money in tax credits, and on top of that you’d be doing something good for the environment, I can’t imagine why more people won’t opt for solar thermal as time goes on.

Wikipedia has a good page with more information on various types of solar hot water and heating options.

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4 responses

  1. natural news network sponsored a meet-and-greet and i talked to people about solar power, someone who has it on his house told me he’s very satisfied. the tax credit is a major factor because it is a lot of money for a long term gain.

  2. NOVA just did a special on this last month. Massachusetts and many other states pay 1/2 of the cost. Also, it was fascinating to learn that most other countries (excluding Asian) are at 25% Green energy. We are at 1% according to the show. They also said many farmers are actually making money from the solar market. I think more folks would fork out the money knowing 1/2 is paid by the State, and then the rates would come down…eventually.

    Hey, I just came into the 20th century and had insulation blown in to the walls and attic which housed none. Great savings right here – something everyone should look into and you get 20% back through the utility company and then you can apply for a Federal rebate of 15%. Pretty good deal.

  3. Hardee har har…..actually matee, this here Mayor says he wants to be a Mayor again. Can’t be Mayor again until you pull the Permit. Although in this instance there has been no leadership on taking the bull by the horns. My money is he’s been on a tortoise path, but in the end…..he will finally make the finish line.

    And I will get my solar panels (although I’m not holding my breath).

    Noted Skeptic, you know the game. I’m not grabbing the bait. He’s lost Ward 2 and Ward 6.

  4. There is no reason why anyone comfortable with using a saw and epoxy and some modest duct and sheet metal work cannot build and install a modest passive solar collector on just about any roof. Plans are available in many books and can be scaled or enlarged. Get a bit more sophisticated and put in a fan somewhere along the duct line and you can blow the warm air about. $15,000 can buy a lot of plywood, paint, black cloth and plastic and seems a bit more than is needed for even an active solar air and water heating unit. Passive works reasonably well depending on the space to be heated and the size of your collecting panels. If you want to graduate to generating electricity, the skill set needed goes up a bit, but can still be managed. Passive solar out here, where we have cloudless skies perhaps 75% of the time and only 11 inches of precip a year, is widely used but has never become “hot” (no punintended). Tax credits seem to have driven an industry that was just never quite economical, a bit too expensive for reasonable payback and the materials used seem to deteriorate before the payback is reached. This is not complex technology and most folks can probably do it themselves at a cost low enough to get that payback

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