Dark and Cold

Richmond Square at the end of Pitman Street

At church this Sunday they were having a genteel argument over whether 2010 is the first year of a new decade or the last of the preceding. Most of the snow from the big storm has melted in two days of warm and mild weather.

Now an arctic front is moving in promising dry cold and wind like a knife. Already I’ve had to put extra salt on the steps.

I watch the sun. I promised myself not to look at the almanac until after the New Year, because now the sun stands still and the days are not getting longer quite yet. I run in and out of houses, overheated for the most part. The elderly complexes are well-protected from the elements. The triple-deckers usually have a designated room where a space heater wins out over the drafts. I would like to go on a retreat, but that’s not how we live, or make our living.

There’s still something special about this time of year. I’m keeping the tree up for a while.

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.