Thursday, July 06, 2006

Taking the solar plunge

Next week, if all goes well, my parents will be installing a solar thermal system on our country house. We will install just over 75 sq feet of solar collector area on our roof and get an 80 gallon water tank with a heat exchanger.
The installed system is estimated to cost $10k before incentives and is provided by Solar Service Inc, a local installer operating for over 25 years, which says something considering they are based in Chicago, IL. We should get a $3k rebate from the state (my parents don't expect to get a $2k federal tax credit since they usually pay the AMT). While solar is still expensive, solar thermal systems are supposed to have the best paybacks. We will be offsetting water that is otherwise heated by electricity (which everyone knows is not very efficient) so that will be useful. We pay a low per kwh rate (6.5 cents) at the house, so I'm afraid the financial payback will be far in the future.
I'd guess we might save $500 a year, although that figure may be ambitious. I hope we get some meter with the system that can help us determine how much energy we are offsetting/saving.

Oh this reminds me, can anyone recommend a low flow showerhead that doesn't feel like its low flow?
The house is nearly 20 years old and I don't believe we have low flow shower heads (there are 4 showers) in the house and low flow would obviously help reduce hot water demand. I'm guessing the showers are currently 4, or 5 gpm. I really really like long hot showers so I don't want to buy a low flow, if its going to feel like I'm misting rather than showering.


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