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Course Title
100 Home
101 Introduction
102 FAQ Page
103 Course Catalog
104 Green World
105 Demand & Supply
106 Conservation Careers
107 Solar Careers
108 Wind Turbine Careers
109 Entrepreneurs
110 Employee or Employer?
200 Demand Management
201 Summary
202 Residential Energy Profile
203 Ten Conservation Rules
204 HVAC System
205 Kitchen Appliances
206 Water Heater
207 Lighting
208 Laundry Appliances
209 Calculating Savings
300 Renewable Technology
301 Solar Energy
302 Solar Collectors
303 Solar Water Heating
304 Stirling Engines
305 Basic AC-DC Electronics
306 Silicon Solar Panels
307 Thin Film Solar Panels
308 Wind Turbines
309 Inverters
310 Grid Tied and Off Grid
311 Solar Site Survey
312 Solar Site Diagram
313 Sun Path Chart
314 Site Survey Worksheet
315 Wind Turbine Site Survey
316 Wind Turbine Worksheet
400 Solar Thermal Design
401 Solar Heat Overview
402 System Configuration
403 Site Survey
404 SRCC Compliance
405 System Specification
406 Bill of Materials
407 System Installation
408 Solar Heat Incentives
409 Document Package
410 Future Products
500 Solar PV Design
501 Solar PV Overview
502 System Configuration
503 Site Survey
504 Grid Tied & Off Grid
505 System Specification
506 Bill of Materials
507 System Installation
508 Solar PV Incentives
509 Document Package
510 Future Products
600 Wind Turbine Design
601 Wind Turbine Overview
602 System Configuration
603 Site Survey
604 Grid Tied and Off Grid
605 System Specification
Green Collar Links
Green Collar Sponsors

 

Green Collar Careers - Solar Water Heating

Solar water heaters are in a second wave of product evolution;  the first wave began through the 1980's as energy prices escalated and later retreated through the 1990's.  The second wave began around 2004 again a result of energy price escalation.  In both periods energy cost escalations and system installation tax credits were the key drivers behind the evolution.

From the Demand Management module you learned that the average residential energy demand for heating water was about 10% of the total, so the economic return on a solar water heating system may be somewhat minimal.  Without a healthy tax credit it would probably not make financial sense to anyone to install a solar water heating system today, however that may change as energy costs continue to escalate.  Current Tax Credits are 30% of the installation cost to a maximum of $2000 system cost ($667 credit).

The type of system and value/cost comparisons between solar and conventional heating systems are mostly dependent on the type of solar water heating system required to meet the local climate, and fall into three geographical categories:

  • Warm Climates are optimal as the system sizing is the smallest and the concern of freezing temperature exposure is the lowest.
  • Moderate Climates generally require a drain back provision during hard freeze periods (open loop) and need to be sized accordingly.
  • Cold Climates require a closed loop system and need to be sized the largest. 
  • Open Loop systems heat the water directly
  • Closed Loop systems heat a secondary fluid such as glycol that is transferred to the water

Start with identifying the climate grade for the region of interest as that will determine the type of solar collectors to install.  As the value proposition for a solar water heater strongly favors electricity over propane and natural gas fuels, note the current cost per kWh with an estimate of 10% of the bill resulting from water heating.  This will provide the basis for the value proposition.

Select a commercially available system - there are over 100 quality solar heating products on the market today and these manufacturers will continue to grow.  Use the Search Tool below and research the current product offerings.  They should have application, sizing and pricing information to derive a suitable value proposition.  A sample of the value proposition for the customer is shown below.

 
Value Proposition
Solar Hot Water System Electric Water Heat
Annual operating cost: $50 Annual operating cost: $500+
Storage Capacity: 80-120 gal Storage Capacity: 40-50 gal
Life expectancy: 20 years Life expectancy: 10 years
Lifetime operating cost: $1,000 Lifetime operating cost: $5,000
Turnkey installation cost: $5300 Turnkey installation cost: $900
Total pre-credit annual cost: $404 Total pre-credit annual cost: $560
Total annual cost after credit: $359 Total annual cost after credit: $560
Added resale value to structure: $3975 Added resale value to structure: $0

Currently the most popular commercial systems are sealed condensate evacuated tube systems with a closed loop for moderate and cold climates.  Warm climates are more likely to use open loop systems with drain back features.  Solar concentrating tracking systems are beginning to gain popularity in applications where rooftop mounting is not a practical option.  Parabolic troughs are finding some very clever awning designs where they may be used on southern exposures with only Solar Azimuth tracking.

Solar water heating depends on the availability of the Sun and systems are designed to store a volume of water for nighttime and cloudy day use, however extended periods of cloudy days may find the home without hot water occasionally.  Practical application is to divide the number of sunny days by total days of the year for the value benefit;  for example if your region has 300 sunny days a year, 82% of the water heating cost comes from the Sun and 18% will come from electricity. 

Tankless water heaters provide an excellent supplemental heating additive as they are inexpensive and can be located close to the tap that requires hot water.  The customer has the benefit of instant on-hot water and in turn that significantly reduces the waste of the stored heated water.

The best prospective customers for Solar Hot Water Heaters are in this order:

  1. New Home Construction
  2. About to purchase an Existing Home
  3. Planning Home Renovations, possibly with refinancing
  4. Green conscious homeowners who just want solar water heating

In both cases 1 & 2 building good relationships with Real Estate Sales Professionals goes a long ways.  One out of ten homebuyers are likely to spend a little more to install a green system given the opportunity is made easy for them at the time of the home purchase.  In the case of existing home renovations, loan officers, particularly independents meet new prospective customers everyday.  Of course nothing come for free and an appropriate referral fee is a mutually beneficial solution.  Some local laws may pertain to fees paid to these professionals so you will need to inquire about any limitations on these type of referral fees in your area.

Unless you feel compelled to run your own installations (and have any necessary licenses, plumbing etc.) you'll need to find some local contractors willing to install these systems.  One of the best options are the part-time handyman who may have taken an early retirement from a career position.  Most of these people are competent and eager to deal with you on an ethical basis.

Some simple points to qualify the suitability of a given site:

  • Homes with southern facing exposures offer the most efficient placement of solar collectors
  • 70% of the current solar water heating installations are on homes over 3000 square feet
  • 95% of the current solar water heating installations are on homes with electric water heat
  • 85% of the current solar water heating installations are on urban homes (.5 acres +)
  • Google Maps provide an excellent method of prospecting for potential clients

If you have completed the modules to this point and used the Search Tools to do additional research as you feel ready to begin a business plan for Solar Hot Water System Sales.  This can be a lucrative business option if you carefully structure a plan complete with marketing materials.  Just like any small business it takes a giant leap to move forward along with commitment and enthusiasm.

Customer Satisfaction is always the most important goal.  After a year in this business customer referrals will generate an additional 10%/year of annual growth.