Convert Your Home to Solar Energy

Convert Your Home to Solar Energy

SKU# 071300

Authoritative homeowner's guide to solar energy

Everett M. Barber, Jr.
Joseph R. Provey


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  • Product # 071300
  • Type Paperback
  • ISBN 978-1-60085-252-7
  • Published Date 2010
  • Dimensions 6 3/4 x 9 1/2
  • Pages 240
  • Photos 167 full-color photographs
  • Drawings 57
This definitive homeowner's guide to solar energy has arrived at just the right time. With the cost of heating oil and electricity fluctuating wildly, consumers are clamoring for information on alternative energy. This source book covers all the relevant technologies, including solar space and water heating, as well as photovoltaic electricity.

It's practical (with cost calculators, tips on taking advantage of rebates and tax incentives, and advice on finding specialized contractors). And it's authoritative, written by a recognized expert in the field, Everett Barber, Jr., who has 30 years' experience installing all kinds of solar energy systems. Co-author Joseph Provey has been writing about the topic for almost as long. Together, they cover every facet of planning, installing, operating, and maintaining a residential solar energy system.

About the Authors
Everett M. Barber, Jr. is the founder of Sunsearch, Inc., a business he ran for over 30 years until he recently retired to speak and write about energy matters. During that time, he and his company designed and installed thousands of solar systems in the southern New England area. In addition, Everett was an adjunct professor of Environmental Technologies at Yale University, where he taught courses in thermal analysis of buildings; system design for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning; plumbing systems; electrical systems; and fire-safe building design. Everett is a member of the American Solar Energy Society, International Solar Energy Society, and ASHRAE. At the latter, he served on the committee that developed the internationally accepted standard for testing of solar thermal collectors.

Joseph R. Provey wrote his first articles about solar energy, wind power, wood heat, and saving energy during the last energy crisis, in the late 1970s -- and he's still on the beat. More recently, he has written on energy-related topics for Popular Mechanics, Fine Homebuilding, Handy magazine, and in his latest book, The Little Green Book: 365 Ways to Love the Planet (Creative Homeowner). Joe has also served as chief editor to several national home improvement magazines, including The Family Handyman, Home Mechanix, and ractical Homeowner.
Table of Contents

Solar Energy Basics
Putting Solar Energy to Work
Solar Domestic Hot Water
Solar Pool Heating
Passive Solar Heating & Cooling
Active Solar Space Heating
Converting sunlight to electricity
Other Uses for Solar Energy
Shopping for a solar System

Appendix 1:
Basic Fuel Data

Appendix 2:
Heating Water Conventionally:
How Much Does It Cost You?

Appendix 3:
Cumulative Costs of Heating a Swimming Pool

Photo credits
If solar energy systems cost less to install than systems that use con-ventional fuels, many of us would be using solar energy now. At the moment, solar systems cost more than conventional systems. Yet they are still attractive because, once installed, the energy they provide is free, or nearly so. The challenge is to find solar applications that repay the extra cost of the installation with fuel savings in a reasonable period of time.

There have been two times in our history when solar energy was considered an attractive option. The last major surge came between about 1973 and 1985. By the end of 1985, about 1 million solar energy systems had been installed nationwide. An earlier upswing in the use of solar systems began in the late 19th century and ended shortly after 1933. During that time, thousands of solar domestic water heating systems were installed, most of them in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, in southern California, and in other warm-weather zones. The stimulus for both surges was the high operating cost of conventional systems.

In the earlier instance, solar systems provided a convenient means of reducing the cost of heating domestic water. At the time, electricity was quite expensive. Natural gas, while inexpensive, was not readily available. By the early 1930s, the cost of electricity had fallen, and natural gas had become more available. As a result, the use of solar energy faded.

During the more recent solar boom, the cost of petroleum increased rapidly after the OPEC oil boycott of 1973-1974. In 1978 and 1979, the cost of oil approximately tripled each year due mainly to the Iran/Iraq conflict. Homeowners were eager to do anything to gain some sort of buffer against the rising cost of fuel. Clearly, the pain caused by the high cost of conventional sources of energy does drive the market for renewable energy systems. Falling costs for conventional fuels nearly eliminated that same market.

Today we are once again feeling the pain caused by increases in the cost of energy, but added to that pain are worries about the effect that energy use has on our national security and on the environment. Using less energy is the most cost-effective and fastest way to reduce our energy problems as well as our security and environmental worries. But using less, for a variety of reasons, is not the first choice of many U.S. consumers. Renewable energy systems offer an attractive alternative to conservation and, unlike many conservation strategies, provide a highly visible demonstration of the owner's commitment to reducing their effect on climate change.

In this book, we give you the basis for understanding the solar resource and the various systems available. We provide guidance in determining which systems are appropriate for your needs. Because using less is always the more cost-effective first step, we provide a list of conservation measures at the start of the solar application chapters to help you use less energy.

The dream of using solar energy has been with us for millennia. Endless free power, clean air, no more wars over oil. That dream is beginning to come true. Solar energy in each of its various forms can lower utility bills, shrink our carbon footprint, and contribute to a more peaceful future. And thanks to the prospect of continued high fuel costs as well as rebates and tax incentives, converting to solar energy is more affordable than ever.

But whether solar energy is used to produce electricity, heat domestic water, or keep your family warm, its successful implementation demands a knowledgeable consumer. Solar energy systems operate differently from conventional systems that use fossil fuel. Some study is strongly recommended before you can become your own energy producer.

Convert Your Home to Solar Energy will guide you from planning and installing a solar system to its operation and maintenance. With one exception, we have ordered the chapters dealing with solar energy applications by putting them in descending order of payback. That is, the application with the longest payback is presented last. The exception is solar water heating, which we put before solar pool heating. Even though solar pool heating has the fastest payback of all solar applications, everyone needs domestic hot water but not everyone has a pool.

The order of chapters is based on the assumption that there are no incentives available. In truth, however, a number of rebates and incentives are presently available, some nationwide and some local. Incentives can skew the economics of solar systems. Most incentives are put in place by political acts. There is no assurance they will always be available, particularly as administrations and the party in the majority change with elections. In addition, since incentives vary from state to state, a detailed analysis is required to determine how they affect you.

For each of the primary solar applications, we recommend conservation measures you should take before investing in solar energy. This is important because the payback on improvements, such as upgrading insulation in your home, is almost always faster than buying a large solar system.

You can expect Convert Your Home to Solar Energy to be a realistic assessment of the potential that solar energy holds. It discusses many issues that some solar salespeople may not fully explain or even understand. For example, who is responsible when your combination solar and conventionally fueled home heating system needs service? What do you do when the roof membrane that lies beneath your solar collectors needs to be replaced? And how do you avoid problems when your solar water or space heating system produces too much heat?

There have never been more reasons to install a solar system: improved equipment, higher fuel costs, attractive incentives, conservation of natural resources, reducing global warming, and an education for friends and family. But a successful installation depends on careful planning and making informed choices. Convert Your Home to Solar Energy was written to help with that effort.

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