Thursday, October 12, 2006

I See A

While I was up in the northern reaches of Wisconsin, Jen attended the The Historic Chicago Bungalow & Green Home Expo and picked up some really neat information from tons of vendors on bungalow restoration and renewable energy sources.

Well I was kinda bummed that I didn't get to make it to the expo. So when I heard that last Saturday was national solar day with local tours across the country, I quickly went to the ISEA website (pronounced I-See-A) to find out what the local group had planned. To my surprise, they were planning a viewing of 4 different buildings right in Oak Park! One of the homes even featured the tankless hot water heater that we bought (but have yet to install) for our house. The homes all featured solar thermal technology, which captures the sun's heat using water and transfers to your home hot water heater, essentially pre-heating it. A large system can also pre-heat the return air in an HVAC furnace by running the solar-heated water through a heating coil. Kind of like an automotive radiator that works in reverse. As a bonus, I got to see a converted electric only S-10 pickup and a diesel Jetta modified using a "Frybrid" system. The owner told me he drives for free using used cooking oil from local restaurants(biodiesel). All in all a pretty exciting afternoon!

Getting back to solar thermal systems though, the event put the attainability of a solar system within reach. A professionally installed system, after rebates from the state and a minimal federal tax credit come out to several thousand dollars. But the components themselves are relatively affordable except for the collector plates that mount on the roof. So I'm thinking that before we close up our walls upstairs (yes, we're still insulating), I might run some insulated 3/4" pipe up. Although with copper prices so expensive, maybe PEX is a better choice.


Sarah said...

Solar thermal technology is able to heat both hot water and provide space heating. A friend of mine had a system connected to their forced air furnace and they have saved quite a bit on their gas bills. Gas prices have really increased in the last 10 years, making this eco-friendly technology a good way to save money as well. for info on gas prices:

Solar Service is the company that installed most of the systems on that solar tour and they have been installing systems for almost 30 years in the Chicago area.
The website has some interesting photos and articles on it.

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