Solar Power Slashes Electric, Hot Water Bills Significantly
By Robert Bell – 7/14/2008
Solar thermal systems can reduce the hot water bill of some businesses by as much as 75 percent to 80 percent, and pay for themselves in a matter of a few years, said John Gerrard, owner of Sun City Solar Energy of the Ozarks, based in Springdale.
Gerrard became a dealer in September for Sun City Solar Energy of Tulsa. He spent six months training with the Tulsa team and consults with them often.
“Our first major commercial deal was World Gym in Lowell,” he said. “We’re doing their thermal apps for the pool and hot water, with a 21-panel pool heater and a 12-panel hot water heater with four 120-gallon tanks.”
For businesses that use a lot of hot water, a solar thermal system can equate to big savings. The tax incentives are also a factor.
Homeowners who install solar systems can get a tax credit of up to 30 percent with a cap of $2,000.
“On commercial, it’s an even a stronger incentive,” Gerrard said. “It’s 30 percent with no cap. On a $100,000 investment in a solar energy system, your tax credit would be $30,000, which you can take back one year or carry forward 20 years.”
Solar hot water systems and solar electric setups make up the bulk of Gerrard’s business, in addition to a fair number of solar powered attic fans, which can lower the need for AC.
The price for photovoltaic cells – which absorb and convert the energy of the sun into the alternating current used in homes and businesses – has actually come down somewhat in recent years because more of them are being produced.
Many people start out with a solar hot water system and, once they start to see the savings, move on to installing solar electrical systems, Gerrard said.
Gerrard worked on a project in Tulsa installing an $80,000 solar electric system on the home of an oil geologist, who will likely receive credits from the power company for putting excess electricity back onto the grid.
Some questions Gerrard answers frequently have to do with whether the solar panels are vulnerable to hail (they’re not) and if they work on cloudy days (they do) or in the rain (not as much).
Adding batteries to store electricity can add between 30 percent and 40 percent to the cost of a solar electrical system, Gerrard said.
But with battery backup, a home or business owner could operate with minimal reliance on the grid.
The Sun City Solar team installed such a system at one client’s house and said he would be able to run the basic appliances such as lights and refrigerators during a blackout, ice storm or other event that knocked out power.
Gerrard mentioned a retired couple that contacted him about installing a solar hot water system. They had crunched the numbers and found that investing in solar power would yield a better return than the certificates of deposit they had been investing in.
Another advantage of solar electrical systems is that they’re usually producing the most electricity during peak summer hours, when the sun is brightest, the temperature is highest and the power companies are charging the most for juice.
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