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Niki Gast. Sylvester Gast. Susannah Gast. Eliza Gast. Melba Gast. Debbra Gast. Lyle Gast. While PV modules are not identified as hazardous wasteat the federal level, they are regulated as hazardous waste inCalifornia—largely due to concentrations of cadmium and other toxic materials, and the potential that those materialsmight leach into the soil or water if not disposed of properly,according to Rick Braush, division chief for policy and program support with the CDTSC.

At the residentiallevel, as the current hazardous waste management scheme forPV modules st and s, that means the home owner must completeall the paperwork as the end user. To streamline the process,the CDTSC is in the process of adopting a new regulation thatwould relieve some of the bureaucratic burden and make iteasier for the average home owner to recycle PV modules. We are more concernedwith home owners and smaller system owners. According toDavis, survey response through the years has been lower thanwhat would be expected of a green industry.

Tencompanies, representing Trinabumped SolarWorld from its No. Davis does, however, point out that Trina and Yingli arethe exception among Chinese companies. Atthis point, every solar manufacturer should have a chemicalreduction plan and a take-back program in place. According to the U. Read the full article at home power. As a result of the more difficult and comprehensivemethods, some companies may have scored lower than they didin years past. This means that the maximum concentrationfound in any homogenous material that makes up the PVmodules made by these companies is less than 0.

Fourteen companies report one or more categories ofemissions hazardous waste, heavy metals, air pollution,ozone depleting substances, and l and fill disposal. The caveatis that some companies make everything from polysilicon toPV modules, and some companies only make PV modules. While a PV module manufacturer may appear to have loweremissions, this is because other companies do the morechemical-intensive aspects of production.

Additionally, Davis would like to see more supportfrom the Solar Energy Industries Association in pushingits members to be more transparent.

We now work exclusively with AEE Solar because of their outst and ing customerservice, quick response time and selection of top tier solar products at the best prices. In this ever changing solar market, we feelAEE Solar will be a reliable partnerfor many years to come. Through market and technology changes, AEE Solarhas been there for our customers,every step of the way. Let us helpyou succeed. Themicroinverter connects to the DC output of a module and itsAC output is in turn connected in a daisy-chain to the nextmicroinverter.

Exceptional servicecombined with low prices and flexible, on-time delivery from our coast to coast warehouses, lets you maximizethe results of every project with groSolar as your solar equipment partner. Premier br and s, plus many more The meter includes a cellular modem,eliminating the need for additional communications wiring.

For more than 20 years, Array Technologies has been designing high quality,low maintenance tracking and racking systems for residential installations. Department of theInterior. Rather th and o all that work for just one or two houses, we came up withthe idea to do solar at the neighborhood scale.

Over the next couple of years, the MPC organizedmembers and lobbied for new local energy policies. As aresult of their efforts, the District passed l and mark legislationthat created rebates and incentives for RE systems, whichmade residential rooftop PV systems more affordable.

Since then, nearly row houses in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood haveinstalled grid-tied PV systems. Before long, Schoolman was fielding calls and emailsfrom people all over the country.

Supportedby grants from foundations and other organizations, theCPN has grown into a national network of more than90 independent community and nonprofit organizationsacross the country. It is not just the neighborhood cooperative. It can be a school or church that wants to go solar, a groupof home owners that want to build a solar garden, or astatewide group of citizens lobbying for policies that supportcommunity RE.

The common thread is an interest in creatinga decentralized RE system that benefits everyone. I sharedour experience organizing this type of project in D. I also suggested that they start witha pilot project before incorporating, since their approach and mission may change once they have some experience. Reliability Means eveRything. Backed by specialized technical support teams and a world—class warranty, Trojan means reliability. Regardless of the application, when it comes to renewableenergy storage and backup power , reliability means everything.

Available worldwide. A member since July , Karelas credits thelessons he learned from fellow members and the publicityhe received through the CPN for helping RE-volv raise thefunds to complete its first project this spring—a kilowattPV system for the nonprofit Shawl-Anderson Dance Centerin Berkeley, California. These groups often sharecommon goals but find themselves pitted against one anothercompeting for local funding.

A key function of the CPN is helping member groupsdevelop campaigns and strategies to advocate for local policychanges. Both groupsare in the process of organizing solar bulk purchases inseveral neighborhoods throughout the region. How smart? Smart enough to do what no other inverter in the world can do: deliver power when the grid goes down without batteries! This unique technological breakthrough isgoing to change residential solar forever.

But the roof had its challenges: it was partially shaded and the shingles needed to be replaced. We measured the area for a 9. The samemodules installed on a dual-axis tracking mount, however,only needed to be 7. We estimatedthat two rows of 15 modules each on Sedona Solar dual-axisframes could produce the kilowatt-hours needed to pay offthe system within seven years.

Compared to the fixed system, installing a dual-axistracking framework and controllers was less expensive, sincethere were eight fewer modules and inverters to purchase. The framework that holds the modules and trackingframes is mounted on eight 4-inch-diameter galvanizedsteel posts set in concrete. Each module is wired to a microinverter. The inverters and wiring had to be carefully placed on the framework to avoidany contact with the rotating modules and rack.

Module-level online monitoring is through the APS software, and asmartphone app designed by Lauritzen Inc. Having remote control of thearray allows the system owner or installer to reposition themodules for cleaning, maintenance, storm readiness, or evensnow clearing—without having to open up the control boxon each subarray.

Look no further! Thesystem performance estimates through these programs areonly accurate for a particular project if that project sharessimilar characteristics with the testing protocols. These ratingsassume a due-south orientation, but do not account for shading,variations in collector orientation, or a household that usessignificantly more or less than These programs utilizeclimate data, including outdoor air temperatures and the amountof available solar radiation, to predict system performance.

Some of them even account for the variations in incoming watertemperature. Professionals input project-specific data, such asthe location of the project, daily hot water consumption, collectororientation, and the type of SWH equipment. This free software is a Microsoft Excel-based spreadsheetthat can be used for modeling a variety of systems, includingsimple solar water heating systems. The program uses severalsheets within an Excel workbook to perform its analysis.

Energy Model WorksheetNext, the user selects the Energy Model worksheet to enterinformation on the hot water use characteristics of the home , the orientation of the collector array, and the keysystem components. RETScreen uses an internal database thatestimates the daily hot water load. This estimate is displayedbased upon the number of occupants. The user may eitherenter this value or select a more precise value based upon thenumber of showers, loads of laundry, etc.

The arrayazimuth is entered as a value relative to south. Get it right thesecond time around. Investing in a grid-tied PV system was a good decision. Adding energy storage to that same system withAC coupling is the logical next step. Utility GridMainElectrical Panel First Choice for the New Grid.

Other information entered into the modelincludes storage tank size, heat exchanger efficiency, and theamount of energy required by the pump s to run the system. If a collector is not in the database, the specifications canbe entered manually from a rating sheet. The user can enter information on thetype of fuel, fuel cost, and efficiency of the heating applianceto estimate energy costs, with and without the SWH systemto estimate energy savings.

Since it is often difficult to quantify the daily hot water use,it can be a challenge to determine the energy costs attributedsolely to water heating. It takes some finesse to ensure theresults of any performance modeling software is within reason.

Withadditional information, the program also provides economicestimates for a particular system. RETScreen has an extremelydetailed user manual available online. With our solar training, products and services, accelerate your business today.

We bring you the best of the best in the solar industry. Visit us at www. Around the country,gender politics are coming to a head.

Instate and federal legislatures, and in theU. Again this year,the global community has born witness toheinous crimes against women and girls indeveloping countries and in conflict zones. And in addition to these aggressive attacks,every day, every woman has to endure manydifficult decisions not only regarding the kindof woman she is going to be, but the kind ofperson she is going to be and what valuesshe is going to project to the world.

In , thegender context on issues of basic humanrights, equality, respect, and dignity are real and very much alive, including in the solarindustry and in the broader context of theclean energy revolution.

This hasoccurred for years now, but increasingly,scantily clad women are becoming morescantily clad and are being featured at SPIafter-parties and cocktail hours, impactingthe entire conference culture. It has becomeimpossible to ignore and is, frankly, a hugedistraction. See the related write-up below:These ads not only diminish and trivialize women, but they discouragethem from entering a field of work wherethey are already underrepresented.

They also encourage men within theindustry to continue to see womenas outsiders—valuable only for theirbeauty and sexuality. Thewomen who are drawn to the solar industryare unapologetic environmentalists, brilliantengineers and scientists, precise constructionworkers and project managers, ruthlessfinancial and corporate cats, tough-jawedpolicy advocates, and relentless educators.

Any woman or girl who is educating herselfto purchase or support solar energy isa trailblazer, a true visionary. The industryshould be nothing but proud of its women. At solwomen. We are asking our solar industry leaders tohelp get us back on track. This includes supportingsolar-related education programs, womenin-solarworkforce development, womenownedbusinesses, and internationaldevelopment efforts supporting solar,humanitarian causes, and women.

The women of the solar industry are fullyprepared to further drive these efforts, but weneed your support and leadership to set anexpectation of professionalism for the industry. I read with interest the cover story in HP Everyone involved in that project is to becommended for doing the best for MotherEarth. One thing caught my attention,however.

The cross-sectional drawing onpage 39 shows the R-value of a nonbearing2-by-4 wall filled with loose-fill cellulose asR My best guess, or maybe my hope, isthat this is simply an editing error. As a charter subscriber to both Home Power and Fine Homebuilding, I have read manysimilar articles and researched celluloseinsulation extensively for use in my own home. Cellulose increases in R-value asdensity goes up, to a point. To the best ofmy underst and ing, R-4 per inch is the highestvalue.

So, with a 3. Loose-fillcellulose is more in the R I would be surprised if the 2-by-4wall is R If the author st and s by the Rassertion, I would be interested to learn howthat number was arrived at. Incidentally, thesame drawing shows an 8. With theSIP R-value of One of the features of this doublewallsystem is that the inner wall can bepositioned to add as much space as youneed to achieve your target R-value, usingthe insulation of your choice.

So far, I have spentabsolutely nothing on maintenance, and havesaved a lot on fuel cost. I have a solar-electricsystem installed on my home , which makesmy electricity clean and very inexpensive.

When I ordered my Leaf in late , it wasreally the only mass-production EV available. Fortunately, after a test drive, I was sold and pretty excited to own one. The range wasadvertised as miles, but I knew thisis only realistic under perfect conditions.

Amore realistic average range is more like 80miles. The Leaf meets my needs just fine,since my typical daily commute is less than40 miles. I own no other vehicle. It is a sensitive, expensive, and critical component of an EV, and needsto be treated with care to get the most out ofit. I reallylook forward to breakthroughs in batteryelectric vehicle technology.

The lineup of available EVs is growing. For me,there was never any question that I wanted apure electric vehicle, and I was willing to adjustto living without the gas pump.

He is right to question the assumptionthat solar power is available only from thecorporate-controlled grid. As an avid gardener,I have to remind visitors to our solar house thatphotosynthesis is also solar energy. Due to mail volume, weregret that unpublished letters may notreceive a reply.

Monitoring your photovoltaic plants has never been moreaccurate or user friendly than with the Solar-Log It has become the new st and ard with its responsive fullcolor touch screen display and smart, performanceoriented online presence.

You can also find moreinformation by visiting www. Legal access to sunshine is an extremely important consideration,especially in a city or other densely populated area. Who ownsyour sunlight? I did not get any easements, conveyable or otherwise, from myprevious neighbors when I installed my 1. Ihad excellent solar access, which was one of the main reasonsI bought a PV system. But in , the house next door 14 feetaway was demolished and replaced with one that is five timeslarger and three times taller it would have been four times taller if Ihad not complained loudly to the building department in a momentof unhappiness.

Now, I have shade instead of sunlight and wastold by city, county, and state officials that they sympathized, but Iwas out of luck. My only options were to sue but I was told I wouldlose—wish I had tried anyway , or I could move my PV array at myexpense.

For a news story on my situation, see bit. As for who owns their access to the sun, it depends onwhere they are.

Some areas guarantee solar access to property owners by limitingbuildings and vegetation on adjacent properties. When I installedmy first solar energy systems in Ashl and , Oregon, I registered thelocations of my solar hot water collectors and photovoltaic array withthe city, which informed my neighbors that they could not plant anynew vegetation that might eventually block my solar access.

For my home solar systems in Washington, D. The townhouse to the south isthe same height as mine. Solar access can also be guaranteed by deed restriction or easement,similar to those for protecting ocean-view properties. Such legalinstruments may have been placed by the original developer or laterin private transactions with payment or other consideration. For billingpurposes, a utility would treat the electricity from your remote PVsystem as if it were on your house.

For complete listings of solar access, easement, and rights laws and regulations, see dsireusa. Ideal for battery managementsystems where frequent maintenance is unfeasible and where acid spray and corrosionare safety concerns. Sun Xtender batteries are scalable to tie into existing or newsystems, either off grid or grid tied. Thicker plates in each cell make a battery with excellentcycling capability, better float life, and long service life. Heated water from theroof-mounted collector ispiped directly into the tub.

The SWH system pump and controller are housedin the box that alsoserves as a step. Yearsago, I made my own domestic solar hot water system. It workedwell, but there was a wide variation in temperature depending onthe sun conditions and the level of hot water usage. Thecombination of plentiful sunshine and the highest energy costs in theUnited States would make investing in a solar water heating SWH system for your hot tub a smart idea.

In HP, Floridian BobOwens describes his solar-heated hot tub, which needs help fromthe electric heater at times. Hot tubs are known to lose heat quicklywhen the jets are on, which is why many tubs are heated with ahardwired volt, amp dedicated circuit. The heat loss will vary with the ambienttemperature.

Any solar energy system capable of meeting this intermittent loadwould be so large that its size and cost would be prohibitive. Theonly solution is storage. In the case of a SWH system similar to theone described in HP, a larger storage tank and more collectorsurface area would be required. In Hawaii, an SWH system would require about three 4- by 8-footcollectors and a gallon tank to keep up with the load.

To keep up with theheat loss, a pump of about 10 to 15 gpm a medium-head pump would be needed to transfer the heat from the storage tank to the tub. In Hawaii, a batteryless grid-tied PV system that could supply the The SWH system would cost about half that. This would change depending on applicable tax incentives and doesnot address the significantly reduced energy required to maintain thehot tub temperature with its cover on. Please keep in mind this is a hypothetical scenario.

Changes in heatloss, usage per day, installation location, and time of the year will allaffect system size and performance. Due to mailvolume, we regret that unpublished letters may not receive a reply. It usesadvanced power electronics to efficiently match up to Voc PV to 48 or Vdcbattery systems.

Solar EquipmentInnovationsAlong with a growing dem and for PV systems comes pressure for lowercost and higher-efficiency equipment, safer operation, and faster installations. Manufacturers of PV equipment—inverters, modules, racks, and other balance-ofsystemcomponents—respond with innovative devices, drawing upon feedbackfrom installers and designers.

CommentDiscussthis article home power. First,manufacturers make incremental improvements thatresult in efficiency— and power —gains. Second, majordesign changes happen, like increases in the size ornumber of cells in a module, different frames or mountingmethods, and different materials used for the front and back protection.

Higher PowerThe PV industry experiences a seemingly inevitable marchtoward more power ful, larger modules: In , wattmodules were commonplace; in , W modules wereplentiful; in , W modules were becoming the norm. Today, there are more than 1, different models of W orgreater modules on the market and manufacturers continueto exp and the selection in this size range. Larger modules mean more power installed morequickly—15 years ago, a 3,watt array would havemeant racking and wiring 40 modules.

Today, that can beaccomplished with 10 modules. Fewer wired connectionsmean savings for both the system owner and the manufacturer. For framed modules, the ratio of aluminum frame material tothe module footprint decreases with wattage increases, whichlowers costs for manufacturers and reduces mount costs.

Most higher-wattage modules, in the range of to W, are designed with 72 or 96 cells in series, rather than60 cells, which was the st and ard for many years. Because all those cells are wired in series, higher voltage isproduced as well. The open-circuit voltage on cell modulescan exceed 45 volts 60 V on cell modules. Connecting fewermodules in series a PV source circuit means fewer conductors and connections, reduced voltage drop, fewer fuses orbreakers, and fewer or smaller combiner boxes.

Higher voltagealso means lower current for the same amount of power , whichallows using smaller-gauge wire that costs less. This is especially true forclimates that experience wide temperature swings.

Higher-wattage modules can sometimes limit the overallarray size. For example, if a string inverter has a voltageinput window of to VDC, in many locations whentemperatures are hot at least 10 of the cell watt modules need to be in series to keep the inverter humming. This translates to a minimum 3, W array—with onlyone string.

This results in a very narrow range of systemsize options: 3. This could allow as few as six or seven modules inseries. AC modules or microinverters see below are anotheroption for high-wattage modules. Higher-wattage modules also have a larger footprint. Forexample, while cell modules are generally about the samewidth about 39 inches as cell modules in the W to W range six cells wide , they are 12 cells high instead of 10—about 12 inches taller and 8 pounds heavier.

This increasesthe load on the rack attachment points, with the same amountof rail holding more module weight. Also, more caution isneeded when moving larger modules—typically it requiresthat two people carry each module. Kelly DavidsonSome glass-on-glass modules allow light to pass through orbetween cells, creating a pleasant ambience beneath and thepossibility of collecting more light reflecting up from below.

Class A roofing materialsor assemblies have a greater ability to resist fire spreading and to resist burning embers. While residential roofs have notgenerally been required to be Class A, some areas with highfire hazards are moving in that direction for new constructionor significant reroofing projects. PV innovationsagency ordinance requirements for residential Class A roofs.

Some roofing materials are considered Class A, like slate, clay,concrete roof tiles, and steel, although they must be installedcorrectly for example, eliminating gaps between the roofcovering and decking where birds could build nests to earnthis rating. Class A fiberglass-reinforced asphalt compositionshingles are also available, while other types of asphalt orwood shingles will typically have a lower Class B or C rating.

Most glass-front, plastic-backed modules have a Class Cfire rating, but modules with glass on both sides may meethigher Class A rating requirements. Besides their improved fire resistance rating, some glasson-glassmodules have the benefit of allowing dappled lightto pass through for structurally integrated arrays like patioor walkway covers.

Looking up at the back of a module thatis letting light into an atrium and seeing the PV cells insteadof an opaque plastic backsheet is considered by many peoplean aesthetic improvement and architecturally interesting.

Another advantage of glass-on-glass modules is superiorprotection for the back of the module as compared to plastic, and enhanced resistance to sheer stresses. Frameless versions of glass-on-glass modules are available including many thin-film modules that have no metal framesto ground, so the labor and material costs of groundingmodule frames to racking are eliminated.

Note that the railsstill have to be grounded. Unlike with a string inverter, one module or inverter failuredoes not affect the whole system. In addition, module-leveldata monitoring capabilities allow easy troubleshooting of anunderperforming array or module, and arrays are more easilyscalable, as modules can be added without dealing with theconstraints of series strings.

Both system types are extremely safe to install and operate,compared to systems with string inverters, because DCvoltages are kept to a one-module maximum; all equipmentconnectors are touch-safe; and DC voltages will generally staybelow the 50 V limit associated with shock hazards. Shuttingoff the main service AC disconnect or PV system disconnectalso immediately deenergizes all the PV system conductorsexcept module leads, as the inverters shut off immediatelywithout the presence of grid voltage.

One of the benefits ofAC modules includes even-quicker installation, since theinverter is preinstalled—there is no DC field wiring, and noDC arc-fault protection necessary. Metal module frames and any other metal equipment like junction boxes or racks stillneed equipment grounding.

PV innovationsCourtesy SunPowerAC modules have microinverters preattached,providing the same benefits asmicroinverter installations, but reducinginstallation time and complexity. NEC and an installation perspective. Microinverters arefield-installed, one inverter per module, while AC moduleshave factory-integrated inverters and have one warranty forthe complete assembly.

AC modules generally have a st and ard year performancewarranty, like PV modules, while microinverter warrantiesvary from 10 to 25 years. There are only a few microinverters currently availablein the United States. Inverter InnovationsHigher-Efficiency InvertersGrid-tied string inverters are more efficient than ever.

Inverters operate more or less efficiently atdifferent power output levels, so weighted efficiency is an average across a range of power , with estimated percentage of time spent in a given power range factored intothe equation.

One technological development that helps increase efficiencies is the move totransformerless inverters also called nonisolated inverters. Instead of relying onan iron-core or high-efficiency transformer, transformerless inverters convert DC toAC through rapid electronic switching, with no isolation between the DC and ACconductors. These inverters are not only more efficient, but weigh less and featuresuperior ground-fault protection that detects faults more reliably and at lower currentlevels.

Some can be enabled to check the insulation resistance of DC conductorseach day before beginning operation—helping reduce the potential of fires due toundetected ground faults.

The fourthgenerationEnphase M is an ungrounded microinverter and does not require aDC-grounding electrode conductor. In the past, capturing power from autility-interactive array during a power outage was only possible ifthe system had a battery bank and inverter with st and -alone capabilities.

When the sunis shining at a high-enough irradiancelevel, the inverter can provide up to1, watts through the outlet. The power supply can be used for smallappliances or to charge cellphonesor computers, but there is no energystorage for use at night or duringcloudy weather. Charge Controller InnovationsModern modules come in a wide range of voltages that rarelymatch nominal battery bank voltages, so higher-voltagecharge controllers make designing battery-based systemsmuch simpler.

These MPPT controllers include a voltagestepdown capability to convert higher array voltage intolower battery-bank voltage. The controller input is at a highervoltage and lower current; the output is at a lower voltagewith a higher current. For example, a W module mayhave a maximum power voltage of 30 V and a maximum power current of 8 amps. With the module operating atmaximum power and charging a 12 V nominal battery, astep-down charge controller would output around Schneider Electric— and , expected in late ,Morningstar—makes controllers to h and le PV arrays up to V maximum.

The output is current-limited, so ahigher-voltage battery bank allows more array watts to passthrough the controller. MidNite Solar offers controllers thatcan h and le maximum voltages of , , or up to voltsfrom the array, depending on the model. High-voltage chargecontrollers enablethe use of smallerdiameterwire fromthe array to thecontroller, and theability to use a widerrange of highervoltagemodules inthe system.

One of the biggestrack innovations is making it easier to ground the metalmodule frames to the equipment-grounding conductor orrail. Manufacturers including PanelClaw, S-5!

This means thatmodules are bonded to the metal rack as part of the mechanicalinstallation and do not need any other grounding device. Railless MountingSeveral rack manufacturers offer pitched-roof mountsdesigned to reduce installation time by eliminating thetraditional module support rails. Courtesy Zep SolarRailless mountingdecreases the time,materials, and costof mounting PVarrays, as do autogroundsolutionslike the dimpleddisk at right ,which scratchesthrough theanodization on thealuminum moduleframe to electricallybond it to theadjacent modulevia the disk.

Courtesy S-5! Arc-faults can quickly burn throughconductor insulation, plastic connectors, module back sheets, and even metalconduit and electrical boxes. They can also lead to ground-faults. For example, whena current-carrying conductor behind a module burns through, one energized endmay fall onto the metal rack, allowing fault current to flow through the groundedmetal until detected by the ground-fault protection device.

The arc-fault protection requirement only applies to DC circuits on or entering abuilding, with a maximum system voltage at or above 80 V. The system must be ableto detect and interrupt series arc faults as described above a failure in conductorcontinuity and disconnect inverters or charge controllers connected to the fault or system components within the arcing circuit.

In addition, the equipment mustnot automatically restart after a fault and have a visual indicator that a fault hasoccurred.

Opening the circuit stops the arc immediately, so this technology decreasesfire potential. Courtesy Fronius PV innovationsWhile there are still very few choices of equipment availableto meet these requirements, more are appearing. In the spring of, SMA America was the first inverter manufacturer to providearc-fault detection in its inverters. Fronius now offers its IG PlusAdvanced inverters with built-in arc-fault detection.

Microinverter and AC module systems less than 80 VDC are exempt from thisrequirement, as are ground- and pole-mounted systems thathave no DC circuits inside a building. Arc-fault protection that isintegrated into charge controllers is available, as well as breaker-likeunits that can be integrated into a combiner box. Courtesy SnapNrackKeeping Out CrittersWhether battling squirrels that chew on module wiring, or birds and rats that build nests under arrays, keeping critters away isan ongoing battle that, if lost, can result in electrical faults and decreased electric production.

Clips from Heyco Sunscreen and Spiffy Solar hold screening against the frames of modules,preventing animal access under the array. Future buildingor electrical codes may require this; in the meantime, installerscan save themselves a lot of headaches, callbacks, and liabilityby keeping the vermin at bay.

Heyco also offers a vinyljacketedstainless-steel cable tie—the Sunbundler—for PVwire management. Rack manufacturers SnapNrack, Schletter, and Legr and , and module manufacturers Lumos Solar and Silicon Energy, make racks with integrated wire management. On larger systems, cable tray, or similar products frommanufacturers like SnakeTray, are making quality wiremanagement easier than ever.

Proper wire managementis key to professionallookinginstallations, and helps ensure that wiringstays safe and secure. AccessRebekah Hren rebekah. She works as a project engineer for groundmountedsolar farm developer O2 Energies in North Carolina, and asan instructor and curriculum developer for Solar Energy International.

The newlook ofquality. Buy withconfidence. Department ofEnergy, so it makes perfect sense to choose the mostenergy-efficient heating system possible.

Ductless minisplitheat pumps, wood and pellet appliances, electric thermalstorage devices, ground- and air-source heat pumps, and gasburningfurnaces and boilers are potential choices. But thereis no single solution that covers all situations. Climate, utilitycosts, labor rates, and the fuel all should figure into a decisionon which heating appliance to buy.

Start with A Tight EnvelopeHouses with minimal air leaks, lots of insulation, and multipane windows require less energy to remain comfortablein cold weather than older houses or those built to codeminimums. In high-performance houses like these, heatingequipment can be of lower capacity, and therefore lessexpensive to install and operate.

Passive solar design is another way of lowering heatingbills. Orienting the house with its long axis east to west—so windows on the south face can capture the sun— and choosing windows with low U-values and the correct solarheat gain coefficients for the climate are among the steps thatcan reduce the need for fuel-fired space heating.

Keeping heating loads at a minimum pays big dividends, notjust when buying a heating system initially but also in keepingoperating costs down.

It sets tough benchmarks for airtightness, total energyuse, and energy use for heating and cooling, and houses builtBefore you invest in a new space-heating system, be sure toweatherize your home. Ben Rootto these st and ards far exceed the performance of conventionallybuilt houses in the United States.

Finally, whether the house is old or new, make sure yourheating contractor calculates heat loss so the equipmentcan be sized correctly. Buying oversized equipment, whichcontractors sometimes recommend just to be safe, is a wasteof energy and money. No central ductworkrequired. Makes zoning simple. Interior wall-mounted fan unit. Equipment more expensivethan air-source heat pumps. Modulating gas furnaceFans todistribute heatNatural gascheaper thanmost otherfuelsNoNoVery efficient.

Forced-air systems are noisierthan some options. Ductsdifficult to install in retrofit. High-efficiency boilersCirculationpumpsNatural gas isbest choice ifavailableYesNoQuiet, especially with hydronic. Good source of DHW whenpaired with indirect tank heater. More expensive than forcedairsystems. Ground-sourceheat pumpCirculationpumps,compressorNo on-sitecombustionYesYes, withforced-airdistributionForced-air or hydronic heatdistribution.

Very quiet withhydronic. Can be operated byon-site renewable energy. High initial cost. Requiresdeep wells or significant openl and. Pellet biomass Circulationpumps ordistributionfans, pelletaugerLimitedavailability ofbulk pelletsYes, forboilersNoSome clean automatically.

Low fuel cost. From arenewable source. No fossilfuels. Load by h and where bulk pellet distributionnot available. Electric thermal storageHigh currentdraw forresistanceheatersNo on-sitefossil fuelconsumptionYes, but notall modelsNoAir or hydronic distribution. Best for low off-peak electricrates. Can store RE. No heatercore maintenance. Higher operating costs thannatural gas or biomass.

Mayrequire wiring upgrades. Just like conventional air-source heat pumps,minisplits have inside and outside components. As many as eightindoor fan units can be connected to a single outdoor compressor,although most systems have fewer than that. Airtight houses can beheated with just a few wall-mounted heads, and because the indoorfan units are operated individually, these systems make it easy tozone a house for heating and cooling. Inside and outside components are connected by a smallrefrigerant line, a power supply, and a condensate drain.

In newconstruction, these lines can be hidden in an exterior wall; in aretrofit, installers bore a hole 3 inches or less through an exteriorwall to connect the equipment.

A cover on the outside of thehouse hides the supply lines. Below that, electricalresistance heat or some other supplemental heat source has tokick in, lowering overall efficiency.

They allow fans and compressorsto run by variable speed motors—a more efficient option than theon—off cycling of conventional heat pumps. Ductless minisplits do not have supplemental sources ofheat. Heat pump efficiency is described by the coefficient of performance COP , which is the ratio of energy consumed to heat delivered.

Ifa heat pump has a COP of 5 it means it produces five units of heatfor every unit of energy it uses. Ductless minisplits also eliminate the heat losses of a ducted system,which, according to the U. Heatlosses are especially high when ducts pass through uninsulatedcrawl spaces or attics.

Manufacturers say minisplits are often less expensive to install thanconventional ducted systems. Minisplit indoor distribution units below can be installed on exteriorwalls anywhere that can be reachedby electrical source circuits and theplumbing from the outdoor unit right.

The system includesa compressor, a closed loop of refrigerant, and an air orwater distribution system—just like an air-source appliance.

Water-to-air systems also have a heat exchanger and aforced-air distribution system. Instead of capturing latentheat in the air, a ground-source heat pump uses a groundloop that runs in horizontal trenches or deep vertical wells. An add-on component called a desuperheater can alsoproduce domestic hot water. Ground-source systems c and istribute heat via water or air. Most are forced-air systems,using ducts. Courtesy Water Furnace 2 Ground-source heat pumps run on electricity.

When combinedwith a renewable electricity system, they can make anextremely attractive heating and cooling package. Manufacturers claim COPs as high as 5, making these systemsvery efficient. But there is a catch: Published COPs do notinclude the electricity needed to run the pumps that circulatewater through the ground loops, so actual COPs are less—probably closer to 3.

Typical forced-air, ground-source heat pump equipment. In thiscase, the system includes a desuperheater to provide domestichot water, which is stored in the tank on the right. In a conventional furnace, the burner and blower kick on when thethermostat calls for heat.

When the room reaches the set temperature,the furnace shuts off. First, a modulating gas valve varies the amount of fuel the furnaceburns depending on how much heat is required. Second, modelswith variable-speed fans can run faster or slower to regulate theamount of heat delivered to the house much more precisely. In old-stylefurnaces, this energy goes right out the flue. Because flue gasesare cooled as energy is extracted from them, a masonry chimney ordouble-walled stovepipe is not needed to vent a mod-con.

Plastic PVC pipe will suffice, which reduces installation costs comparedto a conventional furnace. An additional benefit to mod-cons is theirsize—some models are small enough to be hung on the wall of amechanical room. These furnaces are sealed-combustion units, which means theydraw in outside air for combustion rather than using air from insidethe house. This eliminates the potential for backdrafting, a dangerouscondition in which lowered indoor air pressure, from a bathroomfan, for example, draws combustion gases into the house.

It alsodecreases the infiltration of unconditioned outside air needed toreplace combusted air. Variable-speed motors for fans use less energy than single-speedunits. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy warnsthat some furnaces can use more than 1, kWh of electricity peryear. The most efficient Energy Star models use roughly kWhper year.

A typical modulating-condensing furnace. Prices can differsharply in different areas and with different manufacturers. Courtesy RheemSite vs. As definedby the U. Because of the inefficiencies of generating electricity byburning coal or gas, along with some transmission losses, it takesabout 3 units of source energy to produce 1 unit of site energy.

Whenfossil fuels are burned on-site, conversion losses are much lower. The site-to-source conversion factor for natural gas is 1. The ratiois 1.

When the site—sourceratio of 1. Comparing site and source energy gives a better pictureof heating efficiency, and a more accurate measure of theenvironmental impact of using different types of fuel. Pellet boilers are more common in Europe than the United States,but in parts of the country where pellets can be delivered in bulk,these heating systems are no more trouble to use than a gas- or oilfiredboiler and can offer substantial fuel savings.

Advanced pellet boilers, like those offered by Maine Energy Systemsor Greenwood Clean Energy, feature automatic pellet loading and automatic ash removal. Pellet boilers can also provide domestic hotwater and can distribute heat via air ducts or hydronically, such aswith a radiant-floor system.

In the Northeast, where bulk pellets areavailable, a delivery truck offloads into a storage bin, much like fueloil or propane would be delivered. The home owner never touches thefuel.

Ash is collected and compressed in a container that needs to beemptied only four times a year, according to Maine Energy Systems. In other parts of the country, home owners have to resupply a pelletbin manually. Some biomass heaters, like those from MagnuM, alsocan burn corn. Depending on what type of conventional fuel they replace, pelletscan lower heating costs significantly.

For an estimate, check theU. The calculator allows adjustments in appliance efficiencyas well as fuel costs to better reflect local prices for more accuratecomparison.

Compared to wood heaters, pellet heaters and , especially, pelletboilers require much less work on the part of the home owner. Courtesy Maine Energy Systems 2 This automatic pellet boiler manufactured by Maine Energy Systems includes an augerthat moves pellets from a nearby storage bin to a self-cleaning combustion chamber. Electric thermal storage ETS heaters are one way ofgetting around that problem. They draw energy during off-peak hourswhen supply is plentiful and rates are relatively low.

An ETS systemcontains electric heating elements within dense ceramic bricks,which store heat. They can be incorporated into an existing heating systemas a backup for an electric furnace or to supplement a heat pump,but also work as a principal source of heat. HeatExchangerLocal electricity rates and rate structures are a key consideration inpurchasing an ETS heater, since these units use a lot of electricity. Room-size heaters draw 1. The smallest Steffes central-air heater draws 14 kW.

An ETS heater may require wiring upgrades to h and le the current. The run-time for the units depends on the size of the heater, the sizeof the heated space, the heating load, and how much stored energywas used during the previous heating cycle. Take, for example, the residential ratestructure offered by Portl and Oregon General Electric. Thebiggest advantage for the utility is the avoided cost of not having tobuild new power plants to meet spikes in dem and during peak hours.

Note that the side insulationhas been rolled back to reveal the ceramic bricks inside theunit. The ability of these appliances tobalance the load on the grid by storing energy is a key advantage,says Paul Steffes, CEO of Steffes Corp.

Manual J for Heat LossOversized heating equipment costs more initially and willnot operate as efficiently as a correctly sized appliance. Contractors once filled out the worksheets by h and , butthere are now a number of computer programs that do thework. A variety of factors are plugged in, including type and amount of insulation, window type, lighting, what applianceswill be in the house, and how much air leakage there is.

A Manual J calculation or an approved equivalent is now required in new construction by the InternationalResidential Code. Homeowners investing in new heating equipment shouldinsist the calculations be performed. Alternately,boilers can supply a forced-air distribution system if it has a hot-water heat exchanger. Natural gas is the most common fuel, buthigh-efficiency models that burn No.

Courtesy LennoxCondensing boilers use the same technology as condensing furnaces to capture wasteheat. Combustion gases are routed through a stainless steel heat exchanger wherewater vapor condenses and releases more heat.

A typical high-efficiency boiler. AccessScott Gibson writes about green building design and energy efficiencyfor a number of publications and blogs, including Fine Homebuildingmagazine and GreenBuildingAdvisor. He and his wife live insouthern Maine. Toll Freewww. I wanted some l and where I could hunt and practice with my firearms, since Iam an avid hunter and enjoy competing in local shootingmatches.

Teresa was interested in raising farm animals and keeping honeybees— and not having a neighbor right nextdoor. We used the Internet to search for properties and contacted a real estate agent to assist us.

After months of searching, a couple of things became apparent. The first was that locals here in the southern tier of New York,near the Pennsylvania border, believe there is natural gas undertheir l and and wanted top dollar—or would not give up theirmineral rights.

The second thing was that it was going to take abit of luck to find a property where everything we wanted wouldmeet what we could afford. Prime Property? When our home came up on the radar, we knew it had what wewere looking for and it was a great deal, but it was a little fartheraway from work than we wanted.

An additional acres were also available. The description in the realestate listing was a little vague and seemed too good to be true. The house belonged to and was built by an Amish family—there was no electricity inthe house and no indoor plumbing. We made arrangementsto see the place, located in rural Steuben County, southernNew York, during one of the only snowstorms in the winterof Perched atop a hill, the house and property sit in awindy area, near several wind farms.

Away From the Rat RaceWe met the family and toured the house and some of theproperty. The home was beautiful and the l and was exactly whatwe were looking for, but there were no modern conveniences. Instead, there was a h and pump for water, an outhouse, and no central heat. There was a Hitzer gravity-fed coal heater and a wood-burning cookstove. Teresa and Iwere no better, with a lot of our free time being wasted infront of the computer or TV.

So we talked to the kids and ,surprisingly, they were all for it. I could write another article about the hurdles weencountered getting financing and insurance on a home with no electricity, no plumbing, and no central heat, but theimportant part is that we decided to buy this home and l and.

We put in a purchase offer with a couple of contingencies incase we ran into problems and needed an out. The seed forliving off-grid was planted. Mark McDermott 2 New meets old: A high-tech off-gridsystem now provides electricity forthis twentieth-century farmhouse. Originally built by an Amish family,it was formerly electricity- and plumbing-free.

But our experience with the utility was notencouraging, and the cost and red tape were beyond our means and patience. The grid ended 0. On the southern side, we would need to obtainpermission from one neighbor and we would need to remove or have removed all of the trees that were within 30 feet ofthe road. Coming in from thenorth, there were two neighbors who we would need to getpermission from, but most of the l and coming from that sidewas open field. We actuallyconsidered this option but unfortunately or fortunately neither of the neighbors was willing to grant us permission.

And both cost estimates were minimums and we were warnedthat it could be much more. So I was relieved when we finallymade the decision to keep the home off-grid. System DesignBefore we designed the off-grid system, we set a rough budgetfor the house, with two major considerations: We needed towire the house so that we could use whatever electricity oursystem would make and we needed a septic system so that wecould have indoor plumbing.

Early in the process, I decided on a solar-only system. Once I focused on a solar-only system, I beganthe critical process of sizing it. We used about 1, kWh per month at our grid-tied home. That works out to be about 33 kWh of electricity a day used or,mostly, wasted. I had never examined our electricity usagebefore. All I saw and complained about was the monthly bill. Defining the LoadThe first step in system design is to figure out how manykWh a day are needed.

That seems simple enough, but it isvery difficult to arrive at an accurate number. I bought a KillA Watt meter and measured the energy use of the toaster,computer, TV, dryer, washing machine, and everything elsein our existing house that plugged into a VAC outlet. Irecorded all of the watts and watt-hours used for everythingin the house on a spreadsheet. Some of our appliances were very energy-efficient and other older ones were energy hogs. But knowing how muchenergy everything used was crucial.

Next, I needed toestimate how many kWh we would need per day in our newhouse. That sounds easy, but it is also quite difficult. Howmany lights would we use during the evenings and how longwould they be on? The same question applied to everythingMark McDermottEnergy-efficient appliances play a critical role in reducing theelectrical loads in an off-grid system. Going off-grid forces you to be veryaware of how you use your energy. The trick to off-grid living is conservation and efficiency.

After looking at many different scenarios, I came up withan estimated minimum of 6 kWh per day. After getting realdata from our appliances and deciding that we would be ableto change some of our electrical usage habits, I targeted a 3 to 4kW system. Once your average daily electricity use is estimated, thesize of the battery bank can be calculated, based on a specificdepth of discharge and the number of days of autonomy nosun you expect.

Battery SizingSince the solar energy is stored in a battery bank, its capacityhas to be enough to provide the energy you need withoutoverdischarging your batteries. The battery bank feeds theinverter that converts the DC to AC electricity used byst and ard household appliances. Our grid-tied houseused natural gas for space heating, water heating, and clothesdrying. Everything was plugged in and power ed most all times. Every night, there were fans and other electronics running.

I made some drastic assumptions toreduce our electricity usage. That worried me. What if I hadmade a wrong calculation? And what if I could not install thesystem in time for our first winter? With those fears, I decidedto hire a professional to help design and install our system. I had a good idea of what the complete system would looklike and what equipment was available, so this was kind of atest for the two I sought bids from.

After Roy did a site survey, wetook his proposal and tweaked it a little bit to arrive at oursystem design: a 4 kW PV system with a Ah batterybank and a 6 kW backup generator. Determining the size of your array and battery bank is a bit of a balancingact.


 
 

 

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