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Is Solar Growing? Survey Respondents Say Yes

June 8, 2009
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There has been increasing talk in recent months about growth in solar power and solar products. In addition to solar electric panels for the home, companies have introduced solar water heaters and solar-assisted HVAC systems. To find out readers’ opinions about where solar stands, a brief, informal online survey was conducted on The NEWS Website. Survey respondents in this case do feel solar is taking hold in the residential market.

WILL SOLAR GAIN A SIGNIFICANT PRESENCE?

The first question of the online survey asked: “Do you believe that solar power and solar products will gain a significant presence in the residential market? Why or why not?”

Eight-one percent of respondents answered yes, solar will gain in the residential market. Among those who answered yes, Lugene Melchiorri of L&L Plumbing, Heating, A/C, Rockaway, N.J., said, “It’s free energy from the sun. Why not harvest it?”

Paul Voiland of Deerfield Valley Heating and Cooling, Greenfield, Mass., said, “Solar is well proven technology that will reduce customer operating costs and help the environment.”

Gloria Fultz of G. S. Fultz & Associates, Richfield, Pa., said, “The technology is proven for solar hot water and solar HVAC. The industry should be looking at how to link HVAC businesses with home performance contractors who can make the building envelope tight so solar heating with a small regular backup source would be enough to heat and cool homes.”

Don Bosworth of Bestech Energy Systems, Fenton, Mich., said, “Smart contractors (who employ experienced solar professionals) will be able to design/install a system that best fits the customer's needs. What is missing from the market is a low cost solar DHW heater. They can be made, but they're not pretty!”

John Chavez of InDesign HVAC, Los Angeles, said solar will increase “because the cost to install a solar system will continue to lower.”

David Mathews of CCAC Inc., Corpus Christi, Texas, said, “I think that as technology improves solar assisted power systems will become more viable alternatives.”

Peter Stipan of Infineon Technologies, Wind Lake, Wis., said yes, “if OEMs can latch on to the stimulus package and offer a low-cost backyard or rooftop product.”

Guy Wilcox of TWC Products LLC, Taylorsville, Utah, stated, “People are looking for solutions to energy savings and with the cap removed from the tax credit it will be a viable option.”

James Kempel of Dakota Refrigeration Inc., Fargo, N.D., said, “Only if the cost is low enough to be recovered in a reasonable time.”

Kevin Brown of Linc Mechanical, Alpharetta, Ga., said, “Yes, but slowly. Marketing about incentives is less than adequate to get widespread adoption. ROI is still not reasonable. This is still leading edge technology with respect to cost.”

Of those who responded no to this question, Kim McCarty of Cool It, Chippewa Falls, Wis., stated, “They do not work. Not cost effective or reliable.”

Rex Bristow of Tri-Star Heating and Air, Glenwood, Iowa, said, “I live in Iowa; the sun days are minimal.” Also, he added, “Solar assisted HVAC will not be cost effective. Consumers are better educated and look closer at payback now.”

Bruce Conrad of Systems Service, Bechtelsville, Pa., said, “Solar exposure in our area as well as the expense and ‘look’ seem to prohibit folks from thinking solar.”

Scott Schmelzer of Metal-Fab, Wichita, Kan., noted, “It is still too costly, with limited real payback.”

Schley Warren of Berkshire Service Experts, West Springfield, Mass., said, “Not yet. The technology is getting closer but needs to take up less space. Price has to come down.”

Charles Carpenter of 4 Points Services LLC, Munith, Mich., said “I believe we will see more in the Southern states but not in the Northern and Midwest areas.”

WILL THIS HAPPEN SHORT TERM OR LONG TERM?

The second question asked: “If you believe that solar power and solar products will become significant, do you see this happening in the short term or long term? When do you see this happening?”

Of those respondents who think solar will become significant, just over half (52 percent) believe it will happen in the short term.

Among those who specified short term, Gloria Fultz said it will happen in the “next four years. It’s more easily installed and cost-effective than ground-source heat pumps as an ‘alternative’ heating system.”

Don Bosworth said, “After 30 years of following this industry, my short term bet is three to five years. This is also going to need government support for at least six to eight years to become a nationwide mainstay in your Lowes and Home Depots.”

Gary Wade of Gary Wade HVAC, Ceres, Calif., said, “I’ve participated in solar water heater and heat pump applications for some time and the time has come to make a big jump in solar products.”

Among those who indicated long term, Kevin Brown said that it will happen “after the cost of panels starts to fall and understanding starts to increase.”

David Mathews said, “I do not see any major significance in the short run, but in the next 10 years I think we will be seeing more and more consumer and commercial applications.”

HAVE CUSTOMERS INSTALLED OR EXPRESSED INTEREST IN SOLAR?

The third question asked: “Have any of your customers installed solar power or solar products or expressed an interest in solar? What type of product?”

Fifty-two percent of respondents reported that they have customers who have installed or expressed interest in solar products. They indicated a variety of projects from photovoltaic panels to solar hot water and heating to pool heaters.

Lugene Melchiorri said, “I am in the process of installing a combined high-efficiency hot water boiler, domestic storage tank and solar panels with another tank to integrate everything.”

Gary Wade noted “whole house HVAC and geothermal assisted applications.”

Don Bosworth indicated customers have installed “pool heating panels … and there is some interest in DHW and space heating applications.” However, he said, “First costs are a concern in this economy.”

Publication date: 06/08/2009

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