Solar Hot Water Heating – Solar Thermal Questions & Answers

Who should consider using a solar hot water heating system?

Any apartment house, hotel, health club, commercial facility, or industrial user of hot water or that uses steam and has a big boiler “make-up” water requirement.

Why is this a good time to consider solar thermal

The State of California has implemented a solar hot water rebate program after a 25 year absence. The program has a limited budget and is operated on a first come basis- as more solar comes on line the rebates amounts go down.

We have third party investors willing to install a system with no capital down. The only requirement is that your building have 80 units or more for conventional multifamily housing or 50 units or more for low income multifamily housing. We also have equipment financing for smaller buildings.

What constitutes a good solar system?

To receive the rebate in California, and to know what you are getting, you must use solar collectors certified by the SRCC - Solar Rating and Certification Corporation ( ), The collectors must be focused South or at an azimuth not far off True South. They should be tilted at between 10 – 30 degrees. Also, they need to have adequate solar hot water storage to match the time-of-use of the facility, for instance, an apartment house probably needs 20 gallons of storage for every bedroom. The system should also have adequate freeze protection – even in sunny California.

What are the incentives?

Broadly speaking, there are two incentives, tax incentives and rebates. There is a 30% tax credit, there is 5 years accelerated depreciation. The after tax value of those two tax incentives together probably pay for over half the cost of the system. Additionally, there is a rebate that should pay for another 25-35% of the system.

Will a solar hot water system last a long time?

From 1982-1985, we installed over 120 apartment house and commercial solar hot water systems. The pictures on this web site of operating solar hot water systems are both systems that we installed in the mid-1980s and within the last year.

What are your costs like?

We spend a lot of effort trying to be very cost-competitive. By utilizing long term relationships with solar collector and solar storage tank companies and volume, this allows us to provide highly competitive rates, which translates into significant savings for our customers.

What areas do you serve?

Southern California.

What are the economics of a solar hot water heating system?

The simple payback is between 8 months and 5 years, depending on one's ability to utilize the tax incentives. When one looks at its cost as the cost minus the value of the incentives and one considers the inflation rate of natural gas costs together with longevity of the system as well, the system should pay for itself over and over again.