Solar thermal technology isn’t as popular as solar electric panel use, but the benefits solar thermal water heating are great in regard to providing comfortable non-fossil fuel derived heat for your home or business. Solar electric panels are also called photovoltaic panels (PV) and these are the popular style solar panels that you might see on television when someone is trying to go “off grid”. PV panels take direct sunlight and convert it to DC electricity that can be used to provide energy for your home. Recent drops in PV panel production has really sweetened the deal on the return on investment for this technology, but where is solar thermal in all of this and why is it not as popular?

Solar thermal panels are a great source of water heating and much more efficient than using PV panels to heat water. And domestic water use comes second in line as an energy need in our homes. Space conditioning comes in number one and has the highest need in relation to energy usage for comfortable living. So although PV panels are great for producing electricity, their overall efficiency is around 17%. Solar thermal panels provide upwards of 40-50% efficiency in the conversion process to heat water. In the current market, smaller solar thermal systems dedicated only to heating domestic water are in a tight race with PV. But in regard to space heating, solar thermal is the definitive winner.

Solar thermal coupled with radiant floor or “hydronic” heating, is truly the most comfortable source of heat there is. No fans needed, no energy losses through ductwork leaks, and no air blowing in your face from a vent. Radiant floor heating with slab-on-grade construction is the way to go when this opportunity can be taken advantage of in the new construction process. In the Richmond area, there is an abundance of flat land that can be utilized for this type of construction. If you find yourself wanting to build a new customized green home, STI is here for your needs. We’re experts in the design/build process and have been in the energy efficient construction business for over 15 years. We specialize in new construction planned around slab-on-grade designs where solar thermal is the primary heat source. Return on investments are quick when you can apply the 30% solar thermal tax credit. Give us a call today and let’s talk about building your new home. We’re the only folks in town with the expertise to install solar thermal as your primary heat source and supervise and design a home that fits your exact needs and cuts your tie to expensive fossil-fuel derived energy sources. Talk to you soon!