LETTERS AND E-MAILS

Solar thermal can cost less DORCHESTER, ONTARIO I enjoyed reading Dave Yates' article on his solar installation in Contractor magazine (May, p. 40). The solar thermal industry, as you know, has been around for a number of years, but it is just recently gaining considerable momentum given its favorable cost profile when compared to other renewable energy technologies. With that said, I think it is

Solar thermal can cost less

DORCHESTER, ONTARIO — I enjoyed reading Dave Yates' article on his solar installation in Contractor magazine (May, p. 40).

The solar thermal industry, as you know, has been around for a number of years, but it is just recently gaining considerable momentum given its favorable cost profile when compared to other renewable energy technologies. With that said, I think it is important that when authors quote installed costs for solar thermal systems that they do so in a fair and reflective manner.

I agree that a Viessmann evacuated tube system would cost $10,000 (Thermomax would be higher, Apricus about the same). But the North American market is approximately 85%-95% flat plate and most flat plate systems would cost between $5,500 and $6,500 to install. Unless you are in northern climates and integrate a solar thermal system into a hydronic or geothermal heating application, it makes little sense to install an evacuated tube system. Evacuated tube systems are more efficient on a per unit of area basis in the winter months — but — on a cost per unit of energy produced basis, they fall down quickly vs. flat plate systems (according to studies at North Carolina State University Solar Center and Queen's University Solar Calorimetry Lab)

My last point is that it is only fair to readers to point to other solar thermal incentive programs at the state and local utility level (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, www.dsireusa.org) since, chances are, there are significantly greater incentives available over and above the Federal program. In other words, chances are that the installed costs are much lower than what is suggested in the article.

Great article and certainly food for thought.

Please see our website at www.enerworks.com for more information on flat plate solar thermal appliances.
KEN ARNOLD, CEO
EnerWorks Inc.

Pa. College of Technology grads talented

ALBANY, N.Y. — I am DeShawn Alexander, a student at Pennsylvania College of Technology located in Williamsport, Pa., and I am enrolled the Bachelor of Science HVAC/R undergraduate program. I recently read the July 2007 article entitled, “Letter to dean of college construction program,” which I found very interesting and informative.

Maybe one day CONTRACTOR magazine can do a article on my school HVAC/R program, which houses one of only two HVAC/R Bachelor's degrees in the country. It just seems like we are overlooked somehow by the industry, but when people hire our graduates or talk to us, they are astonished by how much we can already understand and do when it comes to work.

I am currently a intern at Lewis Engineering, a building systems engineering firm, where I beat out top engineering school students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rochester Institute of Technology because the people at the firm were not only impressed that I knew industry terms, but that I could do load calculations, duct sizing, pipe sizing, and drafting, which they told me can take a top student from a engineering program two years to learn.
DESHAWN ALEXANDER
Intern Lewis Engineering P.C.

Plumber raises 24,000 lbs. of food from customers with $50 in service coupons

MANASSAS, VA. — My Plumber Heating and Air here has raised 24,000 lbs. of food from customers in a food drive dubbed Warm Hands and Full Hearts. The food drive was so successful that the contractor is giving away the plans, instructions and support materials at www.warmhandsandfullhearts.com to any contractor that wants to copy the program.

Wendell and Mark Presgrave encourage contractors to get the instructions for their food drive action plan.

“We will give our plan to anyone who asks at [email protected].” said Wendell Presgrave.

“And we are challenging other service companies across this nation to take up the Warm Hands and Full Hearts banner and run with it,” added Mark Presgrave. “See just how much food you can raise.”

The food raised is a great help for those living with need, facing the choice of food, shelter or medicine.

The plan, however, has other important benefits for the contractor. Some of these are:

  • Employee pride and knowledge of community issues is increased.

  • Customer goodwill explodes.

  • Company exposure skyrockets in major newspapers, local newspapers, trade publications and church newsletters. (The Presgraves will include sample press releases in the supporting materials).

“What we do is offer our customers $25 off their service call and we give them a coupon for another $25 off a future service for five nonperishable food items,” said Susan E. Phillips, community outreach coordinator. “Using that method between Nov. 1, 2006, and the end of February 2007 — actually I think we ran the drive a few days longer — we raised 23,895 pounds of food. I believe our original goal was 16,000 pounds.”

The plan is available at www.warmhandsandfullhearts.com. There contractors will find a downloadable PDF file that lays out the plan, promotional materials, how to stimulate interest within the company, acceptable foods (My Plumber Heating and Air included cleaning products, baby items, and over-the-counter medications). The kit also includes sample press releases.

Also included are downloadable Microsoft Word files that can be edited and customized with company logos, and coupons with different monetary values. Another download is a PDF with a build-it-yourself banner for the Warm Hands and Full Hearts Food Drive.

Additional information is available from Phillips at 703/367-7976