Letters to the Editor

Aug. 3, 2012
Just got the latest issue (June 2012) and read your “Solar thermal vs. PV for hot water” article. This message is one that we all (manufacturers and contractors) should echo more often.

We need to support trade, promote capabilities to deliver energy efficiency 

Good Morning Dave:

Just got the latest issue (June 2012) and read your “Solar thermal vs. PV for hot water” article. This message is one that we all (manufacturers and contractors) should echo more often. Your logic is easy for any reader to grasp, and does not play fast and loose with estimates or calculations. From the pure science aspect there is no question that the efficiency, converting sunlight into useable energy, of a solar water heater panel is significantly higher than that of a PV panel in “like for like” installations. However, in my experience when presenting this argument I usually lose since the homeowner is fascinated with the theory of spinning their meter backwards!  

Selfishly we need to support our trade (mechanical contractors/plumbers) and promote our capabilities to deliver energy efficiency using proven reliably solutions. Growing up in the trade with my father he would often say to me, “If I can’t fix it with a 12-in. pipe wrench it’s not plumbing.” All too often I think that we echo that sentiment in our approach to marketing alternate solutions (like solar thermal) to customers, and in doing so perpetuate this attitude.  

 Thanks for taking the time to balance the argument; I will be sending this link,   http://contractormag.com/yates/solar-thermal-versus-photovoltaics-dhw, to our list of OEM customers (for solar tanks) and our solar contractors.  Hopefully they will continue to spread the word.




Hi Peter:

Thank you for taking time to respond! I've been using ECV (Energy Conservation Value) and ROI for years in order to boost sales of higher efficiency and green technology. Take that $286 per year EVC you have listed on your website for the Hybrid Electric water heater, www.rheem.com/Products/tank_water_heaters/hybrid_electric. If the increased cost of installing a hybrid (as a drop-in replacement for a standard electric tank-style ) is $1,100 ($1,950 for the hybrid and $850 for the tank-style), then the ECV of $286 yields a 26% ROI in the first year.

I stopped telling my customers they will save money after reading a thought provoking article by Robert Bean regarding saving energy: www.healthyheating.com/Low_Exergy_Systems/Energy_Efficiency_Entropy_Exergy_Efficacy.htm. That sent me searching for a new way to accurately convey the message regarding saving money, and I came up with ECV since we're really talking about energy conservation and also a way to promote conservation while avoiding the term “green,” which can be a lightening rod, much like discussing politics or religion with customers. 

 According to the DOE, electricity rates averaged a 3.5% increase per year from 2000 to 2010 and assuming the rate of increase remains the same and that the hybrid will last 13 years, the long term ECV will equal $4,608.33, and in terms of simple payback (a term I hate to use and strive to avoid), the cost difference is returned in the fourth year.  

Sure would help to boost sales if the manufacturers would get that message out and if there was a financing program geared to support only installations done by pros that would sweeten the pot.




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