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Solar Heating and Cooling Technology


The Basics

Solar heating and cooling is a clean, reliable and cost-effective technology that is reducing utility bills for thousands of homes and businesses. Today, Americans across the country are at work manufacturing and installing systems that significantly reduce our dependence on imported fuels. We need smart policies to expand this fast-growing job-producing sector.

"Umbrella" is a term used to represent four different applications, not to be confused with solar thermal electric:

  1. solar water heating
  2. solar space heating
  3. solar cooling
  4. solar pool heating

How Does SHC Work?

SHC systems trap the heat from the sun (solar radiation) and transfer the heat to water or air for use as thermal energy. While both SHC systems and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems involve collector panels , they are very different technologies. 






Solar water heating systems are composed of three main elements: the solar collector, insulated piping, and a hot water storage tank. While there are many design variations, essentially the solar collector gathers the heat from the sun and transfers the heat to potable water. This heated water flows out of the collector to a hot water tank, and is used as necessary.

Why is the SHC important?

Water heating, space heating, and space cooling accounted for 72% of the energy used in an average household in the U.S. in 2010 ‐ representing a huge market potential for solar heating and cooling technologies!

How does SHC Help with Energy Security?

Solar heating and cooling technologies can displace the need for natural gas, fuel oil, and electricity to heat homes and businesses, thereby reducing the dependence on imported fuels.

How does the SHC grow the U.S. economy?

SHC imported $13.6 million dollars of SHC goods in 2010, but exported $16.3 million dollars, for a positive trade balance of $3 million. For every dollar invested in SHC technology, 79 cents will stay in the U.S. This helps drive investment in the U.S. and keeps our nation economically competitive.

How does SHC create jobs in the U.S.?

Americans in all 50 states are at work today designing, manufacturing and installing these systems. In 2010, the solar industry supported 100,000 jobs in all 50 states and is expected to grow 26 percent in 2011.  These are quality jobs with good benefits that cannot be sent overseas.

Closer Look:
FLS Energy recently installed the  largest SWH system in the U.S. at Prestage Foods in St. Pauls, NC. The system will produce an average of 100,000 gallons of hot water a day for use in the turkey processor’s operations. During construction, more than 50 construction employees were working on site, 7 days a week.

The Polls Are In...

According to independent polling conducted by Gotham Research Group, SHC is viewed positively, by a 10-1 ratio (48 percent to 4 percent). Three out of four (74 percent) Americans agree, ‘the growth of the solar water heating industry will produce jobs and help the American economy. This support is strong across regions of the country and across party lines.

How can we Grow the SHC Market in the U.S.?

  • Extend the 30% federal ITC (expires 2016)
  • Include SHC technologies as generating technologies to be eligible for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in state and federal Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or Clean Energy Standards (CES)
  • Allow commercial pools to take the 30% federal ITC
  • Establish a thermal RPS on a state and/or federal level
  • Adopt strong building energy codes that encourage builders to include SHC on new buildings
  • Implement section 523 of the 2007 Energy Act, requiring 30% of the hot water demand for all new or renovated federal buildings to come from solar energy.
  • Establish strong manufacturing incentives (48c extension or additional funding)
  • Increase workforce training for SHC
  • Continue to allow SWH to qualify for the ENERGY STAR label. As of May 2012, there were already 493 ENERGY STAR-certified solar water heating models.

A Closer Look at Solar Pool Heating

Solar Pool Heating Continues Extended Growth

Solar pool heating rebounded from a five-year low in 2009 and grew 13 percent in 2010 to 10 million square feet of collectors sold. This is equivalent to a combined solar heating and cooling capacity of 814 MWthermal in 2010 alone. Today, there are an estimated 2.3 million solar water heating and pool heating systems installed in the U.S.

What are the Major SPH Installation Markets?

Florida maintained its position as the leading installer of solar pool heating systems in 2010 with a total capacity of 10.4 million square feet. California and Arizona were also strong markets.

A Closer look at SPH: how does it work?

The existing pool filtration and pump system circulates water from the pool through the solar collector. Temperature sensors detect any change in water temperature and relays the information to a control valve, which then diverts or channels the pool water to the collectors, depending on the desired temperature.  There are different SPH collectors available based on the climate and whether the pool is located outdoors or indoors.


System Design

  • Typically use inexpensive, unglazed, low-temperature SWH collectors.-

-Glazed solar collectors used for indoor pools, hot tubs, or spas in colder climates.

Commercial Pools

  • Businesses such as hotels, resorts, apartment complexes, homeowners associations, health clubs, camps and schools are perfect candidates for SPH, since owners and operators have no choice but to keep their pools at a comfortable temperature.
  • As of 2008, there were over 186,000 heated commercial pools nationwide. Of these pools, approximately 39%, or 115,540 are indoor; meaning they must be heated year round.


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