Solar PV customers understand that they can generate cheap electricity with rooftop solar. That electricity is good for lighting, appliances, air conditioning and other household uses. But homeowners often ask about heating their homes with solar. The answer used to be installing a solar thermal system with rooftop solar panels generating hot water (stored in a tank) or hot air (stored in a bed of rocks or other thermal mass). But now there is another option: heat pumps combined with rooftop PV.
Two trends are making this type of system cost effective. First, rooftop PV systems now generate electricity inexpensively, often much less than what you would pay from your local utility. Second, there is a new generation of smaller, modular heat pumps called “mini-split systems” that allow you to heat and cool a few rooms at a time, instead of your entire house. The combination of cheap PV electricity and a zoned approach to heating and cooling are often less expensive than natural gas heat and central air conditioning.
Heat pumps draw on existing heat reservoirs, usually ambient outdoor air, underground water sources or pipes buried outdoors. When these heat reservoirs are in the range of 45 to 55 degrees F, heat pumps can be quite efficient. So they work best in temperate climates — not in cold areas of the U.S. Nevertheless, even in cold climates a ground or water source heat pump with PV can be more efficient than gas or oil heat (and certainly cleaner). As PV costs continue to decline and split systems proliferate we can expect to see more and more homes relying solely on rooftop PV for their energy use. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as we talk about the perfect match between heat pumps and rooftop PV.
About The Energy Show
As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.
The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we’ll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices.
About Your Host
Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.
His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.
Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies. He’s been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.
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