How do I find the right installer for a solar thermal system?

Where do I find distributors of residential solar water heating equipment for my State? And if I’m going this route, is there any advantage to installing a rooftop solar water heater at the time that you are replacing your roof? – Jonathon G, Northern CA

More and more consumers are interested in finding installers of solar water heating, solar pool heating, photovoltaics and small wind systems for their homes – some because of high natural gas and electricity prices, state clean energy and clean air incentive programs, and due to frequent outages from storms or aging energy grid. If you have selected a vendor for your solar system, the manufacturer or regional distributor will advise you on their list of preferred installers, those who have experience with their equipment. If you are looking for the appropriate solar systems and installer, I would first contact the local Solar Energy Industries Association chapter (site link below), and if there is not a SEIA chapter, there may be a Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society which could refer you. For those in States without either, I would contact the closest State Chapter, because many of the installers cover regions or will know of a contact in your State. When looking for an installer, please check to see how many years they have been in the business, whether they belong to their State or regional SEIA Chapter or National SEIA, whether they have pictures of installations or references you can call, and whether they have SRCC rated systems for solar water heating or have PV training within their State or national program called The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Within an existing home, installing either solar water heating or photovoltaics does make sense when you plan to renovate – whether it’s roofing or interior changes. Installation can be simplified for either pipe or wire runs to the existing water tank or circuit breaker box, and/or roof configurations. And finally, if you are refinancing or taking a second mortgage for your renovation, most likely the solar water heating installation can turn into immediate positive cash-flow and a photovoltaic system can be made quite affordable. – Scott
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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