Skylight Maker Tapping Green Movement
The recent International Builders’ Show in February saw the first move of a major fenestration industry company in North America into the solar market. Velux America introduced a solar water heating system at the show that its parent company based in Denmark has been selling in Europe for years.
“Solar water heating is another opportunity for individual homeowners to support the green movement in our country while realizing benefits now and for years to come,” says Tim Miller, Velux America president. Each solar water heating system installed in the U.S., he notes, can help to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“And it represents a profitable add-on business opportunity for entrepreneurial companies that want to get in on the ground floor of an emerging consumer trend,” he says. “Velux will be providing installer support, training programs, and other assistance to companies in launching or expanding a solar water heating business with programs that will cover aspects including marketing, installation, and service.”
“Basically, our system utilizes low-profile roof-top solar energy collectors to gather heat,” explains Jim Cika, manager, solar products for Velux. “An electronic controller activates a pump to feed the heated solution through insulated tubing to a solar hot water tank. The heat is transferred from the solution, through a heat exchanger, to the water in the insulated tank, where it is held until needed, and the glycol solution, which never enters the water supply, is returned to the collectors to be reused.”
The cost of installed systems will vary depending upon the volume of heated water required in a home. Two to three rooftop solar collector panels will usually be installed and solar hot water holding tanks are available in 80- and 120-gallon sizes. Cika says that the systems can provide up to 100 percent of the demand for heating hot water in a home, with typically up to 80 percent of hot water needs coming, “free from the sun,” while replacing or adding on to an existing water heating system.
Solar energy systems can take advantage of this free energy source throughout the year, as solar energy can be produced even at low temperatures. According to Cika, the capacity for widespread use is a particularly attractive feature of his company’s system. “We use a glycol, or antifreeze solution in our system,” he notes, “so it’s suitable for use anywhere in the United States, with the exception of some parts of Alaska, which is not the case with all solar water heating systems.”
Cika also points out that the Velux solar water heating system has a much lower system and installation cost than solar photovoltaic technology.
In promoting the benefits of solar water heating systems, the skylight manufacturer points to a Department of Energy consumer guide, which says that, “On average, if you install a solar water heater, your water heating bills should drop 50 percent to 80 percent. Also, because the sun if free, you’re protected from future fuel shortages and price hikes.”
Federal tax credits can help pay 30 percent up to $2,000 for a system and that some states and utilities offer additional support resulting in credits that could offset up to half of the cost, Miller adds. This, combined with savings on home energy bills, he says, should result in an anticipated payback period of three to seven years in most areas depending on geographic location, utility rates and other factors.
A global supplier of skylights and other solar control technology, Velux reports that the collectors are certified by independent testing agencies in Europe and the U.S. and installers are provided advanced training to assure reliable installations. Its solar energy roof collectors are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and to integrate well with rooflines while delivering exceptional energy collection capabilities. The units also integrate seamlessly with Velux roof windows.
Solar collectors can typically meet up to 80 percent of a home’s hot water needs.