Going Solar

Like many people today, we worry about the future of the environment and would like to reduce our carbon imprint as much as possible. In 2003 we bought a Honda Civic Hybrid. Because it gets almost 44 miles to the gallon, we feel that it was a good investment. We also investigated solar electric panels, which we learned about from Tom O’Reilly, who advertises in 10964 as a solar consultant.

I went to a talk Tom gave at the Pearl River Library and was impressed by the information he presented. However, we eventually decided that the solar electric panels represented too much of an investment for us. Even though there were Federal and State rebates, we would have needed to make an initial investment of about $40,000. $17,600 would have quickly been refunded to us from a New York State incentive program, and we would also have been eligible for a NY State tax credit of $3700 (now $5000) and a Federal Tax credit of $2000. It was still more than we wanted to spend.

This year we revisited the issue, and decided to install a solar hot water system. A system for two to four people involves only two solar panels, placed in a sunny spot on the roof, and piping to a tank in the basement. The solar panels on the roof, each approximately four feet by eight feet in size, are filled with non-toxic antifreeze, which passes down from the roof and through pipes in the basement tank to heat the water in it (at no time does the antifreeze come in contact with the water). This new tank supplements our old hot water tank, which still exists but serves as a backup. During the summer, the solar panels provide all of our hot water. Over the the winter the regular gas hot water heating system will sometimes be needed, but the engineers who installed the solar system estimate that it should provide up to 75% of the hot water we use.

The whole system cost us $6650 (now $7650), paid in two installments. We will get a 25% NYS tax credit of $1662 and a 30% Federal tax credit of $1995, bringing the cost of the panels down to $2992. We are very happy with the system; every time we take a shower we thank the sun and The Solar Center, which did our installation, for providing our hot water. And, according to the solar engineers, we are eliminating over one ton of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

You can find Tom O’Reilly’s ad for The Solar Center, which did our installation, on the first ad page of 10964.