The Thermal Solar Difference

An Affordable Solar Solution

The first thing Carl Simpson, owner of Renewable Energy Northwest, said when we sat down to discuss his business? “It can be complicated to explain solar thermal.”  After discussing his business and comprehending the very basics of how it works, one would agree that understanding thermal solar energy and HVAC systems can be a bit intimidating.

However, the savings and footprint reduction possible with this clean energy alternative is impressive.  The following will provide the basics of why solar thermal is often a superior green-minded and money-saving option to traditional renewable energy systems.

Solar Thermal – 101

In short, solar collectors (solar panels) absorb ultra violet energy from the sun and transfer the energy into hot water, providing the energy for systems such as water heaters and heating for HVAC systems. Because water heaters are continually keeping the water heated, according to the Department of Energy, hot water systems account for 25 percent of the energy load of a typical home.  HVAC systems typically account for 50 percent of average home energy costs,  according to Simpson, “these two solar thermal solutions alone can impact a household up to 50 percent of their home energy costs.

A homeowner can even go a step further with a “whole home solution”. This entails using solar Thermal, LED lights and solar PV for the most complete solar solution.

The primary difference between a solar PV and solar thermal is efficiency.  Solar PV requires direct sunlight and therefore is only 17 percent efficient. However, the evacuated tube technology of solar thermal works using ultra violet rays, allowing a capture of energy 94 percent . “You know how you can still get a sunburn when it’s cloudy? It’s the same concept,” says Simpson. “Ultra violet rays are present in most weather conditions.”

Environmentally Responsible

According to, “With so much energy consumption in the US directly attributed to the heating and cooling of air and water, solar thermal heating and cooling plays an important role in providing economically viable and environmentally sustainable solutions for supplying these essential needs.”

Although implementing thermal solar solutions into your new home build is an ideal opportunity, existing homes can benefit from solar as well. “We can easily install a solar thermal water heating system, as well as install solar thermal HVAC systems within existing homes” Simpson says. Having provided these services to 200 environmentally conscientious consumers in Idaho and Eastern Oregon in the last seven years, Renewable Energy Northwest brings a wealth of experience in saving area residential and commercial customers significant energy cost savings.

Commercial installs include: Car washes, Laundromats, apartment complexes, Ag shops, and manufacturing plants, with phenomenal results. This is in addition to both Federal and State tax incentives.

Tax Incentives and Solar Thermal Payback

For residential installs, Federal programs provide a 30 percent tax credit of the installed cost of a renewable energy project.  In addition, the state of Idaho allows for a tax deduction of 100 percent up to $20k spread out over a period of four years (40 percent, 20 percent, 20 percent, 20 percent). For commercial installs, total incentives can be as high as 82 percent of the total project cost.

The payback on your investment for a solar water heater alone can be as short as one year, but rarely longer than three years. Solar thermal systems, due to superior efficiency the  pay back, can be up to 12 times faster than other renewable energy options.

To discover how you can take advantage of these savings and reduce your carbon footprint, call Carl Simpson today and take advantage of a free, on-site assessment of your unique residential or commercial situation.