FAQ’s

Solar Water Heater Questions:

Q: What is a solar water heater?

A: A solar water heater uses the sun’s energy to pre-heat household water before it enters the conventional gas (or electric) water heater. A solar water heater could generate up to 90% of your annual water heating needs.

Q: How hot can solar heated domestic water get?

A: Water heated by the sun can reach temperatures exceeding 212º F, but the normal temperature for household use is only 120º to 130º F.

Q: Are there different kinds of solar water heaters?

A: Solar water heaters are divided into two kinds of systems: active or passive. Active solar systems rely upon moving mechanical parts in order to transport heat, while passive units simply use the sun to accomplish this action. Most of the systems installed worldwide are passive because they are simple and need no auxiliary power (electricity) to operate.

Q: How do active solar collectors work?

A: The collector is usually an all copper tube and fin absorber enclosed with an insulated aluminum frame or “box”, covered with a low-iron tempered glass glazing. The water contained within the gas or electric water heater is circulated through the solar panels in a single-tank system, or a separate tank is used to pre-heat the water before it enters the conventional water heater in a two-tank system. A two tank system is usually considered to be the best option but if properly managed, a single tank system can provide between 50 and 80% of the household needs for hot water. The water being circulated is gradually heated and the system should be sized to provide between fifteen to twenty-five gallons of hot water per person per day. A reliable automatic control to operate the pump is essential. Fortunately, pumps and electronic controls have evolved and can be expected to provide over twenty years (and counting!) of service.

Q: Will solar heating affect how much water I will have? Will I have to change my bathing and cleaning routine?

A: Yes and No. You will actually have much more hot water than ever before. If the system is sized well for your family, you will no longer need to wait for the water heater to ‘recharge’ between showers.

Solar water heaters are always installed in addition to your regular water heater. That means that even during bad weather you will still have hot water. To maximize your savings, you should attempt to use the most hot water in the late morning and early afternoon when the solar system is operating at its peak. Also, it helps to spread your cleaning load over the week. For example, instead of washing seven laundry loads all at once it would pay to do one a day. This will reduce the amount your regular water heater must operate.

Q: Will the solar system affect my existing water heater?

A: Yes. Since the water heater will operate far less frequently, solar will extend its life significantly. Some water heaters that were retrofitted with solar in 1974 are still in service today, over a quarter of a century later. The life of an ordinary gas heater without solar is between five and ten years.

Q: How much does a solar water heater cost?

A: The cost may vary from $4,000 to $8,000. It depends largely upon the following variables:
• Size of the family to be served (and therefore the amount of heat required)
• Size, type and brand of solar system
• Type of roof upon which the panels are mounted
• Building code requirements
• Orientation of panels

Q: How much do I save?

A: It depends upon the size of the system and the needs of your family and the way you currently heat your water. The average annual cost for water heating is usually over half the annual gas bill. Typically a person uses between fifteen and twenty-five gallons of hot water a day, which can cost $5.00 to $25.00 per person every month. A family of four could be spending between $384 to $1200 a year just for heating water. A gas bill is charged at varying rates or tiers, and the most costly level or tier is levied in winter, when you are using the most gas. A solar system can reduce your daily gas consumption and thus you will be purchasing the less expensive Tier 1 or “Lifeline” rates.

Q: Are there any public incentives available to reduce the cost of a solar water heater?

A: Yes. There is a federal tax credit available to help lower the final cost. It is 30% of the cost with a maximum limit of $2,000. If the water heating system is used in a business then there is no limit or cap and accelerated depreciation (MACRS) can also be used to reduce the financial impact.

Q: How long does it take for a solar heater to pay for itself?

A:Solar heating does have a payback, and it can vary from four to ten years. But it may be more useful to think of solar as an investment that yields an annual return, much as a bank savings account provides interest. A solar water heater will generate savings that can equal a bank account generating a twenty percent (20%) annual return, and the savings are not taxed as income, as is the interest you earn at the bank. The truth is, if you want hot water… you will be paying for that heat. You may prefer to pay the utility bill forever, or you may wish instead to go solar, and become your own utility. It is quite similar to the reason you once decided to buy your home and stop renting. Solar is simply the best investment available today because it guarantees a return on money that you will otherwise “burn” and helps you develop equity as you bank your savings.

Attic Radiant Barriers Questions:

Q: Why don’t building codes specify E-values as well as R-values?

A: In the last century, the only cost-effective insulation for the home was mass insulation like fiberglass, cellulose and foam that reduced heat transfer by convection and conduction. The “R-value” was the measure of how good a job those insulators did. Yet R-value measures only the smallest part of residential heat transfer. E-value is the measure of emissivity, radiant heat transfer, the principle source of energy loss. New technologies make it practical to achieve extremely low emissivity in window glass and in a reflective film ideal for the attic. As these low-E technologies advance, the codes will catch up and E-value will replace R-value as the primary measure of energy efficiency.

Q: Will FHIA Attic Radiant Barriers installed in my attic trap mildew-causing moisture in my ceiling?

A: FHIA Attic Radiant Barriers is designed to allow vapor to escape the housing envelope with Perm Rating of 13 – it will not contribute to mildew growth in your home.

Q: Will FHIA Attic Radiant Barriers create a fire hazard in my attic?

A: FHIA Attic Radiant Barriers Multilayer Attic Energy Barrier is fire-resistant with a Class A fire rating – it’s less combustible than the structure to which it attaches. Of course, like almost any material, it will melt and eventually burn if exposed to an open flame.

Q: Can I get a rebate for installing a FHIA Attic Radiant Barrier?

A: FHIA Attic Energy Barrier is Department of Energy approved and bears the Energystar® mark. This is the gold standard in energy efficiency and qualifies for most federal, state and energy company rebates. Check with your FHIA Attic Radiant Barriers rep to learn what’s available in your

Energy Saving House Paint Questions:

Q: How does the COOLWALL® System compare to those coatings claiming to be “ceramic”?

A: The so called “ceramic” coatings actually are ordinary coatings that have had small ceramic spheres added. The premise sounds good, except that the science does not support the claims that are made. Even though these coatings may be applied heavier than ordinary paint, there simply is not enough thickness to effect insulation of any measure. These ceramic coatings have been debunked by the Department of Energy and the Federal Trade Commission and they do not increase reflectivity.

Q: What is the life of the COOLWALL® SYSTEM?

A: “Greater than 10 years based on accelerated weathering testing in state-of the-art xenon weathering chambers.”

Q: What is the recoat procedure?

A: 1. Recoating should begin with a clean, sound surface.

2. If recoating with the same color, COOLWALL® finish may be applied without a primer.

3. If recoating in a different color, you may require both COOLWALL® primer and finish.

Q: What is the Green Seal- Class “A” Green Seal 11?

A: Currently refers to interior paints only. A product such as COOLWALL® SYSTEM meets the Green Seal requirements.

Q: What are three DELTA (Δ) values of fade?

A: A color difference of 1 DELTA (Δ) value is the point where a color difference begins to be perceptible to the average person’s eye. A difference of 3 DELTA (Δ) values is a difference noticeable by most people.

Q: What effect does the COOLWALL® SYSTEM have on previously painted projects that are to be rehabilitated with COOLWALL®?

A: COOLWALL® should have negligible effect to an existing film as it relates to stress. The existing paint should be clean and sound with proper adhesion to the substrate. COOLWALL®, will be the same regardless of whether it is applied to an existing paint or coating film or a substrate that has never been painted or coated before.

Q: How does COOLWALL® reflect heat without changing color?

A: The ability of COOLWALL® to keep wall surfaces cooler is based on its ability to reflect a much greater percentage of the non-visible portion of the spectrum leaving the color relatively unaffected.
COOLWALL® has tremendous performance to reflect these elements. The ability of COOLWALL® to keep wall surfaces cooler is based on its ability to reflect a much greater percentage of the non-visible portion of the spectrum relatively unaffected.

Q: Municipalities restricting color selection by Architects/Owners because of rapid fading are limiting selection of conventional paints to pastel & earth tones only. Does COOLWALL® have limited color choices?

A: COOLWALL® will provide the designer the opportunity to select a much wider range of colors in medium and deep tones without the concern of fading.

Q: How does COOLWALL® relate to a Wall System “R” Rating?

A: COOLWALL® does not work by an “insulation” process and thus it does not have an “R value” (R stands for resistance). Instead, COOLWALL® reflects the infrared energy from the sun so that the wall does not get as hot in the first place. This substantially reduces the amount of heat that the fiberglass or other type of insulation needs to keep out. By increasing Solar Reflectivity in the entire color spectrum, COOLWALL® is reducing surface temperatures and cooling costs.

Q: What are the potential cost savings with COOLWALL®?

A: COOLWALL® has been tested by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to reduce cooling costs by up to 21.9%* (percentage savings are based on DOE study which showed savings ranging from 4.2 – *21.9%).
*Percentage of cooling costs and surface temperature reductions will vary based on color chosen, geographical location, climate conditions, and substrate type. In some climates there may be a heating penalty.