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Turning to the sun saves North Hall man some green

POSTED: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS /The Times

Hall County resident Gary Peters can use a remote to access an almost endless amount of information from his new solar hot water heater he installed under the Jackson EMC Right Choice Sun Power Program.

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Gary Peters would like to power his North Hall home with energy from the sun. That’s no big surprise. Since October he has been generating much of the hot water for his house from a pair of solar panels installed on his roof.

The 80-gallon unit, powered by two solar panels on the roof above the garage, provides 50 to 80 percent of the home’s water heating needs without racking up a cent on his electric bill. "I’ve always kept up with renewable energy and have been interested in reducing my carbon footprint," said Peters, who is retired. "I’d like to save some resources for my grandchildren. Anything I can do to move us toward a sustainable future, I’m happy to do."

The unit was installed under a program sponsored by Jackson Electric Membership Corp. Peters is eligible for federal and state tax credits and will also receive a $450 rebate from the electric cooperative.

Peters admits this past weekend wasn’t exactly great for generating solar energy, but he knows that next summer, when energy rates are higher, he’ll be getting most, if not all, of his home’s hot water from solar power.

Peters’ two solar panels heat a propylene glycol solution that flows through pipes to his basement water heater, where the heat is transferred by a heat exchanger to water inside the water heater tank.

On cloudy days, the unit reverts to electric power to heat water. An energy monitor tracks the system’s productivity, measuring how much water was heated, and estimating savings in electric use and CO2 reduction.

Bill Hosken with Solar Energy Marketing Inc., the system’s distributor, says that computer modeling for the system indicates a family of four will save an average of $24 per month based on current electricity rates, produce about 3,300 kilowatt hours of energy a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 4,700 pounds.

"The solar-produced energy is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy contained in 90 gallons of imported gasoline, 118 gallons of propane or 113 therms of natural gas," Hosken said.

Peters has made other green choices in his home, including replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent.

"I made sure the house is all sealed up with the correct weatherstripping," he said. "I’ve also put on low-flow faucets and toilets."

To a visitor, the solar panels might be mistaken for rooftop skylights. Peters would one day like to install additional solar collecting devices to provide electrical power to operate his home.

"When they did the on-site test for our location, it turned out to be about 90 percent efficient annually, which means there will be some months it will provide 100 percent efficient."

That gives Peters hope for more solar generation.

"I’d like to get off the (electric power) grid completely," he said.

Since it’s still a relatively new technology in Georgia, a very limited number of technicians are qualified to install solar power and solar water heating systems. Jackson EMC has arranged an inspection and training program for the systems.

Independent inspection through Home Diagnostic Systems of Lawrenceville ensures the home site is suited for solar, and that equipment is properly sized for the homeowner’s use. The company also monitors installation.

Peters’ solar water heating system is distributed by Solar Energy Marketing of Atlanta.

"Before I even knew about the Jackson EMC program, I’d been researching solar water heating systems and had professionals who agreed that this was the best system on the market. I found the local distributor, who had just begun to work with Jackson EMC, and found out about the incentives," Peters said.

Brett Smith of BW Heating & Air in Madison County, one of the contractors who attended Jackson EMC’s training program, installed Peters’ system.

"I had done some water heating systems, but I was really interested in the solar water heating program because with rising energy prices I think this technology will be the norm in the future, rather than the exception," Smith said.



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