Solar thermal is a term that covers a wide range of technologies that use the sun's heat to heat the air or water in buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides information about several types of solar thermal systems. One of the most common solar thermal technologies is solar water heating, which uses the sun's energy to provide hot water for your home or business. System components for cold climates typically include a solar collector, a heat exchanger, and an insulated storage tank. The sun is used to warm a heat transfer fluid (such as a propylene glycol), which passes through the heat exchanger to transfer the sun's heat to your domestic hot water. Types of solar collectors include evacuated tube collectors (pictured here) and flat-plate collectors. For more information about solar water heating technologies, see the US Department of Energy's solar water heating information.
What size system do I need?
There are several different types of solar thermal technologies. Each technology will require a different process for appropriately sizing a system for your home or business to ensure it operates efficiently. The U.S. Department of Energy provides some information on how to size various types of solar water heaters, but for these technologies and the others, your local installer will be a knowledgeable resource to talk you through your heating needs and determine a system and size that is right for you.
How much will a system cost?
Solar thermal systems can vary in cost depending on the technology you choose and the size of your system. For solar water heating, systems often cost less than $10,000 before rebates or incentives, and can reduce your water heating bills by 50-80%. See Energy Sage’s solar hot water information to learn more about system costs. One of the best ways to ensure your renewable energy system pencils out financially is to invest in energy efficiency measures. To learn more, see our resources on Efficiency and Electrification.
What incentives and tax credits are available?
There are several options available. Visit our Financing and Incentives page for more information on your options.
Where can I find an installer?
The column on the right hand side of this page lists a number of installers operating in Montana. These companies are all MREA members! You can also visit our full Installer Directory for an interactive map of installers.
Where can I find more information?
- Solar Water Heating information from the US Department of Energy
- Montana State University Extension E3A Solar Hot Water Fact Sheets
Photo credit (this page): Liquid Solar Systems