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When we first got started, we learned on our own. It was pretty painful and almost no one ever actually made much money at it. 90% of the installations have since been ripped out.

Tom Lane wrote a book called "Lessons Learned". It's worth every penny to learn what sort of systems work best in which applications.

The book only tells about 90% of the story, you still need someone like Tom to review your drawings, and consult on the installation for the first couple systems. No sense re-learning all those things on your own.

Do the first couple systems for yourself and employees, until your confidence gets solid.

Then have fun! Photovoltaic systems are dead boring. Thermal systems are fascinating and satisfying!
Superinsulated Passive solar house, Buderus in floor backup heat by Mark Eatherton, 3KW grid-tied PV system, various solar thermal experiments


  • Nick_30
    Nick_30 Member Posts: 5

    The company i work at is looking to get involved with solar heating solutions. I am writing to see if you all could point me in the right direction of where to get started. What books should i be reading, what seminars should i be sitting in on, and so on???
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,121
    Most of the manufacturers have classes

    Viesmann does, Schuco has one starting soon. Peter Biondo teaches a 4 day class in Colorado several times a year via USA Solar.

    Tom Lane has a good book, need some updating and he pumps toward his expansion tanks, for some reason in all his drawings. And he doesn't seem to care much for evac tubes :)

    Dave Yates wrote an excellent piece in Contractor mag in the May issue.

    Tune in to HVACtv.com June 7, 7:00 PM CST for a live on the air solar DHW installation by myself and Peter Biondo of Oventrop Solar. Details at www.phcnews.com

    Consider an installation on your own home first.

    Wise choice to think solar, spread the word :)

    hot rod
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Nick_30
    Nick_30 Member Posts: 5

    I checked out peter biondo's web site and it only has seminars scheduled from last year.
    Also, I mis spoke, i actually don't work as an HVAC contractor, but a supply house, and my boss is very critical on getting it right. I worked in HVAC for 6 yrs but now we are interested in the renewable energy field and want to know what were selling and more importantly how it works.
    I found SEI's website and it has Mr. Biondo teaching a few classes, but the first isn't until september, do any of you know of anything sooner.
    I am looking forward to your on air presentation, i have it marked on the calendar.
  • Dave Yates (GrandPAH)_2
    Dave Yates (GrandPAH)_2 Member Posts: 377
    more to come

    Been eyeballing PV systems(G)

    Thanks HR, I'm looking forward to watching you & Peter tackle a project.

    Purchased a solar cooker over the weekend, which should arrive later this week. Lit says it'll hit 400F.
  • Vernon P. James_2
    Vernon P. James_2 Member Posts: 33
    Looking outside the box

    Glad to see people taking the time to look outside the box and do some research. As your loyal customer maybe you can sell me bigger things than the refractometer!!!!!!! Sorry, I think I may be leaning towards the Viessman tho. I have a feeling the support might be better for us unknowlegdables.

  • Metro Man
    Metro Man Member Posts: 220

    If you understand hydronic systems you should be able to get a handle on solar thermal systems. Understanding the basic differences between system types is a good place to start. Drain-back, drain-down, closed loop glycol, flat plate collectors, evac. tubes, thermosyphoning, and etc.. Understand these terms and decide what is best for you and your clients. We personally prefer drain-back water systems with flat plate solar collectros. These systems just keep running year after year with little or no service. I think the reason you see more glycol systems marketed because it's much easier to package and install. Our stainless steel tanks are non-pressurized and open to the atmosphere. 3 - 4 times a year water must be added via a make-up valve. We can install an alarm for low water conditions, but most of our clients can handle the simple maintenance. The hydronic industry (and solar) doesn't like anything that you have to rely on a homeowner to do.

    You can check out our web site..... www.metro-solar.com. Needs updated but basically explains what systems we design and install.

    I have been in business since 1982 and have seen good and bad. Over 3000 clients and counting. The bad always gets more print than the good. Have not really read a book that really describes or illustrates solar thermal that well other than the very basics. Look at installs that have been operating for 10 - 15yrs and ask what kind of service and how well the system has performed. Is it saving $$ and energy? Talk to your local solar companies and ask what they have been installing for the last decade.

    As far as new types of systems..... I haven't seen anything that is that new or improved that is setting the industry on fire. Pretty simple technology....... sun hits a black surface and it gets hot....... solar 101. What I would stay away from are systems that have complex controlling that if the power goes out or the doo-hickyy doesn't do it's thing then the entire system goes down or blows or ???

    Also, can the client safely shut system down in the summer (or winter) and go on vacation for a month and not worry about coming home to a mess? If there is a power outage what happens?? It's your **** when the proverbial doo-doo hits the rotating oscillator!

    KISS is not just a band.

    Hope this helps...... jump in an get a handle on a great technology.
  • Nick_30
    Nick_30 Member Posts: 5

    Vern, I hope to be able to sell you more and BIGGER things in the future. Also, I think we can work on that "unknowledgeableness" and grow to atleast a "slight knowledge" as we press forward in the green business.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,276
    One size

    does Not fit all. My father in law -- recently passed away -- was one of the major pioneers in semi-passive solar space heating, based out of the Boston, MA area. I did a lot of his arithmetic and dog work for him.

    Solar is excellent for space heating -- even in New England. 50 percent is easy; 80 percent not so easy, and 100 percent hard, but doable.

    However, that said, to get up around those figures, every structure is different, and retrofits never get that high, or even close.

    A few general rules: lots of storage. As someone said, KISS is not just a band! Make sure you have enough air changes per hour (outside air). Keep your heat storage at as low a temperature as is feasible (we used around 120 to 130 for space heating).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Thanks Nick,

    For getting involved with solar. All the books listed are good, but hang around here for lots of great info and advice, specific to your next solar job. These guys WILL help you out. Solar hot water is something we have to get moving on. Solar Today magazine reported recently, In Europe alone, energy production from small scale solar thermal technologies installed exceeds that of PV and wind combined, by almost double. We know that water is the best, and most efficient way to deliver and store energy, Europe seems to think water may be the best way to collect it. As Plumbers and Heating Techs, it is our duty to install and improve these solar hot water and space heating systems.
    Thanks, Bob Gagnon 978-853-4873 Jamie, give me a call, I'm right in your area

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  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,289
    Are you...

    ... talking about William Shurcliff? That man wrote some wonderful stuff on solar and how to use it!

    Yours, Larry
This discussion has been closed.