Renewable Energy With a Rapid Payback!

July 10, 2009

Last week I journeyed north to visit Seacoast Energy Alternatives in Dover, NH.  SEA is a retail store that offers information and products geared to conserve energy, save money and improve environmental impact.

SEA is part of USA Solar Store, a cooperative group of independently owned and operated retail stores that started in Vermont and is quickly expanding across the country.  As Pamela Bingham, one of the co-owners described, being part of the cooperative gives them the benefits of:

  • the group’s extensive product research and testing
  • specialized expertise of other members
  • the ability to offer reduced prices for their products

SEA has a wonderful range of products including appliances, composters, plumbing fixtures, lamps and photovoltaic systems.  Of all their products, Pamela and her co-owner Jack Bingham love to talk about their solar water heating systems.  As described by Dave Bonta in New Green Home Solutions, “Solar hot water systems are dependable, reasonably priced, and attractive.  Clean trouble-free solar domestic hot water will let you shrink your energy consumption and give you freedom from fossil fuel-based heating sources.”  

pamela and marathon

How does it work?  A solar water heating system consists of solar collectors (roof or ground-mounted), pumps to circulate the hot water, a storage tank and a back-up heating system.  Solar water heaters need super-insulated storage tanks, so it is usually best to replace an existing water heater.  The Marathon, on display at SEA and pictured above, is super-insulated and is guaranteed for life.

At SEA, you can see the two basic styles of solar hot water collectors that make sense for our climate, flat plate and evacuated tube solar collectors.  Their costs are similar, and the styles vary some in their use and applications.

flat panel

The new Velux flat plate collector modelled to be compatible with their skylight products, and beyond, installed vertically, a flat panel collector.

evac tubes

 An evacuated tube collector – also check out the composting toilet at left!

For any solar water heating option, proper sizing and installation are critical for maximum performance.  A solar water heating system requires good southern exposure.  If you don’t have that, you might want to consider another energy-saving option, a tankless water heater.

What are the costs and expected payback?  Did you know that the average household spends 30% of their heating dollar on making hot water?  The average system offered at SEA (for a family of 2-3), included the insulated water tank, costs approximately $10,000 and is guarantted for 5-10 years, but expected to perform for 20+ .  With available federal tax credits (30% until 2016), the cost is reduced to $7,000.  The solar water heating system should heat nearly all your domestic water supply in the summer and 40%-50% in the winter.  Most households currently heating their water with oil will see a complete payback of the initial cost within 5 to 6 years.  A typical solar hot water system will last much longer (40+ years) than a conventional hot water heater (10-12 years).

If you are interested in knowing more, check out or visit – Jack and Pamela enjoy giving tours of thier shop and products. 

Additionally, Jack will be joining us for the August meeting of the Seacost Green Building Group to discuss solar water heating systems.  We’ll be meeting on Tuesday August 11th, from 7-9PM upstairs at the Grog in Newburyport.  All are welcome! 

Feel free to contact me to talk about these and other great product options for your home or business or the Seacoast Green Building Group.


3 Responses to “Renewable Energy With a Rapid Payback!”

  1. Daniella Fye Says:

    Plenty of good info on this site I am pleased to have found it, I would highly recommend it for people searching for answers to their problems.

  2. greenbridge Says:

    Thanks Daniella!

  3. jebanje Says:

    Yes, a i agree.I think I know somewhere like for example, will find it and set

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