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My new "older" home & whole home solar

I've recently relocated to the Clear Lake area in CA and am very interested in upgrading to whole home solar; electricity, radiant flooring and hot water. I'm the only resident, approximately 1400 sq foot ranch style home, one level with wooden foundation with crawl space. Home has really not been updated, except for HVAC system, since construction in the 80s; VERY energy inefficient.

I'm a solar novice although have done quite a bit of reading. I'd really like some input from the gurus out there on viability based on a sole occupant and options; looking to do hydra not electric. The flooring has to be replaced regardless; currently combo of carpet, hardwoods and tile. Looking to replace with either tile or concrete for radiant heat conduction.

Any info, suggestions, help is greatly appreciated. Although I'm handy, I won't be able to DIY unless minor stuff.....

My electricity provider is PGE; I'm not looking to get off grid entirely, at least not now.

Thanks very much for allowing me to join, and post.


Asked by Cynthia Koehn
Posted Jun 23, 2014 1:05 PM ET


5 Answers

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There are two types of solar equipment: solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) equipment and solar thermal (hot water) equipment.

You mentioned using solar energy to provide electricity, so clearly you want a PV system.

Hot water can be provided either with an electric water heater or with a solar thermal system.

"Radiant flooring" (an in-floor heating system) can be either a system that uses hot water (a hydronic system) or a system that uses electric resistance wires (like a toaster).

I'm not sure what you mean by "whole home solar." If you choose to install a PV system -- the most logical type of equipment to install -- you can size the system to meet all of your home's electrical needs if you want. Is that your intent?

Finally, you wrote, "looking to do hydra not electric." I have no idea what you mean by "hydra."

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Jun 23, 2014 1:58 PM ET



Thank you for your response. I would prefer to try and do hydronic, rather than electric. Again, as a novice, I'm sure I'm using incorrect terminology :-) I would like to try and be as "green" as possible while also cutting down my long term costs. In Texas I was able to at least purchase "100% wind powered" electric; here I only have one option; PGE. I am looking for input like yours; as the sole resident my baseline usage will be pretty small.

Answered by Cynthia Koehn
Posted Jun 23, 2014 2:06 PM ET


If you are interested in more information on these topics, I can recommend three articles.

For more information on PV systems, check out An Introduction to Photovoltaic Systems.

For more information on solar thermal systems, I recommend two articles:

Solar Hot Water

Solar Thermal is Dead

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Jun 23, 2014 2:07 PM ET


A hydronic heating system uses a boiler or a water heater to heat water; the water is circulated through tubing to heat the home. A hydronic heating system can be integrated with solar thermal collectors, but this is probably the least cost-effective type of solar equipment imaginable.

Unless you have a big budget, I recommend starting with a PV system. It's a much better investment.

You wrote that you have an old home that is very inefficient. The best step you could take is to hire a home performance contractor or an energy rater (certified by RESNET or BPI) to perform an energy audit of your house. That person can recommend cost-effective energy retrofit work like air-sealing and insulation upgrades -- steps that should be taken before you buy any solar equipment.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Jun 23, 2014 2:14 PM ET



Thanks very much; I had completely forgotten about that initial step and really appreciate you bringing it to my attention. I've only been here a little over two weeks and Ann not yet even fully moved in; moving forward to green is that important to me. I don't want to jump the gun though :-)

Again, thanks so much!


Answered by Cynthia Koehn
Posted Jun 23, 2014 2:22 PM ET

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