Homeowners who want to save money on their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprints may look at solar HVAC systems as something that can help them do both at the same time. While it's true that solar-powered air conditioning and heating systems can reduce energy costs—one homeowner cut his energy bill in half—and are powered by clean energy, there are things homeowners should know about these systems before purchasing and installing them. Here are two you need to consider.
They Require a Large Upfront Investment
Solar HVAC systems cost significantly more than regular ones because you have to purchase solar panels in addition to buying the air conditioner and/or furnace. For instance, one solar-powered unit cost between $9,000 and $15,000. However, the panels needed to run these machines can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000 depending on brand, size, and quality. For comparison, a regular central air conditioning unit costs an average of $5,237 to install, while the price of putting in a standard furnace comes in at around $3,883.
However, it should be noted that there are ways to reduce the cost of investing in this type of solar tech. The government has a variety of programs incentivizing people to purchase solar-powered appliances. For instance, you can claim a 30% tax credit on qualifying purchases of solar systems. Individual states also have programs, and you can look up the relevant one in your area by visiting the Department of Energy website.
Some manufacturers and installation companies may also provide discounts and rebates on the installation of a solar HVAC system. You can typically find out about them by visiting the manufacturer's website or contacting an HVAC contractor in your area. A third way you can make some of your investment money back is by selling any excess energy you generate to the local energy company. Some utility companies will pay wholesale prices for energy you contribute to the grid. However, this is not available in every state, so check with your local company.
Lastly, a solar HVAC system may increase the market value of your home. So even if you're planning to sell the house within a few years, you may get more money for it if you install this appliance.
They're Not for Every Home
A second issue you must consider is that these systems are not for every home. The primary concern is ensuring the solar panels are receiving adequate sunlight. This means having a south-facing roof in an area free of trees and other obstructions that would block the sun's rays.
If your roof doesn't fit the bill, an alternative is to mount the panels on poles. However, you run into the same issue. You'll need to put the poles in the south-facing area in your yard. This may not be a big deal if this area is your backyard. If the south-facing area is your front-yard, however, then you might have a problem with the neighbors and/or homeowner's association who may not want to deal with such an eyesore.
Another concern is your roof must be able to bear the weight of the solar panels. The panels can weigh anywhere from 25 to 40 pounds apiece depending on the manufacturer and material used. While solar panels can help reduce the amount of degradation the roof undergoes during its lifespan by absorbing some of the sunlight that would otherwise hit the shingles, this doesn't do you any good if your roof can't withstand the weight of the panels and caves in after a few years.
Before investing thousands of dollars to install a solar HVAC system, have your roof and home inspected by a knowledgeable contractor to ensure it will work in your area, and discuss the issue with your homeowner's association if appropriate.
For more information about solar HVAC systems, contact a heating and air conditioning company, such as A One Heating & Air Conditioning.