People typically don’t think of installing solar thermal when they build or retrofit their homes. Most people just don’t follow renewable energy news and have just have never thought of it. (Just like most of us wouldn’t know to build our homes to be earthquake-proof either if it wasn’t in our building code.)
A requirement to add solar thermal into building codes can be the best driver of change that has benefits for everybody, by reducing fossil energy use by from 60% to 80%.
The ideal setup is when a homeowner has a natural gas-heated water, used not just for hot water but to heat a radiant flooring system. In that case as much as 80% in energy reductions are possible in a sunny climate. You would keep the gas furnace for the remaining 20% of water heating. If you only need hot water for non-heating needs, the least it would do is reduce your gas use about 60%.
(You could also use a hybrid system to get to 100% clean energy, by using electricity from a solar array to heat the remaining water to supplement the solar hot water system.)
Israel implemented a building code almost 30 years ago requiring solar thermal. Now over 80% of the households in Israel have drastically reduced electricity bills because pre-warmed water on their roofs cuts the need for energy to heat the remainder.
The Australian state of Victoria added such a requirement in 2005. All new buildings must include either a solar hot water heater (or, in drought-ridden Australia; a rain water cistern). This year, that was extended to cover all renovations as well, so now the law covers more than 40,000 homes.
China has solar thermal on virtually every rooftop, and now leads the world in manufacturing solar thermal systems. Three out of four collectors are produced and installed in the People’s Republic. Its national market grew by a constant rate of 28% in recent years.
Within the last two to three years, more nations are beginning to include solar thermal requirements into building codes. Hawaii added a solar thermal mandate for all new buildings to begin in 2010. It is sensible legislation.
Replacing dangerous and expensive fossil energy with cheap solar thermal heating should be just as much a part of the building code as requiring that your house won’t kill you in an earthquake.
Image: Flikr user kkplus
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Our Latest EVObsession Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.