A Khosla-backed startup called EchoFirst has developed “Echo solar power systems” that combine solar PV with solar thermal technology. The solar thermal technology captures the heat from the solar PV panels. The heat is then used for heating water or for thermal energy for home heating and cooling.
Echo solar systems are being offered on the East Coast for the first time via Meritage Homes and Southern Energy Management (the systems were first made available in the Southwest and Texas). For now, Echo systems are available for residents of the Research Triangle region in North Carolina.
The Echo systems reportedly deliver twice the energy of a typical solar PV setup. The solar thermal supplement “enables Meritage to offer homes that use 70%-80% less energy than a standard code-built home in the US,” the company writes. “Additionally, the systems include Energy Star-qualified thermostat controls designed to automatically reduce heating and cooling bills by at least another 10 percent, along with mobile phone-enabled remote thermostat control.”