How does solar work?

The sun heats the solar panel. The controller operates the system when the solar energy can heat your water. When the system is operating, the panel channels water through the panel to adsorb maximum heat from the sun. The circulation module transfers the heated water from the solar panels to storage in your hot water tank. The solar heated water is available in your hot water tank for all existing hot water needs (including laundry, dishes and bathing). When not in operation the water in the solar collectors is stored in the drainback tank to prevent any chance for the water to freeze. A back up heating element insures ample hot water in case of prolonged bad weather.

How invasive is the installation?

The installation process is relatively simple. The collector panel is attached to the roof and a new hot water tank replaces your old one. New supply lines are installed to connect the collector with the new tank.

What is the expected lifetime of the system?

These systems have a design useful life of over 20 years.

Once the solar system is installed will I notice any change when I go to use hot water?

There will be absolutely no difference in the way that you use your homes hot water system. You will always have plenty of hot water available.

Will I run out of hot water on a cloudy day or at night?

You will never run out of hot water because your backup system will automatically engage if there is an extended period of cloudy weather.

Do I have to actively be involved in maintaining or monitoring the system?

These pre-engineered systems or virtually maintenance free and are designed to operate automatically.

If you close up your house for any extended period of time, you should always be sure the power to the pump is kept on at all times.

How long will the system last?

These systems come with a five year warranty and a design useful life of over 20 years. A regular hot water system has a useful life of 5 to 8 years.

How long does the installation process take?

Normal installations take between one and three working days.

Can these roof mounted collector panels stand up to major storms and heightening loads?

The permitting process and the national building code require that these systems can withstand wind speeds of over 140 miles an hour.

How much does it cost?

The average residential solar hot water heating system installed cost approximately $6,000. 85% of that amount is usually given back in rebates and tax credits. There is a $1,500 cash rebate from TEP.

What is the difference between solar thermal and photovoltaic?

A photovaltaic system converts sunlight into electricity. A solar thermal system heats water from the radiant heat of the sun.

How do the rebates work?

You will receive an approximate rebate amount of $1500 cash from Tucson Electric Power. You will receive a $1000 tax credit from the state of Arizona and a $2000 or more tax credit from the federal government.

Can these systems be installed on a red tile roof?

This is not a problem. We employ custom-made brackets, designed specifically for red tile roofs.

What size system would I need to meet most of my energy needs?

To choose a properly-sized solar water heating system, you'll need to consider the number of people living in the home, water usage, the size of the home and the output of the water heating system. A qualified installer can help you make the correct choice to meet your needs. The typical system installed in Tucson is sized for 2,750 kWh in annual savings. The average Tucson home uses 11,000 kWh of electricity per year. Typically, heating water makes up approximately 25% of the electric bill.

How do I find an installer and what qualifications do they need?

Click here to view a list of solar water heater installers in Southern Arizona. We recommend that customers meet with at least three installers. Evaluate each candidate's experience and consider other factors. Do they have any unresolved complaints, judgments or liens? Will they provide a list of references?

The installer or contractor installing your system must have a license from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors that authorizes them to install the kind of system that you purchase. This is necessary to receive an incentive under the Renewable Energy Credit Purchase Program (RECPP).

What is the application process?

Customer applications are reviewed by TEP. Customers who are accepted into the program will receive an acceptance letter and an Agreement in the mail. Customers must sign and return the Agreement. The customer may then proceed with system installation.

Your installer must arrange for the installed system to be inspected by City or County officials. An inspection report completed by City or County officials must be submitted to TEP before a final inspection is scheduled. Once a system passes the final inspection, TEP will process the customer's incentive payment.

How long do I have after I receive my reservation confirmation to get my system installed?

Residential customers have 60 days in which to submit "Proof of Advancement" to TEP. This proof of advancement may come in the form of City/County inspection paperwork, or for residential installations of an SRCC OG-300 rating of 10,000 kWh or less an executed Project Agreement with a qualified installer will also meet this requirement. Installations must be completed within 180 days of the reservation date.

How is the TEP incentive payment calculated and when can I expect payment?

Customers will receive an Up-Front Incentive (UFI) providing their system carries a ten-year warranty on the collector, heat exchanger and storage units. TEP's total payback cannot be more than 60 percent of total system cost. The customer must pay at least 15 percent of the total system cost.

Up-Front Incentive (UFI) Calculation:

OG-300 rating in annual kWh savings_____ x $0.25* + $750 up to a maximum of $1,750 OR

TEP Payback = Total Cost - 15% (Customer's Portion) - Federal Credit (30% system cost less TEP incentive) - Max State Credit ($1,000)

Will my solar water heating system have to replace my present system or be a supplement?

In general, the existing hot water tank will need to be replaced. However, with certain systems, your existing hot water tank can be retained to add additional storage capacity. The specifics of your existing water heater, the space available for the solar water heating tank and the type of solar water heating system you select will determine the options available to you. You should discuss your tank options with your installer.

What savings can I expect from my system?

The OG-300 rating is the assumed annual energy savings in kWh of electricity saved. This rating method assumes certain average use factors including number of people in a home, morning vs. evening use pattern, temperature of cold water and other factors. All of these factors will affect your savings. Use the OG-300 rating as a guide in comparing different systems. Ask your installer for details. They typical system installed in the TEP area is 2,750 kWh savings annually and the typical residential electrical usage is 11,000 kWh. These systems may save up to 25 percent off of your bill. Again, actual savings depend on household behavior.

What is the potential time period it will take for my system to pay for itself?

With the present tax incentives and the incentive payments available from TEP, the payback period for a solar water heating system can be five years or less. To estimate the length of time it will take to recover a new system's cost, divide the cost by the estimated savings per year.

What are some of the basic equipment criteria?

All solar water heating systems must be rated by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) and meet the OG-300 system standard.

Systems that include OG-100 collectors, but are not certified under OG-300, are allowed but will need to be verified by submitting either a testing certification for a substantially similar system prepared by a publicly funded laboratory or by submitting an engineering report stamped by a registered professional engineer detailing annual energy savings.

All systems should be installed so that the energy collection system is substantially unshaded and should have substantially unobstructed exposure to direct sunlight between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

The system must be a "closed loop" system with the exception of active, open-loop systems that have a proven technology or design that limits scaling and internal corrosion of system piping. These systems should also include appropriate automatic methods for freeze protection and present stagnation temperatures that exceed 250 degrees Fahrenheit under all conditions at the location of installation.

What is the SRCC and how are systems certified under OG-300?

The Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) is an independent, non-profit organization formed in 1980 that certifies and rates the performance of solar energy equipment.

OG-300 is an overall water heating system rating that encompasses the entire solar system (collectors, controls, storage tanks, heat exchangers, pumps, etc). This program integrates results of tests conducted on the collector and the system with computer simulations to determine whether systems meet minimum standards for durability, reliability, safety and operation. Factors that affect total system design, installation, maintenance and service are also evaluated.

Does TEP allow customers to install solar water heating systems themselves?

No. The installation of a solar water heating system is not a typical "do-it-yourself project" due to the following factors: proper use of dielectric fittings, cathodic protection measures, insulation, mounting, pump curve characteristics, pipe sizing, control wiring and low-point drains/high-point vents. All are important components that require experience to install correctly.

Am I really making a difference in the environment if I install a system?

Absolutely. As customers use the energy from their solar water heating systems, they use less power from the utility. This allows us to reduce the amount of fuel used at our power plants, thus reducing emissions. Together, we are working today for a bright tomorrow.