The family living in this house enjoys hot water heated by the sun with a solar thermal system.
Solar heating harnesses the power of the sun to provide solar thermal energy for solar hot water, solar space heating, and solar pool heaters. A solar heating system saves energy, reduces utility costs, and produces clean energy.
The efficiency and reliability of solar heating systems have increased dramatically, making them attractive options in the home or business. But there is still room for improvement. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its partners are working to design even more cost-effective solar heating systems and to improve the durability of materials used in those systems. This research is helping make these systems more accessible to the average consumer and helping individuals reduce their utility bills and the nation reduce its consumption of fossil fuels.
To help more Americans benefit from these systems, the U.S. Energy Policy Act implemented a 30% tax credit for consumers who install solar water heating systems. To be eligible for this tax credit, the systems must be certified by the Department of Energy's non-profit partner, the Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (SRCC). Alternatively, residents of Florida and Hawaii can use their state certification programs.
Solar Heating in Use
This evacuated-tube solar water heating collector is on the roof of the Rhode Island School of Design's Solar Decathlon competition house.
Since the early 1970s, the efficiency and reliability of solar heating systems and collectors have increased greatly, and costs have dropped. Today's solar thermal systems are used for solar water heating, solar water heating, solar pool heating, and in solar space heating.
Current research and development is focused on improving solar-heating technologies to make them even more efficient and affordable, with special emphasis on the following:
- Testing materials for durability
- Conducting thermal analyses of solar water-heating systems that function in different climates
- Developing advanced applications, such as low-cost solar water heating and collectors for crop drying.