Small changes make a
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Mission of the York Energy Efficiency Committee

Our mission is to respond to the global warming crisis by promoting energy efficiency, alternative energy, and environmental initiatives throughout the town of York, Maine.
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[Source: The US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)]

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Solar panels to help heat a building?

Hard to believe that solar photovoltaic panels are becoming economical enough to be used for heat as well as electricity. An Oct. 23 article from the Portland Press Herald points out that PV panels cost half what they did only three years ago.

The falling price of photovoltaic panels, along with the advent of
special heat pumps and super insulation, is creating an opportunity in
Maine that energy experts could hardly imagine a few years ago. Now some
of the state’s leading solar installers, including Solar Market, have
begun installing so-called PV panels on homes and businesses to harvest
sunshine for baseboard heaters.

The new economics of PV panels also has some companies moving away
from promoting solar-thermal collectors designed to heat water, a
mainstay of the business in Maine for 30 years.

Maine homes and businesses may be able to take even more advatage of the rapid changes taking place in the global solar industry.

PV module prices are down 50 percent in the past three years; they’ve
fallen by roughly one-third in the past 12 months. Manufacturing growth in China, among other factors, has led to overcapacity and financial losses. Trade publications predict that competition will continue to drive down prices next year, as the industry struggles to consolidate and match supply with demand.

One new building is getting 70 percent of its warmth from electrical heat.

Typical electric resistance heaters would eat up too much energy, however. In the basement, Inoue has a high-efficiency, air-source heat pump. This device uses a relatively small amount of electricity to extract the marginal heat in cold, outside air. The heat is transferred to water, which is stored in an insulated tank and circulated through baseboards.

This approach wouldn’t work if the building was drafty and poorly insulated. Inoue gutted the walls of the old farmhouse and barn to create an 18-inch- thick cavity of  foam block and cellulose. The walls now have an R-value of 40, twice that of a typical home. The roof is R-60. The building’s tight enough now to be warmed with only 17 feet of baseboards, a radiant floor loop and a couple of infrared, electric
space heaters.

Read the rest of the article in the Portland Press Herald.

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