Thanks to GreenHomes America’s Home Performance Training Manager, Jason Todd for passing along this photo which begs a few questions. When we’re looking at home energy, we like to focus on energy efficiency before we starting adding on renewable energy sources like solar and wind. As Brett Knox likes to repeat “Reduce before You Produce”. This picture suggests that someone may have taken another path.
We’ve certainly talked a lot about icicles and ice damming here. And the summary version is they are not good and indicate you’re wasting energy and money. The snow melt patterns on the roof and the icicles suggest that this house is losing a lot of heat through it’s attic and roof.
The cost to correct this (with good air-sealing and insulation details) on most homes is generally less than the cost of a solar hot water system as pictured here (partially buried under snow in the center of the photo). And the energy savings, carbon reductions, and other benefits, are typically greater with the efficiency measures than with this system. Further, correcting the heat loss problem helps prevent the possible roof and structural damage that can result from ice build up. This is a case where the economic, environmental, and comfort advantage of efficiency make a lot more sense than starting with solar.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of solar, and we install it. Solar hot water makes sense for a lot of people, and it is a great entree into renewables. Most of the time, though, renewable energy makes the most sense AFTER you’ve taken the low hanging fruit offered by energy-efficiency. Efficiency First!
[BTW, regarding solar hot water systems, in many cases I prefer the flat-plate collectors show in this video, over the evacuated tube collectors pictured above. Flat-plate collectors tend to be less expensive, more durable, and we've seen fewer issues up north with snow building up and inhibiting the collector. Conversely, a lot of people report that snow collects around the nooks and crannies of the evacuated tubes and doesn't shed off easily.]