Paul Sertic Stoney Creek

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HP letters

The Next Generation of Solar Bozos

Dear HP magazine, It was just over two years ago when I constructed a micro-sized solar and wind energy system that has successfully and reliably provided basement lighting in our home (see HP82, page 32). The purpose of this investment was primarily education—for me to learn about the technology and for my family to learn to use it properly. It's been fun for everyone—fuses and meters for me, lighting for all of us, and a switch-and-light toy for the kids.

As we prepare to relocate to a new home, the planning has begun for establishing a more permanent solution. And with this comes a surprise—a young volunteer who has asked to help install the new system when it is time. To prove her point, she asks for her own turn to practice whenever the toolbox appears. The picture should speak for itself. Four years old now, she does not remember a time in her life without a solar panel, a wind generator, and battery care.

For me, making the step into renewable energy has taken a lot of careful thought and consideration. For her, she doesn't understand why the neighbors don't have a solar panel. The implication has vast, if not longer term potential. What if several of her friends feel the same way when they are the ones making the decisions?

Call me naïve, but only now have I realized that we have the responsibility to share our enthusiasm beyond just the comfortable circles. While it may prove difficult to overcome many of the barriers facing renewable energy today, we all know what seeds do over time. Mike Lew • [email protected]

Mike's daughter is handy with a soldering iron, and wants to have her own RE system one day.


Dear Mr. Perez, I donated a one-year subscription of your publication to several libraries a couple of years ago. One of those libraries is located in an outlying rural area in

Washington. I had a chance to visit the library this week, and found out that they had renewed the subscription on their own, without any contact from me, for a second year after the initial donated subscription ran out.

Also, I noticed a set of solar-electric panels on a house near the library that were not there on my prior visit. I do not know how many homes located on the remote side roads may have started using renewable energy or found ways to conserve energy, after the owners read your publication at the library. So your publication seems to be having an impact.

Several years ago, I donated an anonymous subscription to a distant relative who was planning to build a remote cabin. He was going to use diesel generators for power. I found out from another relative that he is now using solar power for the generation of electricity. I believe that the donated subscription helped change his mind about using solar energy. A small investment of donating your publication can generate large returns. Best wishes, Anonymous

Solar Hot Water Retrofit

I am planning to install a solar hot water system on our two-story, two-unit building in urban Burlington, Vermont. The solar hot water panels are likely to be free from a friend. The plumbing is not. The big question in my mind is how to plumb the hot and cold lines through the roof (it is a standard asphalt roof that was stripped and redone last year) and then through the second floor apartment to plumbing chases from the second floor to the basement. The water heaters are in the basement. We live on the first floor. Is there an HP article that describes this kind of thing? Are there nationwide standards about where plumbing pipes can go and where they can't? Obviously, I don't want to plumb them through an exterior wall. What about a chimney chase or a waste pipe chase? Do I need to build another plumbing chase in the second floor to achieve my goal? Thanks for your help, Ben Gordesky, Burlington, Vermont • [email protected]

Hi Ben, Your question is very timely. In HP94 and in this issue, you'll find an article on SDHW installation basics. Many of your questions are answered there, particularly with respect to roof penetrations. Use a roof jack to penetrate the roof with the pipe. Available at most home centers, it has a sheet metal base with an EPDM or neoprene jacket on top. The sheet metal base slides under the shingles above, and over the shingles below. Screw it into the roof and cover the screw heads with plastic roof cement. The pipe passes through the neoprene jacket and makes a weather-tight seal.

Supply and return pipes definitely do not belong in exterior walls, as you know. Getting them into interior walls is tricky to impossible unless it is new construction. It is usually easiest to pass them through a closet or some other inconspicuous place. Build a chase around the pipes where there are aesthetic considerations.

Since you will be insulating the pipes, you should keep them well away from chimney flues. If you have access and sufficient room in a chase containing a waste pipe, that may be a good option. You should check with a local mechanical/plumbing contractor or inspector to see if any local codes apply. Ken Olson • [email protected]

World Trade Center Suggestion

To the engineers and designers of the new World Trade Center structures, As I look at the two final selections for the World Trade Center replacement, I think back to Bush's comment about development of a fuel efficient automobile, and I wonder about America's need and goal of achieving a vision of eliminating our dependence on foreign oil and air-damaging fuels.

Here we see two huge spires pointing toward and into the sky, and there is no display of what an incredible opportunity the advancement of solar energy is! My suggestion, if anyone is really serious about reducing our dependence on oil, would be to cover those towers with PV panels. Top the roof with wind generators! Generate enough electricity to reduce NYC's dependence on foreign oil and environmentally damaging fossil fuels! Power as much of NYC with the sun and the wind as possible, and make a statement to: the world, our President, the terrorists who hold America hostage, and the citizens of America that solar energy can power our country! Thank you! Cliff Taylor • [email protected]

Solar Panels

Dear Editor, I need some clarification on the following. Are solar panels and photovoltaics the same? If so, how is each used and what are their functions? If not, how do they differ and which one is more beneficial (cost vs. output). I am a newbie to all of this, and I am educating myself to find the ideal "home power" for my need. Thanks! Paul Sertic, Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada • [email protected]

Hi Paul, The term "solar panels" is confusing and inexact, in my opinion. It's hard to know just what the speaker means. There are two very different solar energy technologies that fall under that general phrase—solar heating panels and solar-electric panels.

Solar heating panels include various kinds of collectors that heat water or air using the heat from the sun. They can be used for space heating or domestic water heating. It would be clearer if we called these "solar thermal panels." They are also often called "solar collectors."

Solar-electric panels include crystalline and film technologies that make electricity from sunlight (not heat—they actually work better when they are cool). These are semiconductor devices with no moving parts. They are technically called "photovoltaic modules," and abbreviated as "PV." Calling them "solar-electric panels" leaves no confusion.

Solar thermal panels are generally thought to be more cost effective than solar-electric panels. But of course, the two technologies have very different functions—one captures the sun's heat and the other uses the sun's light to generate electricity. Regards, Ian Woofenden • [email protected]

What the Heck!

I really appreciate all the effort you have put into your magazine. I especially appreciate the guerrilla solar and homebrew articles. The letters to the editor give us an insight to others' thoughts and problems. The new What the Heck? feature seems to be a good idea. Although I've had a small PV setup since the great NE ice storm of 1998 (no utility electricity for 26 days), there are still some terms I'm not familiar with, such as the non-islanding inverter. Thanks for all you hard work Richard, and the rest of the gang too. 73 de Tim Yeatman, VA2TPY • [email protected]

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Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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