The other day I was looking for a product to help a client whose historic building was suffering from increased cooling costs since heat was being retained in its brick facade. I searched to find out how historic buildings were built to combat heat gain problems in the summer since so many older buildings were built with stone or brick. Builders of that time used thermal mass to retain heat in the winter, and awnings in the summer for shade.
So, in our modern times, could there be a product which provides shade with solar capabilities? And I am not talking about using a solar panel as an awning. In fact, ElioSolar thermal shade structures popped right up in my search engine results when I asked the Google gods if such a building product existed. The Company combines an aesthetically pleasing solar window shade with a solar hot water panels to heat your domestic hot water, radiant floors, or pool heating needs. Brilliant. Better yet, state and federal tax rebates and credits for solar hot water are available for this application.
Residential and Commercial Application
As you can see from the above picture, Eliosolar products can be installed as a pergola, carport, fence, facade solar shields, and solar window shades. The products can be suspended or cantilevered, and are offered in over 200 colors as well as custom colors.
The Company’s products are ideal for hotels, residential apartments, and university housing where hot water is needed as well as solar window shading.
According to the Company, there are many key benefits to use of their products:
- Architectural benefits: The products can be custom made and be added to the current structure in a seamless, aesthetically pleasing appearance. Solar collectors, on the other hand, are not the prettiest structure installed on top of your roof. Best yet, the Company states there is no maintenance associated with the structures. All products carry a 25 year warranty.
- Environmental Benefits: The product saves on cooling and heating hot water costs, made out of recycled materials in the US, and then can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Thus, Eliosolar products reduce our carbon footprint in many ways.
- Economic Benefits: Unlike other solar shading products, Eliosolar products qualify for federal and state incentives. So, their products keep giving back with each sun ray. The Company states the payback is about 10 to 15 years depending on the location and the state incentives.
More specifically, the Company states:
“Save Heating Energy with Solar Water Heating:
Based on the size, spacing, color and finish of aluminum tubing used to make the structures, the linear feet of tubing of the solar collector as well as the geographical location, orientation and insulation of the installed structures, the solar system can preheat between 50% and 80% of a building’s hot water, reducing gas of electrical heating energy costs by as much and generating corresponding energy savings.
Save Cooling Energy With Shading:
Based upon the 2006 study for AMCA by University of Minnesota (calculating the impact of external shading devices), depending on orientation and location, shade over a large window areas or external walls, by reducing the interior temperature of a building, will reduce the need for A/C by up to 35%. That translates into a potential reduction of between 25 and 35% of your electrical expenses dedicated to air conditioning.”
As I reviewed ElioSolar’s site, despite their extensive FAQs, I still had questions. (What’s new?) I interviewed Arnaud Gregori, Vice President of Development of the Company via email with a few more questions.
What is the cost? I know that sounds like a loaded question, but solar hot water systems cost a certain price.
“Cost is between $50 and $75 per sq ft .”
Editor’s Note: Gregori provided me with information about the cost of a 192 square thermal shade cover such as a patio cover. The cost for the panel, installation, and solar energy system is $15,375. Note, rebates or federal costs were not applied to the total cost since each state has different incentives. According to the Company’s preliminary testing, the 192 panels should produce 44, 064 BTU per day of solar energy. As noted above, the payback is estimated to be 10 years after rebates, credits, and deductions for gas and electrical savings. If the panel is installed in a colder climate, the payback will be longer.
In my article about solar hot water, I discuss flat panels versus evacuated tubes. The cost of flat panel installation for a family of four generally costs $7500 before rebates and credits. Thus, the added benefits of the solar window shades creating an additional outdoor living space could make ElioSolar an attractive option, especially when you take into account you can receive tax rebates and incentives to lower the cost.
Are the tubes evacuated tubes or panels?
“No. It’s flat panel based technology.”
Do you install the tanks?
“No – supplied by plumber or solar installer.”
If you are in the design phase to green an apartment building or hotel, how do you figure out how many panels you need for your hot water needs? Again, this might be site specific but trying to show the savings on your system.
“Hot water needs define the surface of shades needed. Typical family used 80 gallons per day and need 200 sq ft. Of course that would be for maximum efficiency – You can always install less with reduced efficiency if it make sense for the project.”
In addition, your awnings provide shade which cool the building but are they as efficient in that department as solar window shades or awnings?
“Of course – They are similar to aluminum shades usually specified for commercial and institutional building except that they also provide hot water.”
I see the benefit of what you are doing but building owners may say nice concept but why not go with solar shades and hot water solar on top of the building.
“1 – Owners and architects hate the black boxes on their roofs and love the concept because the hot water system is invisible.
2 – It would cost more to install shades + solar hot water. Our products benefits from federal and state tax credits which can reduce cost up to 50%, making it the same or cheaper than regular aluminum shades even with additional plumbing costs….”
When I looked at the above picture of the solar shades, their appearance seemed too modern for my client’s traditional building. Gregori told me that they can make a custom product, which would be similar to an aluminum sunshade.
I personally like the product. Despite its 10 year plus payback, Gregori claims it would be cheaper than installing both solar hot water and solar shades. So, perhaps one would have to look past the payback and look at the total picture of savings.
- Given the 10-15 year payback, is this application something that you would use in your home or business?
- Despite the payback, would you use this product since you can receive rebates for solar shading?
- How do you like the aesthetics of the product?
- Other comments?