Energy adviser: Solar heat works even in Northwest

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Despite the Northwest’s gray and drizzly weather, homeowners still may find rewards from investing in a solar energy collection system. The best return comes from solar-heated water for indoor use or an outdoor swimming pool.

Water heating accounts for about 15 to 25 percent of home energy costs — about $450 per year for a family of four. Using solar can help reduce those costs, say experts at Clark Public Utilities. When choosing a system, make sure the design is “climate specific,” said Bob West, an energy counselor at the utility.

“Solar heating does work here in Clark County in the summer,” West said. But consumers should make sure they invest in a climate-appropriate system, he warned.

“During heating season, solar may not work as well with the thick cloud cover,” he added.

With cash-back incentives, tax credits, a loan program and advice, Clark Public Utilities experts are ready to help homeowners investigate and invest in solar technology that makes sense.

Solar incentives

The utility offers several incentives for purchasing and installing solar water-heating technology. The rebate program provides $500 toward the installation of a qualifying solar water heater that supports your electric water heater. Pool heaters are not eligible for this rebate.

An approved contractor will help you select the right solar water heater for your home or business and professionally install it, and utility staff will then inspect the system. To learn more about the $500 rebate, call the utility at 360-992-3355 or email energyadviser@clarkpud.com. Rebate funding is limited and may end at any time.

Qualified customers may also finance up to $10,000 of the cost of a solar water heating system at 5.25 percent interest for up to five years.

Solar water heating system loan terms:

• You have up to five years to repay the loan with a minimum monthly payment of $25.

• Loans of less than $5,000 have a loan-processing fee of $225, and loans of $5,000 or more have a loan-processing fee of $350. You can pay upfront or fold the fee into your loan.

• Monthly loan payments are billed separately from power bills.

• If you sell your home, you must pay the unpaid balance on the loan in full.

Other loan programs

Clark Public Utilities offers two other solar loans: up to $10,000 to install a solar pool-heating system, and up to $30,000 to install a photovoltaic system that will generate electricity for use in your home.

The utility will provide a list of approved contractors, help with system recommendations, review and approve the installation contract and process your loan application. The contractor you select will secure the necessary building permits and install your solar system. The utility will inspect the system for proper installation. Once the installation is approved, the utility issues the rebate check on water heater systems and/or payment to a certified contractor.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors, who provide conservation and energy use information to utility customers. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, in care of Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA. 98668. Past topics are available at www.clarkpublicutilities.com