At Mapawatt HQ, we often find ourselves reminding each other that we have to avoid "region-itis." Since we are located in the southeast, it's easy to focus on cooling, natural gas heated water and such without remembering that in other regions of the world, there are other energy concerns such as heating with fuel oil, wood pellets, gray-water systems and wind. Before I had a solar hot water system installed on my home, I researched the pro's and con's of solar before deciding on what type of system to install. Here is the list of issues I focused on when making the decision:
- Solar heating doesn't work at night
- When it is cloudy, solar doesn't work very well
- Solar doesn't work when it's raining
- Will pine needles from Georgia pine trees cover my collectors?
- What about haze and particulate in the air which is common in the Southeast. Will this affect my solar fraction?
When I walked outside this morning, I was reminded of another problem that we don't encounter much in Georgia. Last night, it snowed 4 inches and covered our home and woods with a beautiful white blanket of snow. This is an occasion for great excitement in my home since it is seldom that we get even a snow flurry in Georgia.
As I felt the warmth of the bright sunshine, I looked up at my solar collectors and noticed the 2 inch blanket of snow completely covering them! Yes, the sun is shining, it's below freezing and my solar hot water system is dormant. I checked my solar controller and the temperature on the collectors was 55*F. Both I and my family are thankful that I chose to install a pre-heat system that makes use of our electric hot water heater as a backup when the sun isn't shining. (or the collectors are covered in snow!)
For many of you this may not be news but it is an important reminder. Make sure to account for snow cover as an additional issue when contemplating solar. Even solar hot water won't work with the sun shining unless you are a brave soul and climb to the roof to sweep off the collectors. My house is three stories high so I'm not brave enough to risk having this being my last post on Mapawatt!