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Rocky Mountain Solar & Wind's Introduction To Solar

We frequently have people call and ask how much does a solar system cost.  Most people do not realize that there are not only lots of different prices for solar systems, but there are many different kinds of solar systems.

Solar systems can be roughly divided into two main types: Solar Electric and Solar Thermal.

Solar Electric:

Grid-tied Solar Electric:

Grid-tied solar electric is a solar electric system that is connected to the utility grid.  This type of solar electric system usually does not have batteries, but can have batteries.

Roof Mounted Grid-tied Solar Electric System in Colorado Springs

Off-grid Solar Electric:

Off-grid solar electric is a solar electric system that is not connected to the grid almost always has a bank of batteries since the grid is not available for storage of excess electricity produced by the solar system.  This type of solar electric system is also often referred to as a remote power system, since these systems are usually remotely located where a utility grid is not available.  The solar electric modules in these systems are some times located on the top of a pole rather than on the top of a house since remote areas generally have a lot of land.

Top of Pole Off-grid Solar Electric System
Located near Evergreen Station West of Colorado Springs

Power Center Consisting of AC Box, Inverters, AC Box & Charge Controllers. 
By Out Back Power

Off-grid Solar Electric System Battery Bank

Solar Electric Water Pumping

Solar Heating (Thermal):

Solar thermal systems are generally used either to heat domestic hot water or the space in a building.


Solar Hot Water Heating:

Solar hot water heating is done either passively (without pumps and controls), or actively with pumps and controls.  Solar hot water heating is usually done in colder climates actively using either an anti-freeze solution in a closed loop system, or water only in a drain back system that automatically drains the collectors when they become cool.  Solar hot water heating systems can also use air to heat hot water.  In these systems air is circulated through the collectors.  These systems are less efficient than liquid systems, but they have the advantage of not having to replace a fluid, and the circulation medium will not freeze. 

Typical Solar Hot Water System Diagram


Solar Space Heating:

In most cases the same collectors used to heat hot water are used to heat the space in buildings.  So, as in the case of solar hot water heating systems, the collectors used to heat buildings can be passive or active, and the circulating material can be anti-freeze, water or air.  Some solar thermal systems heat both the water and air in a building.  We call these systems combination solar hot water and space heating systems.


Solar air space heating systems cost less, are almost always smaller systems since they almost never include storage; consequently they also usually provide a smaller percentage of the space heating.  Liquid solar systems can be much larger since a large water storage tank can be used to store the heat collected during the day and then used later to heat the building at night and the next day.


Passive Solar Buildings:

Buildings can themselves be built to be a solar collector using lots of South facing windows plus lots of heat storing materials such as concrete, tile, bricks and blocks.  For decades it has been difficult to incorporate enough heat storage into passive solar buildings, consequently they tended to overheat during the day and provide less than desirable heat at night.   However the problem of insufficient heat storage has been economically solved by the revolutionary vented slab consisting of large cement blocks underneath a concrete floor.