One of the Florida Solar Energy Center's major capabilities is its ability to develop solar water heating installation programs. Numerous programs have been developed by FSEC for the State of Florida. FSEC has also provided program development consulting to state and national organizations.
FSEC's past experience in solar water heating as well as the innumerable number of years of solar experience by staff members provide any contracting agency with the assurance that few other organizations can provide the wealth of experience, talent, and level of dedication to implementing a successful program.
The following provides an overview of the various activities that FSEC can develop for organizations interested in implementing solar water heating programs.
The first step is to determine what the goals and anticipated results of the proposed solar program are. Will the program be primarily focused on monitoring solar systems? Will it be on installing as many solar systems as possible on residential or commercial sites? The purpose for the project will in many cases determine the type of program development that is required. Developing the initial requirements and criteria are critical in implementing a successful solar program. Such a program usually includes a variety of activities of which any one is critical to the others and also to the success of the program. In addition, once the program guidelines have been established, day-to-day activities that include training of all participating parties, client and site selection, system installation coordination, installed system inspection, technical and troubleshooting assistance, are ongoing activities that FSEC excels in.
The climatic and geographic location of the program will in large part determine the types of systems that can and will be used. Solar systems come in a variety of designs. Some are designed for mild climates such as in Florida and the Caribbean. Others are specifically designed for climates that encounter freezing conditions on a regular basis. Knowing the type of system to use is critical to the long term success of the program.
Any solar program being implemented should take advantage of the available state and national certification programs. FSEC staff are very familiar with both certification programs and can guide program developers toward the certification program that would most compliment their solar program. Although the overall criteria in both of the programs are quite similar, specific administrative and technical requirements must be considered.
The overall objectives of the program will determine the system sizing requirements. The amount of savings must often be balanced with the overall cost of the system and available program funds. There are several methods available for sizing solar water heating systems. In addition, using certified systems also provides performance numbers that can be used for individual system sizing.
Developing criteria for client selection is a critical part of the program. Client identification methodologies must take into consideration the number of occupants and amount of hot water used. Site identification is critical because program developers must be sure that the selected residence passes various solar access, roof, electrical, and plumbing requirements for the installation of a solar system. Site selection can be very time consuming, therefore a well organized inspection chronology and set of inspection materials greatly expedites this process.
The development of system installation requirements is a critical part of program implementation. Without specific requirements, even the best designed (and even certified) systems can develop problems because of poor installation practices. In many cases, installation requirements are part of system certification programs. In that case, those standards are used in program development. If they are not, requirements must then be established as part of the individual solar program. System installation requirements can include, among many others, collector tilt and orientation, R-values of storage tank and pipe insulation, etc.
All installed solar systems should be inspected. FSEC has developed numerous inspection criteria for a wide variety of solar systems - direct and indirect, active and passive - and ancillary criteria that all types of systems share in common. Specific inspection forms must also be developed for each type of system. Any program that hopes to be a success must incorporate post installation inspection as one of its major program components.
FSEC can also assist agencies in developing requirements for participating solar contractors. Developing these criteria includes developing some type of criteria for post-instalation service, determining service requirements on the part of contractors, specifying service areas, establishing installation experience requirements, and determining state and local codes and ordinances that need to be complied with.
This is a critical part of any program that is being developed. Training should be developed for all program participants - from those working on the administrative end to those installing the solar systems. An overall understanding of the program is a necessity. FSEC has unlimited experience in developing training program for all parties. This includes a variety of workshops; solar technology, program overview, site selection, installation, inspection, troubleshooting and maintenance. FSEC prefers to conduct workshops that include both lecture, hands-on activities, and field experience. A combination of these three has proven to be the most effective in familiarizing workshop participants with solar technologies.
Warranty requirements for the system installation and installed equipment needs to be specifically detailed prior to the implementation of the program. This includes separate warrantees for the overall system installation, collector, ancillary system components, and very importantly, freeze protection. FSEC has a great deal of experience with system installers, system components, and previously program warranty requirements. This experience is instrumental in developing valid and fair warranty criteria that suit both program developers, system installers, and component manufacturers.