4 Reasons Explaining the Low Supply of Solar Hot Water Contractors
As solar energy continues to battle traditional gas/electric systems – whose costs are reaching new lows in the US – the industry struggles to find qualified solar hot water installers their systems and adequately display the viability of solar energy.
So, why is it so difficult to find qualified solar hot water installers?
- Solar thermal systems require plumbers:
Solar hot water systems and solar electric systems are two totally different animals. While it does take a considerable amount of skill and training to install a solar electric system, plumbing the mechanical room for solar hot water is a highly specialized trade.
Solar thermal researcher and author, Paul Kohlenbach, states “the installation of conventional electrical units requires less effort than for thermal… mainly because laying wires is easier (and cheaper) than laying hydronic piping.”
Because the advanced skillset required to install solar hot water systems, it can take a year to train employees with a plumbing background. With this kind of overhead, many solar PV companies shy away from investing in a solar thermal division.
- Poor quality = disaster:
If companies do not invest in training, the cost of servicing the systems also rises. “The worst thing is to install an expensive system that was designed or installed improperly and doesn’t work,” says Reese Abell, a solar thermal superintendent at Adroit Energy, Inc. CSI data reports Adroit Energy has completed the largest number of solar hot water multifamily installations in California.
Abell says that damage from leaks can be expensive to repair. A poorly installed system can lead to trouble for the owner and contractor down the road. This is why many installation companies shy away from offering solar thermal.
- Licensing Requirements:
Did you know solar thermal installers are also plumbers? This also holds true when it comes to licensing. California solar PV installers carry a C-46 Solar Contractor License. However, California solar thermal installers carry the C-46 and a C-36 Plumbing Contractor License.
“In order to obtain a contractor’s license in plumbing or solar it is required that one has years of experience in the field and is able to pass their contractors licensing test,” Abell notes. The costs associated with keeping two active licenses is another reason why there are so few solar thermal installers.
Educating the public is everything when it comes to solar hot water. These systems are installed all over Europe, Asia, and South America. Although the technology has been around much longer than solar PV, many Americans are unaware the technology exists. Lack of awareness means a lower demand for installers. In addition, a significant portion of the public is unaware of the generous government incentives and rebates available for these systems.
As the country strives to achieve net zero emissions, the demand for installers will rise and the supply of established installers will seem even smaller. In order to get on their packed construction schedules, it is important to begin speaking with an established solar hot water installer sooner than later.
If you have plumbing experience and an interest installing solar hot water systems, contact us at Adroit Energy, Inc. We’re hiring!