Resources for the Washington DC area




2006 Tour of Solar Homes





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The 16th Annual MD/DC/VA Tour of Solar Homes and Buildings was held the weekend of October 7tha and 8th. About 30 homeowners showed their  homes. Many had solar water heating and photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity.

This years tour showed a local solar industry that's really thriving. Representatives from Standard Solar were on hand at many homes to explain the technical end of things. The solar power industry is booming worldwide, and sometimes getting panels is a problem. Standard Solar has recently secured priority access to obtain PV panels. One homeowner said it only took two days for Standard to install both water heating and PV solar electric power.


New innovations - A few interesting new products were on the tour. One is a super efficient air conditioner from Sanyo. It's called a "split system"; one compressor/condenser unit is outside the house, and between one and four indoor air handling units are in the house. These can either be located on the wall or in the ceiling. The indoor units are extremely quiet; you can barely hear one from a few feet away. (see

Another clever new product is called SolarSheat. It's an affordable way to augment heating your home with solar power. It's a rectangular unit that can either be mounted on the roof of the wall. A small PV panel provides a little bit of power to operate a small fan to circulate air into the house. The spec sheet says one panel can provide up to 5000 BTU/HR, and the air temperature at the outlet can be up to 120 degrees. You can connect up to two secondary collectors to one single master collector. It only provides heat during the day, so it would be better suited to a home office than a bedroom. These are available from Alternative Energy Store.

When people start the process of adding PV electric power to their homes, it soon becomes evident that reducing the amount of electricity your home uses makes perfect sense. Adding enough PV capacity to power a typical "energy hog" home can be very expensive. If you first reduce your total electric consumption by 10, 20 or 30 percent or more, you can then buy a much less expensive PV system. One smart way to do this is to replace old major appliances with ENERGY STAR ones. On the tour were appliances from companies like Liebherr, Maytag "Neptune" and Fisher & Paykel. Compact fluorescent lights were evident everywhere in the homes. These lights are available is styles you might not be aware of, such as outdoor flood lamps and candelabra bulbs. You can even get dimmable fluorescent bulbs now. (see

Another interesting product is the "solar tube". It directs natural sunlight to a ceiling fixture. Once it's installed, you've got free light in that room during the day from then on. But what really may make these products take off is that people prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder really like than natural spectrum of light. (see

The Solar Tour is held every year in October. But if you missed it, don't be bummed. Tour of local solar homes are held a few times a year in the area. Check the "events" section of Chesapeake Climate Action Network . And you'll find the people that are in the business of doing solar installations are friendly and doing this because they are committed to a cleaner world. (see area solar contractors)


also: Potomac Region Solar Energy Association

 2005 Solar Tour of homes

more from the DC Tour of Solar Homes and Buildings

Solar house in Takoma Park



Oct. 2006






Area environmental resources  

Federal Tax Credits of up to $2,000 on a solar water heating system and up to $2,000 on a photovoltaic solar electric system are now in effect. Maryland has additional incentives. Ask your solar contractor for details.


2002 - 2005 David Walls. All rights reserved.