Alternative home heating options in the Hudson Valley

Advances in solar make it more viable today!

    There is a growing interest in alternative home heating options in the Hudson Valley. With advancements in  technology as well as Federal and State incentive programs, there are now more affordable choices available to the average homeowner. Patrick Flood of Rhinecliff, a realtor with Westwood, Metes and Bounds  with listings throughout the Valley, says that he is seeing a dramatic increase in people looking for green heating, especially in higher-end housing. “I’m also seeing more of an interest in younger buyers who are anxious to see green options become more common in the future,” Flood says.


Advances in solar make it more viable today


    Sunshine Solar of Port Ewen serves the entire Hudson Valley and is a leader in cutting-edge solar technology. Owner Kevin Creamer explains that standard flat-solar panels operate by using the sun’s energy to warm circulated water to a temperature of 130 degrees, then transferring it to a separate tank to provide a home with hot water. Creamer explains that the separate tank is used to ensure that the primary source of water remains potable. He also stresses that the technology has advanced tremendously from the solar panels first introduced, “back when Jimmy Carter was President.”


    Back then solar systems could only provide seasonal water heating. Today’s solar panels work all twelve months of the year. The most exciting advancement, according to Creamer, is evacuated tube collectors. “The flat panels do not actually generate heat. The tubes do.” he says. “You could literally boil water on your roof.” The tubes are so powerful that the entire home can be heated with solar hot water by replacing the traditional boiler and releasing heat directly to existing baseboards.


    Creamer says he has seen renewed interest recently in solar heating options. “The Government has done a great job of creating awareness by providing billions and billions of dollars in incentives. People are coming into the showroom to see what all the fuss is about.” He notes, customers are surprised by how much of the out of pocket cost is offset by incentive programs. The Federal agencies provide a 30% tax credit, while the State provides an additional 25%, thereby paying for more than half of the systems cost. Creamer says the gross cost “is about $8,500, but is closer to $4,000 out of pocket. If the homeowner pays one hundred dollars a month for the system it will be paid for in three and a half years and after that you heat your house for free.”


Transferring the earth’s heat (and cold)


    Joseph Spoleti, owner of Enviro-Tech in Poughkeepsie, says we all have geothermal units in our homes already. “Refrigerators are essentially geothermal units,” he says. “The copper coil in the back of the fridge removes heat from the freezer and in theory cools it off. They are taking the heat from the space down through the coils. That’s why they are hot to the touch. Geothermal heating and cooling work much the same way. The coils take cold air from the home and replace it with heat from within the earth.” In the summer the process is reversed, with heat being removed from a home and replaced with cold from the earth.

One of the main benefits of geothermal heating is that it uses naturally occurring sources. At 10 meters below the ground surface, the temperature is a relatively constant 55 degrees. Running a thermal loop allows the heat to be transferred. “Geothermal doesn’t create heat, it just moves it” says Spoleti. He says the heating systems are over three times more efficient than conventional heating systems.


    The cost of a geothermal system is $10,000 per square ton. The average 3,000-square-foot home is approximately five tons. However, New York State provides a refund equal to 30 percent of the cost of installation. In addition, Central Hudson has a $1,000 refund per square ton. Spoleti says that the combined refunds will pay for the entire outside installation. “The refunds are really helping people and creating interest. After you apply the two, the cost is no more expensive than conventional systems.”

Read more about green heating here.

Jim Meyers, an educator and freelance writer, lives in Kingston with his wife. He is currently installing replacement winds in his Victorian home.