Low-Cost Solar Thermal by Sunnovations

Sunnovations, a Virginia-based start-up, is seeing more and more interest in its unique solar thermal technology and just closed a Series A round of financing led by Two Seven Ventures.  That technology is explained in the attached images, and it may just make solar water heating a no-brainer for every home in the country.   The system is relatively affordable, easy to install, and simple to maintain, according to the company.

Sunnovations’ system is similar to other solar systems on the market in that it uses glazed, flat-plate collectors, a heat exchanger, and backup water heating.  Glycol is heated, but instead of using an electrical pump, Sunnovations uses a proprietary “geyser pump” to naturally circulate the fluid.

The geyser pump, or bubble pump, shown in this video, eliminates the need for electromechanical components or maintenance of these components.  The fluid begins to circulate as soon as it is warmed in the collectors.

Sunnovations uses PEX tubing for an easy, one-day installation that makes the investment more affordable to the homeowner.  Depending on the situation, a solar water heater should help reduce water heating bills by 50-80%, according to the Department of Energy.

Update 3/19/2011: as it relates to pricing, Sunnovations told me the installed cost varies by region.  It is influenced by the cost of labor, competition, shipping cost, configuration of the home, permitting costs, and distributor pricing, etc.  That said, if you contact Sunnovations, the company can provide a ballpark.  You can also calculate a simple payback estimate.

Credits: Sunnovations.


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  • Anonymous

    We are great fans of your site, Preston, however it is always a disappointment when even some ballpark prices are not revealed. Went to the Sunovations site and found the same. Solar hot water systems are not that difficult to price out. Just a theoretical price picture would help. It makes us not trust the company when such an important aspect is withhheld. Maybe we did not read the site properly!

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Completely understand. Asked for it and best I could get was general — 25% cheaper than standard solar thermal — but nothing specific. Speaking from my own perspective, this could be because dealers charge differently and installation will vary. Also, keep in mind you’re using market flat-plate collectors, a heat exchanger, and PEX tubing. But still, I feel you sanitylvr.

      • Lemak

        Mr Preston, do you like this?
        So many “different solutions” cost big money. The best we could do is to invest 10 US$ per square feet in Energy Blinds. The result with this Energy Blinds will be much more valuable than anything else in the globe. Lemak@telia.com This Energy Blinds could lower the cost for heating with around 25-35 percent per year. Why invest 100 dollar for something you could have for 10 dollar? And, anyhow, make more money out of. This EB will be heated up by the sun and deliver the heat to the room, like anything that warming up the house. One side of the lamellas is dark and one side is light and reflex away the sun. But this is much more economically all the time. In summertime we turn the lamella so that the light side will be out true the sun, so it will cool down instead for heating up the house. Anyhow, this is the most economically solutions on the globe today. The payback time will be around 2-3 years.

  • http://psproefrock.wordpress.com Philip Proefrock

    Hate to say it, but the main picture for the article is terrible! The panels are almost completely in shade there. Maybe it’s early morning or late evening, though the shadow angles look more midafternoon to me.

    If that’s a south facing installation (which it should be), then it also looks like they aren’t going to get much more sun on those panels the rest of the day (since the shading trees are to the presumptive west), so the benefit of banking hot water overnight is reduced, as well, with the longer delay between heating and use the following morning.

    The technology they are using sounds intriguing, but I don’t think it’s helping the cause to show a marginal installation.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Philip, you make a solid point. I had several pictures to put there in the lead and chose that one because it had a good angle on the pump. But in terms of the shaded installation, it is what it is.

      • http://psproefrock.wordpress.com Philip Proefrock

        I’m not meaning to criticize you for choosing that image (I totally understand the reasoning); I wonder why *they* even put that in their gallery in the first place. Since there’s no accompanying information, it’s hard to say more about it with certainty, but it implies poor decisionmaking by the installer, which makes me nervous, no matter how good the technology is.

        If anything, it should be a cautionary tale that a green gadget, in and of itself, does not necessarily lead to a green benefit; if it is installed improperly, it does nothing useful.

  • http://Greenhabbing101.com Matt Stookey

    Hey Preston, great article man. I know you touch on solar on here but do you cover “eco-friendly insulation” as all? When we are doing a green rehab project, we always blow recycled newspaper insulation into the exterior walls. We’ve found this to dramatically decrease utility bills (especially in colder climates) which allows us to force appreciation on our homes. What are your thoughts on insulation and how it can really keep utility costs down? Thanks.

    Matt Stookey
    Blogger on http://Greenhabbing101.com

  • http://profiles.google.com/kevdickson Kevin Dickson

    Geyser pumps have been tried before, but these guys are on the right track. They’re not actually selling anything yet. As with a lot of innovations, it looks like they need to get some real world testing under their belt.

    The Copper Cricket geyser pump fizzled out in the 90′s due to an unacceptable field failure rate. Very few if any of the original reported 1200 systems are still operational.

    • Matt Carlson

      Hi Kevin and Jetson Green readers – I hope it is not untoward for a company to comment on a string about itself, but I did want to clear up one thing. We actually ARE selling our system through leading renewable energy professional installers, and have been since last summer to a great reception. We’ve been focused on the mid-atlantic to date but now have coverage in the northeast, Colorado and select other states. If we don’t cover your area now, we will soon enough!

      Our system operates on some of the same physical principles as the old Copper Cricket, but is engineered entirely differently for greater simplicity, improved reliability and broad component standardization. You can read more at http://www.sunnovations.com/content/how-sunnovations-system-works.

      Matt Carlson
      CEO
      Sunnovations Inc.

  • Lemak

    So many “different solutions” cost big money. The best we could do is to invest 10 US$ per square feet in our Energy Blinds. The result with this Energy Blinds will be much more valuable than anything else in the globe. Lemak@telia.com This Energy Blinds could lower the cost for heating with around 25-35 percent per year. Why invest 100 dollar for something you could have for 10 dollar? And, anyhow, make more money out of.

  • http://www.solarhotusa.com/ solar Thermal System

    Solar Thermal System has existed for centuries and has been used for bathing, laundry, home heating etc.  It has always been a very effective method to heat water, but modern technology have made the process far more efficient. Call us today to buy a best quality Solar Water Heater for your home. We will assure you that our solar system are best and you can never get complain of that system.

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