Echo Delivers More than Solar PV Power

California-based EchoFirst, formerly known as PVT Solar, makes an interesting Echo solar system that I noticed locally on the Solaris homes (Style A/Style B) in Daybreak, Utah.  It’s the kind of system that could work wonders for a lot of homes because Echo delivers more than just electricity from photovoltaic panels.  Echo captures air from under the panels to provide home heating, home cooling, water heating, and fresh air ventilation.

Echo generates twice as much energy as a basic PV electric system, according to EchoFirst.  While generating electricity, thermal heat travels to an Energy Transfer Module (i.e., an air filter, heat exchanger, and high-efficiency fan) in the attic or garage, where some of the heat is removed from the air in order to heat water.

Also, in the winter or during the night, the ETM circulates pre-heated air through the home for warmth; in the summer or during the day, the ETM circulates pre-cooled air and replaces stale air.  The system can provide 6-8 whole home air changes per day.

Each Echo system comes with a web-based dashboard and a free iPhone app that gives an owner the ability to both monitor and control the system remotely.  In terms of pricing, Echo costs about 25-45% more than a basic PV system, but the premium is offset through additional energy production.

Echo is a standard offering in about 25 new home communities in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah and can be installed in existing homes in these states, too.  EchoFirst is in the process of a national roll out and can be contacted at

[+] Research the Echo solar system with thermal and PV.

Credits: EchoFirst, Inc.

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  • Dbull

    I always wanted to do that with concentrating (fresnel lens) solar panels with water panels underneath. With water not air since water is more efficient.

  • Laszlo Kiss

    Yes, I think there are a few water based systems out there that make sense since cooling the PV with water (the heat is then used to make domestic hot water) makes them more efficient at producing electricity. I am not sure about the rest of this system in anything other then a dry warm desert climate.

  • Kevin Dickson

    Air-based active solar systems have been out of favor since Solaron failed in 1986.

    Even so, this company is doing everything right so far. I believe the brick wall they eventually will hit is that water based active solar systems are easier to install and more efficient because ductwork is always leaky.

    So you might as well spend the same money on two separate systems that each do their job well, rather than one system that tries to combine two methods of collection.

    • Joel

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your comment. According to EchoFirst’s CMO, air based systems are much easier to install because a water connection is not needed on the roof – installing Echo means that no roofers are required to do plumbing on the roof, and no plumbers are being asked to be roofers :).

      Further, unlike a basic water based system, air based systems have high installation tolerances – things do not need to be installed perfectly to work efficiently. For example, an Echo solar system can tolerate significant air leakage from the array (due for example to less than perfectly straight solar electric panels) without losing more than a percentage or two of efficiency.

      Finally, air based systems enable the use of PEX for the piping, which is much, much easier and more cost effective to install than copper pipes, and is preferred by builders.

      Beyond an easier installation, there are a number of key advantages Echo enjoys vs. basic hyrdonic systems:
      1. Superior energy production via the purely incremental contribution of home heating and home cooling
      2. Healthy home ventilation – Echo complies with ASHRAE 62.2
      3. Stagnation proof
      4. Freeze protected – no water on the roof to freeze!
      Preferred by builders and customers alike – superior aesthetics and no water on the roof

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