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February 19, 1982 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-02-19

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The Michigan Daily--Friday, February 19, 1982-Page 9

Residents keep their sunny sides up


-. _ i.

Sunny days mean extra heat


N O ONE NEEDS to consult a weath-
erman to know that Old Man Win-
ter has been especially harsh this year.
Sure, we've had many sunny days this
winter, but what good are they?
For most area residents, sunny days
offer little reprieve from howling winds
and sub-zero temperatures. They
grudgingly turn up the thermostat, take
longer, hotter showers, and try not to
think about next month's heating bill.
A few people,. however, rejoice as the
sun comes up over the horizon on a
clear day. Even during the winter mon-
ths, the earth's most abundant source
of energy helps heat their homes and
hot water.
Spurred by rapidly rising fossil fuel
costs and available state and federal
tax credits, increasing numbers of
Michigan consumers are turning to
solar energy.
Area users of solar energy range
from a sales manager of a local solar
firm who had his new home designed
to maximize use of the sun, to a couple
that had solar panels installed on a
home built during the Civil War period.
While most solar industry experts
admit the sun can't provide 100 percent
of a home's heating needs, they all
assert that solar can supplement a
home's regular furnace or hot water
heater and save on heating bills.
Space heating and water heating,
either for swimming pools or to sup-
plement the home water heater-are
the main uses of solar energy by
More and more people are using solar
energy because it's non-polluting, free
from the 'control of utility companies
and oifsheiks, and-perhaps most im-
portantly-it saves money.
"As fossil energy costs go up, other
things look better," said Mark Bram-
son of Ann Arbor, who has a solar hot
water systepn in his home. His highest
monthly hot water bill has been.$12, he
Doug Buchanen of Plymouth said his

'It always bothered me that I couldn't get any
use out of these south walls. Now on a sunny
day I get all this extra heat.'
-Dorothy Frid
Plymouth landlady w

Daily Photo by BRIAN MASCK'
A view of the dining room of the Soup's On restaurant, which is heated by solar and geothermal energy.

r Takin t
H OPING TO take the bite out of
winter fuel bills for low income
homeowners, the University's Depar-
tment of Architecture and Urban Plan-
ning is nearing completion 'of a do-it-
yourself passive solar heating system..
The project is designed to develop
.nethods to bring existing housing up to
Standards, reduce fuel consumption,
and pave the way for future projects.
Although it has been "ridden with
setbacks" since it started in September
1980, construction on the project is
scheduled to begin this spring, accor-
ding to Cindy Conklin, a city energy
Redesign plans for the four houses
used in the project do not involve stric-
tly solar energy conservation methods.
"If one tries to deaL only with solar
energy without considering the com
bination of all energy sources, one will
find that it costs too much," according
to'Hofu Wu, a University doctoral can-
didate who took over directing the
project after the death last week of
Prof. Willard Oberdick.
Two of the houses will receive ad-
ditional insulation in the walls, floors,
drapes, and shutters. These two designs
rely on virtually no solar energy.
The other two designs, however, in-
volve considerable construction to
allow energy-saving measures which
usehe sun.'
One will include a device called a wall
air collector. The cold air which collec-
ts in a room will travel through a panel
into the air collector, where the sun's
rays will heat it. The air will then travel

" i
e bite out of the bills
'If one tries to deal only, with solar energy
without considering the combination of all en-
ergy sources, one will fin that it costs too,
-Hofu Wu
solar project director,

two-year-old solar panels save him
nearly $30 a month on heating bills.
"I've been preaching it for years and
finally decided to practice it," he said.
"It's a good way to augment."
Many people, like Judy Sakstrup, in-
vest in solar to take advantage of the
southern exposure of their houses.
"It (solar water heater) heats my hot
water, so I can make tea right out of my
faucet water," said Sakstrup, an Ann
Arbor resident who had researched
many different methods of saving on
fuel costs before turning to solar
For Dorothy Frid, who owns and ren-
ts four homes in Plymouth, the move to
solar energy seemed logical. "They
(heating bills) were driving me crazy,"
she said. "It always bothered me that I
couldn't get any use out of these south
walls. Now on a sunny day I get all this
extra heat."
Although the solar industry has been
increasingly successful in selling its
products to homeowners, businesses
have been less willing to invest in solar
heating devices, according to Jan Ben-
Dor, a sales representative for'"a local
solar firm.
Unlike homeowners, who are eligible
for large state and federal tax credits,
businesses have very little incentive to
switch from fossil fuels to solar energy,
BenDor said.

In spite oft the lack of incentives
however, one local business has in-
stalled 18 solar panels. The Soup's Oi
restaurant is trying to promote coni
mercial use of alternative enerby, ae6
cording to co-owner Joe Hanish. Th'
panels Meat the restaurant's 350-gallon
water tank to as high as 128 degrees on
sunny days, so that electricity is needed
to heat the water only an additional 12
While many consumers have:repor-
ted positive results with their heating,
devices, a few have had problems.

back into the room through another
panel. A heat exchanger prevents the
air from growing too warm.
The system is not only useful in the
winter, Wu explained. Because the
warm air can be used to heat water, the
design saves energy-and
costs-throughout the year.
The second design using solar energy
will contain a moveable water wall.
Water tubes within an insulated wall
will allow sections of it to move, either
to raise or lower a room's temperature.
During a winter day, the tubes will
face the sun, and it will heat them. At
night, the homeowner will move the
walls so that the tubes can heat the
The moveable water walls can also
cool roaims during hot summer days.
During the evening, the homeowner
will move the walls so they face the out-
side, and the water is cooled. During
the day, the tubes will face the inside of
the house, and they will cool the room.
"We constructed the designs in the
lab to show contractors, who have
"never worked with solar energy

designs, how the construction is done,"
Wu said.
The project was started in September
1980 by Oberdick and Barry Tilman,
director of the city's Community
Development Department.
Funding for construction will be
provided by the Home Rehabilitation
Department, under the Community
Development Department. The
program offers the four homeowners
involved deferred loans on the solar
equipment. As long as they own their
homes, they do not have to pay the
loans. If they sell the houses, however,
they will have to reimburse the Home
Rehabilitation Program for the money
spent on the solar energy construction,
without interest.
When construction begins, Wu and his
associates saidl they hope to oversee
progress, offering whatever help they
can to the contractors.
When the work is completed, Wu said
he hopes to monitor the systems to see
how well they work and how consistent
the families are with their use of the

Solar users go for tax breaks

In order to stimulate the use of solar
energy, both the state and federal
governments offer tax credits to those
who install alternative energy systems
in their homes.
"There's no doubt that we need to
diversify Michigan's economy, and
there's no doubt that we need to save
energy," said Perry Bullard, State
Representative from Ann Arbor and

sponsor of several solar tax bills in the
State Legislature.
"By providing strong tax incentives
for people and small businesses to con-
vert to renewable forms of energy like
wind and solar, we can speed up
progress in both areas," he said.
Michigan imports 95 percent of the
energy it uses, and solar energy could
reduce that figure while providing new
jobs for-the economy, according to Dan

Sharp, Bullard's aide.
As it stands now, the federal income
tax credit allows tax exemptions which
cover 40 percent of the costs of a
residential alternative energy system
on the first $10,000 spent. The tax break
for businesses is 25 percent. Both
exemptions are scheduled to expire in
The state credits are a bit more com-
plicated because they cover property,
use, sales, and income tax exemptions.
There 'is a 100 percent exemption on
both property and sales taxes for solar
energy system purchasers.
The income tax credit covers 15 per-
cent of the first $2,000 spent, and five
percent of the next $8,000 spent on an
alternative energy system. This credit
will drop to 10 percent in 1983, the last
year in which it will be available.
Businesses receive no business tax
credits from the state, but are eligible
for the other tax exemption.
According to several local solar fir-
ms, most consumers use the tax credits
to help offset the initial costs of the
"When you get someone who's going
to pay for half of your system, it
becomes very attractive," said Mark
Bramson, who received the tax credits
for installing a solar hot water system
in his new home three years ago.
Other consumers have reported
similar results. using both the state and
federal credits, some have saved up to
50 percent on costs of their solar
heating systems.
Despite critics' charges that the tax
credits deprive the state of badly
needed revenue, Sharp asserted that
the cost of the tax credits to the state is
small. In fact, he reported. Bullard
would like to see the credits extended to
In - .e..^". i n"Mn MA 1,..

Daily Photo by BRIAN MASCK
The Delta-T differential temperature thermostat monitors the temperature of the water coming off of the solar
panels as well as the temperature in the storage tanks, turning the pumps on when the temperature at the panels is
high enough to increase the temperature in the storage tanks.
Solar searchesfor credibility

"One of the biggest problems we face
is to dispel the myth that solar doesn't
work in Michigan," said Marcia Bruns
of Solar Energy in Michigan, a South
Lyon firm.
The public is skeptical of the prac-
ticality of solar energy in Michigan's
cold northern climate, according to
solar experts. Local firms and the non-
profit Michigan Solar Energy
Association are trying to eradicate that
skepticism by holding seminars and
tours of local homes which use solar
The MSEA is holding its fourth an-
nual solar energy conference this
weekend in Madison Heights, a Detroit
suburb, where it will try to show that
solar enetgy is economically feasible in
Even the state government is getting
involved in promoting solar energy.
Gov. William Milliken has urged "all
cititens to be aware of solar energy,"
and he proclaimed February "Solar
Energy Awareness Month."
Nevertheless, the public remains
hesitant. "The sad part is, tax credits
will-pay for half of a system's cost,"
said Howard McMullen, owner of

'It's a viable source of power... But don't
take my word. You don't buy a car that way.
You check it out.'
-Howard McMullen'
solar businessman,

industry. "The more successful in-
dustries in pool and domestic hot water
heating (the two -fastest-growing ap-
plications of solar energy) have
doubled their business in each of the
past five years," he said.
Several area solar firms are actively
involved in promoting conservation.
Before installing a solar heating
system, "you've got to plug the holes,"
said Bill' Park of Star Pak Solar
Systems in Novi. "We're a nation
with houses like sieves."
Mark Ross, a University physics
professor and energy expert, said he
agrees. "It's important to design
buildings very well," he said.
But Ross is more skeptical when it
comes to solar energy, which he said
has "promise in specialized
situations." If solar energyis more

which can maintain the same produc-
tion at a higher price for some time, he
The solar industry faces more
challenges than having to educate 1a
skeptical public and compete with
natural gas. The sluggish economy has
hurt solar companies just as it has
other businesses.
Perhaps the upcoming elimination of
state and federal tax credits poses an
even greater challenge. These credits,
which can pay consumers up to 50 per-
cent of a system's cost, will expire -at
the end of 1984. Both Prof. Clark and
Richard Blake of the MSEA said this
could cause difficulties for solar energy
Despite the serious challenges, solar
business officials said they remain op-
timistic. "The systems are selling good

w .- ... . ......

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