Ask the Expert: CSI Solar Thermal

The team at CSI: Solar Thermal answers your questions about solar water heating

Experts: The team at CSI: Solar Thermal

Mike Landau, Program Manager, CSI-Thermal Program, Southern California Gas Company
Aileen Lagbao, Program Manager, CSI-Thermal Program, Southern California Edison Company
Jordan DiGiorgio, Program Manager, Solar Water Heating Programs, California Center for Sustainable Energy
Nick Stimmel, Senior Program Manager, Solar and Customer Generation, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
(Shown clockwise from top left.) 

Q: I’m interested in a solar water heating system, are there any rebates available?
A:  Solar water heating rebates are available to residential and non-residential customers in California through the California Solar Initiative (CSI)--Thermal Program. Homeowners can receive up to $1,875 in rebates when installing a qualifying solar water heating system on your home and up to $500,000 in rebates for installing a qualifying solar water heating system on a commercial or multi-family building. CSI-Thermal rebates are available to customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company®, Southern California Edison Company, and Southern California Gas Company. Other rebates and tax credits may also be available.

Q:  Do I need to replace my (conventional) water heater when installing a solar water heating system?
A: You do not have to replace your current water heater when installing a solar water heating system. Rather, a solar water heating system works in conjunction with your current water heater. Adding a solar water heater is an environmentally responsible way to heat your water that can help you save money and be more energy efficient. An appropriately sized solar water heating system can supply most of a home’s hot water needs, therefore you should see an immediate reduction in your monthly utility bill because you will be using less energy--and more sun--to heat your water.

Q: How well do solar water heaters work in cloudy areas or on rainy days?
A:  It’s a common misconception that solar water heaters don’t work on cloudy or rainy days.  In fact, that is not true at all--the systems can still function on cloudy days. The amount of heat energy collected will depend on the darkness of the cloud cover. The conventional water heater will kick in on days when there is too much cloud cover. The most efficient systems are designed to capture the sun’s heat energy during the middle of the day when the sun is the most powerful.