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We asked Arturo Martinez, customer communications specialist at Southern California Gas Company, for his expert advice on solar energy and how it can be used in your home.

Arturo Martinez, Southern California Gas Company

We want to do what we can to better our environment. What is all the hype about solar water heating? Is it easy to make the switch? –Gale Dean, Venice, CASolar thermal is the most natural way to heat your water by harnessing the energy of the sun to give you hot water in your home for bathing, washing dishes, cooking in your kitchen or washing your clothes. It is more efficient than traditional systems by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat your water. Solar water heating works with your existing water heating system, so you have hot water no matter whether it’s day, night or even in torrential rainfall.

The benefits of using solar water heating include installation rebates, saving money on your water heating bill, and increasing your property value. Making the switch is easy because the technology works with existing water heating systems and installation can take place in as little as 1-3 days. There are certified contractors available throughout California to help you install and apply for rebates. Learn more and find a certified contractor at solarwaterheating101.com.

I heard that switching over to solar thermal energy would allow me to get rebates. What do I need to do to qualify and where do I get more info? –Tom Lucano, West Hollywood, CARebates are available for the installation of a qualified solar water heating system in single- and multi-family homes and commercial businesses. Residential rebates are calculated based on how much energy the solar water heating system is expected to save annually, up to $2,719 for residential customers. Licensed solar water heater contractors are available throughout the state to help you install and apply for rebates for qualified solar water heating systems. Homeowners who prefer to install the solar water heating system themselves will be able to qualify for a rebate after completing a no-cost self-installer workshop. More information and a list of certified contractors can be found at solarwaterheating101.com.

My family wants to make the switch to solar thermal energy eventually, but for now, we’re in the research phase. How does solar thermal compare to other energy-saving heating/cooling systems? –James Wood, Ventura, CASolar water heating captures the warmth of the sun and is different from photovoltaic or PV systems that convert the sun’s energy to electricity. In solar water heating, a set of solar collectors is fastened to your roof or a wall facing the sun. The collectors capture the sun’s heat energy and transfer it to a solar water storage tank, where it helps offset the energy usage of your water heater or tankless system. They don’t generate electricity. They simply collect energy and transfer it to your water. The solar collector works with your current water heating system to help make your property more energy-efficient. For more information and helpful videos, go to solarwaterheating101.com.

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