Solar energy is not yet a commodity, but more and more people are looking toward this alternative energy.
One of the least expensive forms of alternative energy is solar-thermal, and electronic engineer Dave Congour is getting the word out.
"(Solar-thermal technology) is designed to replace 75 to 80 percent a year on what you use in heat," he said.
Monday, approximately 20 people listened to Congour speak about solar-thermal technology at the Montrose Regional Library.
"One-thousand watts falls on a square meter of roof," he said. "That is a fair amount, and in Colorado it can get up to 1,300 watts."
Solar-thermal energy is a technology for harnessing energy from the light of the sun for practical applications such as heating tap water or a home.
"The idea is to take that otherwise wasted heat and make use of it," Congour said.
This technology is used throughout the world and is indicated by the large solar panels located on the roofs of homes, shops and businesses.
Olathe resident Shirley Chase attended the lecture to see if Congour had any ideas for her solar project.
Chase owns "The Old Apple Shed" built in the 1940s and used to store all the local apples during harvest. She is in the process of renovating the building and wants to take the 30,000 square-foot, south-facing roof and use it to provide solar energy for the building.
"That's where I need these solar guys," she said. "The roof could provide lighting, heat and electricity, but it is going to waste right now."
One advantage that Congour said Chase has is a large water tank, mostly underground, that was used for cold storage. He said this will probably make for a good collective tank if a "bladder" is added to hold the warm water.
The most common use for solar thermal technology is domestic water heating. Congour has spent his time in designing and building such systems for area homes.
His systems, along with others, are designed to heat a large collecting tank of 300 or more gallons of water. The system can be used to provide a home or business with warm water or may also be used with radiant floor heating, which he calls "whole-house systems."
"Radiant floor heating is a perfect match with solar," he said.
Whole-house systems are typically done with new construction and are designed to run the heated water through tubes in the building's floor to provide heat.
In the last couple of years, Congour said he has installed several systems. These systems have four to six solar panels and cost anywhere from $12,000 to $23,000 depending on the design.
"Now you need a specialist," he said about finding the right system for your new business or home. Congour said there are so many components, such as location, size and available space, a specific design is recommended.
During the presentation, he explained two different ways of collecting the solar energy.
One way is the standard flat solar panels and the other is evacuated tube arrays.
Tube arrays, he explained, is a new technology that uses 7-foot-long tubes with copper pipe inside. This method is more expensive but has a better efficiency rate for climates that experience cold and cloudy days.
Congour also discussed drainback system, which runs the same water through the system all the time, heating the water inside the tank. A system's controller activates the pump when the temperature of the solar collector panels becomes higher than that of the water in the hot water tank.
There is also a glycol-based system, which is considered the most reliable for northern states and Canada where the system will be exposed to long periods of freezing temperatures.
The drainback system is simpler than the glycol-based system in that there is no need for an expansion tank to hold the glycol and pressure gages.
The government and other organizations have set up programs and grants to provide incentives for people who choose to use alternative energies. To view those programs visit www.dsireusa.org.
"Water to this day is still the best way to store heat," Congour said. "It's not yet a commodity, but I think later down the road it will be."