Solar power is a great answer to those concerned with emissions and generating their own electricity and heat. True, efficiency is still an issue as PV panels often convert less than 20% of sunlight into electricity. But one California company is maximizing the power of the sun with an innovative, multitasking product.
EchoFirst, maker of Echo, offers two products in one. Its solar system converts solar light into both electricity and heat, making use of more than 50% of the solar radiation that it captures (roughly 15% goes to electricity and the rest to heating).
What Echo does is to create an enclosed space beneath the rooftop solar panels. It then uses an energy transfer model (ETM), which most attics feature, to capture the heated air generated by solar collection. The heat exchanger extracts heat from the air and transfers it to the water.
Another innovation is that the system is also capable of providing cool air as it turns the solar array into an air conditioner. The hot, stale air is replaced with fresh, pre-cooled outside air, which is ideal for those living in warmer climates.
Heating and cooling are major energy guzzlers, so executing those tasks with solar decreases a major slice of energy demand.
With all its functions combined, Echo produces electricity, water and home heating, home cooling and fresh air ventilation. The system is suitable for both retrofits and new homes.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.