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Heat Pumps:  Solar Assisted

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Solar Assisted

Key Features:
  • Solar panel is 3' x 5'
  • Panel generates 190 watts of power, to run the system's outdoor fan
  • Reduces electricity demand during peak times
  • Saves an estimated 8 to 10 percent on electricity use
  • $10,000 (2009)
  • Pricing as of 2009.
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  • SunSource Comfort System
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by Deborah Holmes, Ebricks.com
A new solar-assisted heat pump by Lennox garnered a lot of attention at the recent International Builder's Show, and with good reason.

The industry's first heat pump to use photovoltaic cells, the so-called "SunSource" can reduce energy usage by up to 10 percent, according to Lennox. What's more, the stored solar power can reduce reliance on heavily loaded power grids during peak demand times.

A single three- by give-foot solar panel can generate 190 watts of power, enough to power the heat pump's outdoor fan. The fan, which moves air across the unit's outdoor coil, provides cool or warm air, depending on the season. It is a major power draw in the energy efficient system.

Available to consumers in 2009, the SunSource is described by the manufacturer as a "small step" that can make a difference in reducing a homeowner's carbon footprint. Alas, the price tag of the system is not small.

The pump is expected to retail for somewhere around $10,000 -- more than double the cost of a conventional heat pump. Even the most energy conservative of the heat pumps, geothermal systems, are less expensive.

The solar assisted heat pump is the first of its type, and Lennox's first foray into such devices. Expect to see more from this air conditioning and heating giant, as well as a corresponding drop in prices as others follow suit. Lennox also points out that many energy companies and government agencies offer rebates for installing high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, helping to soften the budget bite of this system.

The solar panel reduces energy usage even on days with limited sun exposure. A roof-top installation provides maxium sun exposure, but the solar panel also can be installed on the ground near the heat pump.

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