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Solar Power

Article as it appeared on
January 27, 2008
By Bill Rogers | Highlands Today

Photographer: Scott Keeler | Times
[Photo: Kathy Waters | Highlands Today]

From left: Charles Miller and Sammy Rowe adjust a solar panel on a Sebring home on Friday.


SEBRING — Most people cringe when they open the dreaded electric bill — especially during the summer months. That's not the case for Robert Seybolt of Sebring.

"I was very, very happy," Seybold said of the $48 bill. "I used to pay $130 to $140 a month. "I think anyone would be happy."

Seybolt is sold on solar power. He has solar yard lights, a solar ventilator fan and solar charger on his boat.

"I wanted to get as much solar as I could," Seybolt said. "Why spend for fuel and energy when you can get it free."

Seybolt, who has 14 panels in his back yard, has a combination solar water heating and solar electric system that was installed by Solar Direct of Bradenton.

Dale Gulden, CEO of Solar Direct, explained that electric power is produced and is fed into a utility grid system that can be stored in batteries.

Gulden believes the current interest in solar is a result of the price of gas and oil going up and more talk about energy independence.

Charles Miller, owner of Miller Energetics Inc. in Avon Park, agrees. Although energy is now "too cheap," he said, as the price of gas increases people are going to have to find a way to offset the higher cost. Solar heating is one way to do that.

There are rebates for both residential and commercial users who are Florida residents. Federal tax credits are also available. The terms vary for solar water heater, solar electric and solar pool heating. The utility companies also have incentive programs.

For example, there is a flat rate of $500 for those who put in a solar water heater. However, Miller said due to their popularity of the rebate program the money that was appropriated last year is gone. Miller said it expected to be restored and the money will available this summer.

The cost of the domestic water systems vary in price, based on the difficulty of installation. Miller said a home with a steep roof will cost more to put in than a conventional roof. Another cost factor is the distance needed to run the copper "because copper is very expensive now."

The size of the water tanks and the panels also vary.

The panels are usually made of aluminum. A copper plate in the panel is where the water is heated, and the water flows through the copper tubes.

There is a pump integrated in the system that pumps the water through it. The pump runs on a "very small amount" of electricity, Miller said.

Miller, who has been in business since 1983, said there is also an electric backup heater in the tank so that if there are several overcast days the breaker can be switched on and the water will be heated by electricity.

The preferred direction where to place the panels, which are bolted to the roof truss, is on the south side because that is where the heat is, Miller said.

"I do wish that people would become more aware of how they can save energy," Miller said. "We have made it so easy for people because the cost of energy is only now starting to increase pretty dramatically.

"I think the idea that ' hey, I can save money by using the sun out there' I think is a very attractive idea," he added.

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