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Idaho Business Fueled by the Sun

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Written by Emily Valla, Senior Marketplace Director

As Carl Simpson points out the contraptions on a roof at a Meridian home, his eyes light up. He is clearly passionate about what he does, and why he does it. For the past seven years, Simpson has installed more than 1,000 solar tubes as part of his Treasure Valley- based business, Renewable Energy Northwest.

You may have heard of solar panels providing electricity to homes and businesses —and Simpson can do that too —but, his expertise is on solar thermal energy. Think, heating your hot water by the power of the sun.

The tubes sit on top of a roof, on an exterior wall, or even on the ground, and absorb energy from the sun. Simpson describes the unit as two glass tubes with a vacuum in between.

“The ultra violet rays go inside the tube, and (the inside) can be 400 degrees in an hour even at negative 30 degrees,” said Simpson.

The outside, however, would match the temperature.

BBB Credibility

Renewable Energy NW became BBB Accredited in 2012. Accreditation is important to Simpson, because he doesn’t have many competitors, which isn’t typically why businesses seek accreditation. What Simpson does is unique, and he often finds potential customers don’t know much about solar thermal energy. When they go to seek other quotes, Simpson says they don’t always find other options. So, to establish credibility, he sought to align with Better Business Bureau.

“(It’s) extremely important that we deliver satisfaction and affordable renewable energy solutions,” Simpson said in an email.

He wants his customers to do their homework and find he is committed to upholding BBB Standards.

Solar Power Savings

Simpson regularly outfits existing homes, to the tune of about 80 per year, but he does just as many new construction homes. He says that’s where there is the most opportunity: solar energy can be integrated into the design from the start. A large portion of Simpson’s business is commercial projects.

One of Simpson’s favorite projects was a car wash in Fruitland. He says the installation paid for itself within 18 months, when comparing the cost savings over natural gas to heat the water used in the wash. A CPA by training, Simpson pays close attention to the numbers when it comes to cost savings. He wants clients to be aware of incentives available to them for installing the solar units, and he sends links to the possible options along with quotes before beginning a project.

Potential cost savings are a big attractant for potential customers, as are environmental impacts. Simpson says his system is 94 percent efficient, and can function on days with minimal sunlight. Customers often begin with just heating hot water, which Simpson says is about a quarter of most customer’s energy bills. If they’re interested, customers can also do heating and cooling systems, including radiant floor heat. Simpson says homeowners with pools are often attracted to solar energy.

For those considering making the switch to solar thermal energy, Simpson encourages them to do their homework. He suggests asking questions about permitting and what the installation process is, as this is an important safety step.

Important questions to ask include: What is the strategy to prevent overheating? How will the installed units look? What is the warranty if anything breaks? As satisfied customers are the core of Simpson’s business, he offers a 10-year warranty on panels.

And to ensure he’s doing everything he can to assist the customer he welcomes customer feedback.

To learn more about Renewable Energy NW visit renewableenergynwllc.com.