In a place where PV solar panels are getting most of the play, Malachite Plumbing & Radiant Heating in northern New Mexico has an alternative strategy for growing its business: Go solar, but embrace thermal. The father-son team of Stephen and Adam Skelton was named 2014 Installer of the Year by integrated green heating systems provider AllTherm/SolarLogic, based in Santa Fe.
Malachite specializes in radiant heating, solar thermal, solar hot water and high-efficiency boilers for residential and commercial customers, both high-end and middle-income. The company tied for the highest number of SolarLogic Integrated Controller (SLIC) installs last year, and recent marketing efforts have been so successful that they’ve begun hiring additional technicians.
“PV seems to get all the press as far as solar energy goes,” says Stephen Skelton, one of only three contractors in New Mexico certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners
. “We think more people need to understand the value of solar thermal tied in with radiant floors. In New Mexico, PV is popular because you get paid for the electricity you provide. With solar thermal, which uses solar collectors and a heat exchanger to transfer energy to a domestic hot water or hydronic heating system, you’re not earning but saving money.
“And the system’s yours, your own little power generator. You’re offsetting so many dollars a year you’d have to spend, say, on propane, which is common in rural northern New Mexico and Colorado. A homeowner can expect payback in seven to nine years and $50,000 to $60,000 in savings over a 30-year period. It’s a really good investment.”
is a combination hardware/software system controller for solar heating that replaces all conventional controls and allows remote monitoring, diagnostics, remote system operation and data logging with no programming required.
“People sometimes get sticker shock when they look at prices of new technology, and it’s hard for them to see payback over the long-term,” says Stephen. “The ease of use of the SLIC system, with built-in timers showing savings in real-time, has helped us a lot.”
AllTherm/SolarLogic’s director of sales and marketing, Claudia Pavel, says, “It’s a real pleasure to work with Steve and Adam. They are thoughtful, personable and client-centered contractors. They’re also active advocates of all types of sustainability. And their work is excellent. Malachite was tied with two other contractors in terms of numbers of 2014 SLIC installs.
“Three things set them apart from the others. First is their willingness to embrace a new and advanced technology and their consistent commitment to education. Second, they work with us very closely and the team approach works really well. Finally, and I think this was what put them over the top: they talk to people! They know they’ve got something great to offer and they just put themselves out there, spreading their enthusiasm for renewable energy hydronic heating. And it also happens to help them grow their business. Bottom line: Steve and Adam are great guys and the Installer of the Year designation is well-deserved.”