Sun day was on Saturday this week

'Tis the season for solar. Across the nation it's the time for the annual ASES National Solar Tour.

'Tis the season for solar. Across the nation it's the time for the annual ASES National Solar Tour. That's the American Solar Energy Society and their chapters acorss thre country organized the tours.

So I went on the one here in Ashland, Oregon. Six homes in as many hours. From a solarium that was innovative in 1980 to some of the latest building techniques and products. At each home the owner and/or builder talked about living in the solarized spaces.

And everywhere both the product vendors and the homeowners touted the current spate of government give-backs for making solar installations. Ashland city makes cash grants to residents if the solar product fits their guidelines. Oregon makes generous tax credits to residents and even more generous ones to Oregon businesses. Finally, even Uncle Sam will give you some tax credits. Here's the government's site explaining those credits. State credits are not consistent, naturally.

In many cases it turns out that a solar water heating system mounted on your roof or in your garden would cost less than 25% of actual price once you get your local grant and tax credits from state and feds. The vendors in many cases proudly announce they will fill out the form so you get your credit or cash.

A number of the solar houses had radiant heat pipes running through concrete slab floors. One house gets summer cooling by running all the home's cold water through the floor before it reaches the tap. Despite hot summers here that negates the need for air conditioning. The pipes used are drinking water grade plastic. The same house used ICF (insulated concrete forms) that consist of two insulating layers of foam on either side of the conrete-filled space...and those were the walls. Giving an insulation value of R-50. Even though this is not a desert climate, solar's a big deal in Oregon which has no petoroleum or natural gas supply of its own and has maxed out its hydroelectric. Ashland even has an ordinance protecting homeowners' solar access rights. Sounds like we've evolved almost as much as the ancient Greeks who had solar rights laws about 2500 years ago.