Wednesday, 30 December 2009 13:18

Solar Water Heating - Fafco Celebrates 40 Years!

In the fall of 1977, my father (read more about him here) went to a Pool and Spa Show in Orlando and had the good fortune of meeting Freeman A. Ford, the founder of FAFCO, Inc.

By the end of the year, we were FAFCO’s authorized exclusive dealer for SW Florida...

By 1983, I was so “in love” with FAFCO, that I changed our company name and starting operating as Fafco Solar.

Our “marriage”, as Freeman likes to refer to it, remains strong. This year marks FAFCO’s 40th year in business. Not a bad milestone for the solar industry. So, I’d like to raise my glass and say  “Here’s to you, Freeman!"

Here's the official news from Fafco, Inc., about their 40th anniversary:

At Solar Power International 2009, FAFCO today celebrated its 40th anniversary in the solar energy industry. Founded in 1969 by Freeman A. Ford and Richard O. Rhodes, FAFCO is the oldest and largest solar water heating manufacturer in the United States.

"Congratulations to FAFCO for four decades of providing consumers with affordable, reliable solar water heating," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "FAFCO has long been a leader in the solar thermal market, which has grown more than fivefold since 2000 and represents the largest segment for installed solar energy in the United States. Solar thermal is one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to go solar. I'm sure we'll see FAFCO and the solar thermal market continue their strong growth as Americans look for ways to lower their bills and go green."

In 2008, Newsweek magazine published the “History of Solar”—a look back at the history of solar over the last 100 years. FAFCO Inc. is credited with developing the first lightweight set of solar panels that can reduce heating costs by up to 50% (or more in warmer climates). FAFCO is the only company in the world given this distinction in global technology history.

A World Solar Industry Leader

Since its inception in 1969, FAFCO has achieved many significant milestones. Over the last four decades it has manufactured more than 1.75 million solar collectors. The company has shipped 66 million square feet of pool heating collectors, or the electrical equivalent of 4.3 gigawatts. Finally, FAFCO owns more than 25 domestic and international patents on its technology.

"FAFCO was not only one of the earliest solar companies and longest running solar companies, but also one of the only U.S. companies to compete in a subsidized conventional energy market without subsidies for its products — a notable achievement that exemplifies its stature, quality and professionalism in the market today," said Scott Slar, president of The Stella Group, Ltd. and former executive director of the national Solar Energy Industries Association for 15 years.

FAFCO History

From 1969 to early 2008, FAFCO was led by world-renowned solar thermal expert and 2006 Inductee to the International Solar Hall of Fame, Freeman A. Ford. The Solar Hall of Fame is an international award that was created by an Act of Congress during the 1976 Bicentennial of the United States. The Solar Hall of Fame distinction has been given to 45 men and women from various countries throughout the world. Ford joins such industry luminaries as Dr. Charles Abbot, Dr. Erich A. Farber, Dr. John Yellot and Dr. Harry E. Thomason.

Under Ford’s guidance, FAFCO pioneered the solar pool heating industry. When the company was launched, the solar pool heating industry was based on expensive, difficult-to-install copper collectors. Despite significant drawbacks, copper absorbers had dominated solar thermal heating for a century. FAFCO’s vision was to replace copper with inexpensive, easy-to-install polymer absorbers. It has since spawned an entire industry.

In 1985, Ford directed his company’s polymer expertise toward Thermal Energy Storage (TES). Today FAFCO TES systems allow customers to buy inexpensive off-peak electricity at night, store the energy and then use it to cool buildings in the day when electricity costs peak. In addition to saving customers money on HVAC costs, FAFCO TES systems enable utilities to reduce peak load thus saving the costs associated with building new capacity.

In 1996, Ford once again focused his company on developing ground-breaking solar energy products. In collaboration with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, FAFCO developed the world’s first lightweight, affordable, all-polymer, solar hot water system. The system, designed to reduce water heating bills by up to 50%, was launched in 2007.  Ford’s vision was to not only provide cost-saving benefits to consumers worldwide but also to reduce the environmental impact associated with traditional energy sources.

In 2008, Ford was succeeded as president by Robert Leckinger, a 22-year veteran of renewable energy, aerospace and the automotive industry. Ford remains an integral part of the FAFCO team as Chairman of the Board.

Industry Recognition

FAFCO’s solar water heating systems have won numerous industry awards, including PCBC’s 2008 “Cool Products” for industry; Building Products’ MVP Award; 50 Most Innovative Products for 2008, Professional Remodeler; Top 100 Products: Residential Design & Build; and Top 10 Products: Readers’ Choice, Qualified Remodeler. FAFCO was also named one of the Top 100 Companies in California’s Central Valley

FAFCO’s headquarters are located in its own custom-built, state-of-the-art solar research, design and production facility, in Chico, California.  

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