Merchant Monday |

Merchant Monday

Kirk Caraway
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

With all the attention being paid to renewable energy, The Solar Store looks to be a business on the cutting edge.

But don’t let that scare you away. The proprietors of the store ” James Medeiros and his parents Dennis and Leslie Medeiros ” have created a place where anyone can find the tools and ideas to help lessen their dependence on fossil fuels.

“I call this the renewable energy candy store,” Dennis said. “This is probably the only place I know of where you can do everything from the wind to the sun, for homes or RVs.”

In front of their North Carson Street location you can spot a couple of solar panels. Inside is a host of different panels, parts and accessories to do anything from powering a radio to heating a home.

One of the technologies they offer that people may not recognize is hot water systems. Instead of the more familiar photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight to electricity, hot water systems use the sun’s energy to heat water.

The panels at The Solar Store have a series of vacuum sealed tubes that trap the sunlight and can heat water to 190 degrees, for either household use or to use for heating the home.

While photovoltaic systems only capture 22 percent of the sun’s power, hot water systems can convert 60-65 percent. This efficiency makes hot water systems the best place to start in terms of solar energy, according to the Medeiros family.

James is the driving force behind The Solar Store, but it was a bug he caught from his father, an engineer who worked on space program projects.

“My dad worked on the Voyager space probe, and he used to bring home these little solar cells when I was a kid,” James said. “We would wire them up like batteries. This is how it started.”

After a dozen years dealing cards in area casinos, in 2006 James finally made the jump to turn this boyhood hobby into a business. Now he’s a trained solar installer who is an expert at setting up off-grid systems. He also works with certified electrical contractors to set up systems that connect to the electrical grid.

The Solar Store also sells power-generating windmills for home use, and recently worked with Carson City on new regulations on windmill use in the city. A windmill can produce 100 to 800 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, depending on the size of the windmill and the amount of wind.

The biggest drawback to solar and wind systems is the upfront costs are still pretty high. A hot water system can start at $3,000 and go up to $8,000 or more. Photovoltaic systems can run tens of thousands. Some costs can be offset by federal tax credits, but James said they need to be more in line with what Germany is doing in order for renewable energy to take off.

“This is $37,000 for 22 modules,” James said, pointing to a stack of photovoltaic panels that are to be installed on a home in Carson City. “This will generate about $100 a month in electricity. In Germany, that number would be complemented by a check for $350. That makes it a reasonable return.”

Though generating power from sun and wind is all the rage, conservation is even more important.

“Conserving energy is a lot easier than generating energy,” James said. “The biggest waste of energy is energy not used.”

For instance, James said an average family wastes 14,000 gallons of water a year waiting for the water to heat, something that can be fixed by using a hot water recirculation system.

Making sure your house is properly insulated is another must for energy conservation.

“Insulation is the best energy investment,” Dennis said.

Contact reporter Kirk Caraway at or (775) 881-1261.