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Curriculum Guidelines

Overall purpose: To prepare students to work as a member of a solar hot water installation or weatherization crew.

Educational Level: High School, GED, ESOL, Community College, Community Adult Education


Training Program Description: 26 week training program

Daily Routine:

Unit I Warmups: 10-10:15

Unit II Boot Camp Mental Preparation:  10:15-11 am

Unit III Boot Camp Hands-on Training: 11-1:30 (lunch from 12-12:30)

Unit IV People and Personal Skills: 1:30 to 2 pm

For each session:

  • Learning objectives (ideally “SMART” objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound)

  • Time required

  • List of equipment or materials required

  • Copies of any handouts, slides, or visuals required

  • Step by step activity plan with Classroom Narrative- an explanation of how to conduct the session so that a trainer can pick it up and lead it. Should describe teaching methodologies or types of activities (e.g., group work, lecture, case study, role play, etc.).

  • Bibliography of any readings required (ideally include copies)

  • Extension Activities

  • Background Reading for the Teacher

Instructional Objectives:   A student who completes this training will:

Energy Efficiency Improvements

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of energy efficiency principles and energy saving potential.

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of how to air seal a building.

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of how to insulate a building

  • Be able to help with most aspects of air sealing and insulating buildings.

Solar Hot Water System Installation

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of solar energy principles and solar potential.

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of how to site a solar system and estimate the actual solar potential at a site.

  • Understand the most common types of solar hot water systems.

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the various types of equipment in each component area of a solar hot water system including collectors, storage tanks, pumps, controllers and backup heaters.

  • Be able to help in most aspects of assembling a functional solar hot water system.

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of traditional hot water systems, types and operation

Basic Construction Information

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of basic construction types

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of general building code requirements

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of relevance to air sealing and insulation

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of relevance to solar hot water system installation (loads, penetrations, weatherization, permits)

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of reading, interpreting, and drawing diagrams and plans

  • Demonstrate familiarity with the tools and equipment used to install solar hot water systems and weatherize buildings

Basic Energy Information

  • Exposure to the consumer economics of solar hot water installation and energy efficiency.

  • Exposure to communicating with customers about the cost savings and environmental benefits of solar hot water and energy efficiency

Basic Job Skills

  • Exposure to basic business structures

  • Exposure to basic business development process and Hampden County resources for business development

  • Demonstrate an ability to pay attention and show initiative

  • Demonstrate a willingness to ask questions

  • Demonstrate an ability to manage anger and boredom in a workplace context

  • Demonstrate an ability to relate well with customers and the public


  1. Warmups (15 minute opening activities)

  1. Mental Preparation

    1. The Big Picture

      1. Basic Science

        1. Energy units

        2. Heat transfer

        3. Thermal barriers

        4. Behavior of fluids (stratification/pumping/pressure)

        5. Thermal mass

        6. Solar pathways, seasons

      2. Energy Big Picture – Environmental, Economic, Political, Social

      3. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

      4. You and Energy – What energy you use, what waste you produce

    2. Measuring – lengths, angles, volume, surface area, temperature, pressure, flow rates, fractions and decimals, btu's, kwh's, energy production

    3. Introduction to Solar Hot Water

      1. System types

      2. System design/system siting

    4. Basic Building Construction (running pipes)

      1. Wood frame construction - component names and geometry

      2. Masonry construction

      3. Roof types

      4. Common chase locations

      5. Building code requirements r.e. loads, penetrations, weatherization, permits

    5. Safety/Osha Requirements

    6. Getting to Work

      1. How the economy affects you.  How changes affect job availability in the trades.

      2. Starting a business (types, start up financing, exit plans, ...)

      3. Running a business

        1. Cash flow and borrowing

        2. Hiring and supervising employees

        3. Customer satisfaction

      4. Recognizing, accepting and handling failure (e.g. sunk costs)

  1. Hands-on Training

    1. Understanding and creating diagrams that provide important information 

Basic tools and Installation Equipment (names; types; parts and accessories; basic operation, safety issues, abuses, and care; maintenance and repair)

    1. Tools and Equipment

      1. Safety Equipment: Hard hat, safety glasses, face mask, ear plugs, respirator, ropes and harnes - basic knots: bowline, prussic, attachment devices

      2. Tape measure

        1. Care and safety (retracting, extending, bending)

        2. Exterior lengths

        3. Interior lengths

      3. Angle finders

        1. Protractor

        2. Angle finders

        3. Plumb bob

        4. Level

        5. Right triangles (equilateral: 45°; 1-2-root3: 30°, 60°; 3-4-5: 90°)

          1. Ruler and square 

          2. Ruler/tape measure/string (3/4/5 triangle)

      4. Tools for finding solar south

        1. Magnetic compass

        2. Shadow stick

      5. Solar Pathfinder

      6. Thermometer

        1. Liquid

        2. Electronic probe

        3. Infrared (single point and image)

      7. Power screw driver

        1. Clutch and speed

        2. Bits and drivers

        3. Chuck

      8. Power wrench

        1. Clutch

        2. Torque

        3. Drivers, extensions, universal joints

      9. Saws

        1. Hand saw

        2. Circular saw

        3. Sawzall

        4. Reciprocating saw

        5. Table saw

      10. Router and Multipurpose Finish Tool

      11. Weatherization and Insulation Tools

        1. Blower door testing unit

        2. Infrared camera

        3. Insulation blower and remover

        4. Pneumatic calking gun

      12. Industrial Vac

      13. Power cords and batteries

        1. Care and maintenance

        2. Battery "memory"

      14. Fasteners

        1. Nuts, bolts, washers, threads, sizing

        2. Lag screws

        3. Masonry fasteners

        4. Mixing metals (galvanic reactions)

      15. Calking Gun and Foam Gun

      16. Ladders

        1. Step ladders

        2. Extension ladders

          1. Moving

          2. Set up

          3. Electrical danger

      17. Roof jacks, scaffolding, and jack poles

      18. Hand trucks and dollies

      19. Lifts and cranes

    2. Plumbing Tools, Equipment, and Materials

      1. Pipe sizing

      2. Fittings, types, flow characteristics

      3. Clamps and hangers

      4. Copper pipe

        1. Types (L, M)

        2. Measuring and cutting

        3. Soldering

        4. Crimping

      5. Plastic pipe

        1. Types

        2. Gluing

      6. Steel pipe

        1. Thread types (tapered - US, straight - British, thread size)

        2. Cutting and thread-cutting

        3. Connecting

          1. Crossthreading

          2. Tightening, pipe wrenches

          3. Tape and dope

      7. Valves, types (shut-off, check, relief, mixing)

      8. Expansion tanks

      9. Pumps

        1. Basic electricity

        2. Line current pumps

        3. PV pumps

      10. Gauges

    3. Installation nitty gritty

      1. Assembling and operating a demo system - closely supervised

      2. Creating a design and overall plan

        1. Site suitability, sizing, collector siting, rough design

          1. Review finding solar south

          2. Solar Pathfinder

          3. Review roof types

          4. Sizing a system

        2. Safety evaluation

        3. Cost estimation

        4. Detailed structural investigation and analysis

        5. Tank location

        6. Collector location and mount type

        7. Pipe runs and penetrations planning

        8. Plan evaluation and revision

      3. Storage and Controller

        1. Safe handling of extremely heavy objects

        2. Tank unpacking and positioning

        3. Pump station and plumbing

        4. Controller attachment, wiring

        5. Potable connections

      4. Collectors

        1. Safety precautions for roof work

        2. Rack assembly

        3. Rack mounts

        4. Collector mounts

        5. Plumbing

      5. Pipe runs

        1. Penetrations

        2. Insulation

        3. Assembly

      6. Testing and charging

        1. Pressure testing

        2. Charging

        3. Programming

      7. Delivery

        1. Owner training

        2. Owner manual

    4. Assembling and operating a demo system

      1. Semi-supervised practice

      2. Final technical evaluation

  1. People and Personal Skills

    1. Work Habits

      1. Workplace safety - keeping yourself, your crew mates, and other people safe

        1. Use of tools and equipment

          1. Practice proper use

          2. Use appropriate safety equipment

          3. Secure ladders

        2. Work site guidelines

          1. Keep floor clear

          2. Keep things from falling

          3. Stay clear of electrical lines (indoors and out)

          4. Pay attention

          5. Absolutely no fooling around

      2. Attention and thinking ahead

        1. Understand the general plan for a job

        2. Track the job’s progress, notice as plan details are determined, notice when the plan changes

        3. Anticipate needs of other crew members

      3. When to ask questions

        1. Whenever you're not sure

        2. When you don't know something or haven't done something before

        3. When you're asked to do something that you don't think will work

        4. When things change

          1. Changes to a plan

          2. New system designs, tools, equipment, materials

          3. Unexpected work assignments

      4. Problem solving

        1. Defining the problem

        2. Criteria for choosing a solution

        3. Brainstorming solutions with some creativity

        4. Choosing a solution

        5. Implementing your solution

        6. Checking to see if it worked

      5. Dealing with boredom

      6. Relating to customers

        1. How to behave in someone else’s home

        2. How to answer questions

    2. Power dynamics

      1. Relationships with your boss, co-workers

      2. Handling disagreements with your boss or your co-worker

    3. Team building

    4. Know your limits

      1. Acknowledging your fears

        1. Fear of heights

        2. Fear of small spaces

        3. Fear of insects/animals

      2. Health Concerns

        1. Asthma and other respiratory illness

        2. Allergies

        3. Back issues

        4. Heart conditions

      3. Work and personal obligation scheduling

    5. What you believe