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Home arrow Blog arrow 2/13/07- Solar Hot Water: A Good Deal that Keeps Getting Better

2/13/07- Solar Hot Water: A Good Deal that Keeps Getting Better PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bob Ramlow   
Friday, 16 February 2007
The typical American household spends 15 percent to 20 percent of its total energy outlay to make sure the “H” tap means what it says. That same household can save thousands of dollars over the next 40 years by installing a solar water-heating system.

It costs more to install the solar water heating system, compared to a conventional gas or electric heater, but your home equity will increase instantly, frequently enough to offset installation costs. And it’s so much less expensive to operate the solar heater that, at some point, you’ll make up the initial difference. At the same time, you’ll save more money every time electric or gas rates go up. Many homeowners recover the initial installation expense within a few years. Experts agree, a solar water heater is the easiest initial investment in renewable energy.

Several kinds of solar water heaters exist, and the choice depends primarily on your climate. They all do the same things: gather heat in a solar collector; transfer the heat to the water supply; and store the heated water until it’s used. They use simple, proven technology — one reason they’re a best bet in renewable energy.

Save money with solar water heating
Solar water-heating systems have minimal — sometimes zero — operating costs, and maintenance costs only about $2 per month. When all costs for purchase, installation, maintenance and operation are taken into account, a solar water heater usually pulls even with an electric heater after just eight and a half years, and equals a gas heater in about 15 years. From then on, through the expected 40-year life of the solar system, you’ve got FREE hot water.

The deal only improves when you add in the positive environmental benefits of a solar water heater. A typical residential solar water heater will offset greenhouse gas emissions by about 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. That’s equal to the amount of CO2 released by an average vehicle every 1,685 miles.

The first things to consider about a solar water heater are siting and sizing.

Siting your solar water heater
Solar collectors must be in full or nearly full sunlight all year, so have a solar professional assess your site to find the best location for the collector. Collectors are typically mounted on roofs, but also can be mounted on the ground near homes.

Sizing your solar water heater
Solar water heaters are rarely designed to provide 100 percent of your hot water — there are just too many cloudy days over the course of a year. Nevertheless, a typical solar water heater will provide between 50 percent and 75 percent of your annual load.

Solar hot water is a long-term solution
Solar water heat systems can last more than 40 years — just make sure the design is appropriate to your climate and the system is built with high-quality materials and workmanship. An investment in a solar hot-water system could even be considered patriotic, because solar keeps our energy dollars at home and reduces our dependency on others. You’ll pay to heat water in any case — why not choose to do it with solar energy? Your pocketbook, and the environment, will appreciate it.

Read more in Go Solar for Free Hot Water from the February/March 2007 issue of Mother Earth News.

Last Updated ( Friday, 16 February 2007 )
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