SOLAR WATER HEATER: SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?
SEP 27, 2016
Just about every house in America has a water heater of some kind. Traditional water heaters use electric or gas energy to heat the water and pump it throughout your home. Other water heaters find creative sources of heat like outside air or the sun. Solar water heaters are one of these creative solutions that may help you save on your energy costs.
WHAT IS A SOLAR WATER HEATER?
Solar water heaters use energy from the sun to heat water or help heat water. They can be a great investment because they offer a virtually cost-free and renewable energy source for one of your home’s top energy users. That’s right, water heaters “account for nearly 17 percent of a home’s energy use, consuming more energy than all other household appliances combined,” according to Energy.gov. So, it’s worth it for homeowners to explore the possibilities of a solar water heater in effort to save your hard-earned dollars.
TYPES OF SOLAR WATER HEATER
There are two basic solar water heater configurations with various adjustments made to each. A single tank solar water heater and a two-tank solar water heater.
Single-tank solar systems combine the solar storage tank with the conventional electric water heating tank in a single tank. It is composed of a solar thermal collector attached to a south-facing sloped roof or wall, a well-insulated storage tank, and a fluid system that connects the two. The solar portion is on the bottom and the electric portion is on the top. This is also known as an active heating system.
A two-tank system circulates water through water collectors allowing the solar power to heater a specific container. The water is the pushed back into a separate tank that “preheats” the conventional water heater. This is also known as a passive heating system.
SOLAR WATER HEATER BENEFITS
Tax credits given in the early 1970’s made it desirable for families to invest in solar water heaters, but interest waned as both purchase and installation costs were high. New advances in technologies, as well as manufacturing capabilities, have made solar water heaters not only more efficient but more cost effective as well. The initial cost of a solar water heater is higher than a conventional water heat, yet the investment can save you 50–75% of your water heating energy over the long term in most climates, according to Energy.gov.
Additionally, the Energy Star program reports they same stating that “a solar water heater can lower the average household’s water heating costs by 50%. For the typical family spending $317 per year to heat water, that translates to savings of about $160 per year.”
Of course, savings depend on the number of persons relying on the unit, how much water is used, the amount of sun you get, and the performance of your solar water heater, but the benefits don’t stop with saving money.
Just as in the early 1970’s, a federal energy tax credit is available through the end of 2016. This tax credit allows homeowners to shave 30% off the cost of a solar water heater for current homes, new builds, and even second homes. There are a few caveats, so be sure to ask your installation provider about eligible units. First, the system must generate at least half of its energy from the sun, and the solar water heaters must be certified by the Solar Rating & Certification Corp. Installation costs count toward the credit too!
It is common knowledge that most of our energy comes from burning fossil fuels. And seventh-grade science teaches us that this leads to a wide array of environmental problems, including human-caused climate change, acid rain, mountaintop removal for coal and tar sands, and health effects around power plants. So, for those interested in saving the planet, you’ll find solar water heaters a great option.
According to mechanical engineers at the University of Wisconsin’s Solar Energy Laboratory, “an average four-person household with an electric water heater needs about 6,400-kilowatt hours of electricity per year to heat their water. Assuming the electricity is generated by a typical power plant with an efficiency of around 30 percent, it means that the average electric water heater is responsible for about eight tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, which is almost double that emitted by a typical modern automobile. The same family of four using either a natural gas or oil-fired water heater will contribute about two tons of CO2 emissions annually in heating their water”.
IS A SOLAR WATER HEATER RIGHT FOR YOUR HOUSE?
It can be a little tricky to determine if upgrading to a solar water heater is right for you and your family. A trained technician should examine your house to see if it gets enough sun to make the investment reasonable. They should also look at your current water usage, your current water heating systems to determine how much life your conventional unit has left. If you’re still looking at 6 years left on your unit, then consider waiting 5 years before switching to the solar water heater.
If possible, replace your existing water heater before it fails. Most water heaters have a lifespan of 10–15 years, but you can replace it before it dies. A unit that is in bad shape can start leaking or the burner can go out. Either will leave you with cold water, which is not the way to want to be greeted on a cool winter morning. Make sure you find a qualified installer who can properly design and size the backup water heating system, such at the experts at Donley Service Center.Call us today for service you can trust.