Your hot water heater is one of your most energy-consuming appliances. The first step in using solar energy, for many people, is installing a solar hot water heater. It will definitely cut your electric bill, and pay for itself in 2 to 4 years. If you are interested in trying solar and want to install a solar hot water heater, the following tips can help you on your way.
The panels used for solar hot water are different than the photovoltaic panels used to generate electricity for a home. These are heat transfer panels. This is how they work. Water is piped up to them on the roof. There the sun’s rays heat the hot water, which is then made available for your use, whether for showers or dishwashers or handwashing. These panels are efficient and reliable.
However, some people want their water heated to a higher temperature than the solar panels produce, or they use more hot water than they produce. If this is the case, the extra work can be done by electric or gas heat. But for many people, the solar hot water heater produces adequate hot water. There is the added advantage that it makes hot water available even when there is a power outage on the grid.
You need far less roof space for the hot water panels than for PV panels, so almost anyone can find a sunny place on their roof to install these heat transfer panels.
Likewise, it is less important to be in a sunny climate because you need far fewer “solar hours” to produce hot water than to produce electricity for your whole house. Solar hot water heaters have been used satisfactorily in almost every region.
How many heat transfer panels you will need to install depends on your hot water usage. If you have a 30 gallon tank now, you will need less than if you have a large tank. A professional can help you estimate the square footage of panels you will need.
The panels should be placed where there is the most sun exposure but also as close as possible to your hot water tank. The longer the pipes, the more heat is lost–especially in winter.
A solar hot water heater can be used independently of any other solar installation. But once you experience the cost savings from solar hot water, you may want to try using solar energy for other needs. You needn’t jump to using solar energy entirely. There are other partial steps you can take.
You can use photovoltaic panels to run your refrigerator or freezer. Besides the cost savings, you will have the security of power even during a grid outage. This can save you a lot by keeping your food from spoiling during an outage. There are other solar products for limited use. One can heat your swimming pool. Solar lights can be used outdoors to light your deck or garden. You can check out what is available by visiting online sites that sell solar equipment.
As you can see, you can start small with solar power and still gain cost advantages. Every time you replace power from the electric grid with solar-generated power, it reduces the burning of fossil fuels and counters global warming.