Solar-powered hot water systems generally use panels mounted on the roof to collect the heat from the sun and use it to heat your domestic hot water. Although they require substantial investment, installing a solar-powered hot water system could reduce water heating costs significantly and pay for themselves in the medium term.
WATER HEATING THROUGH SOLAR ENERGY
A solar water heater is a solar energy system that uses the sun to heat your domestic hot water. Just like a solar electric system, it uses panels to collect solar energy. However, these panels contain a water-based fluid that carries the sun’s heat down to your hot water tank.
Without mixing the fluids, the system transfers the sun’s heat into your hot water supply using a device called a heat exchanger. The cooled fluid returns to the panels to pick up more heat — and you have emission-free hot water you can use to shower, do laundry and wash your dishes.
BENEFITS OF SOLAR HOT WATER
While a solar water heater won’t directly reduce your water consumption, it does carry with it many benefits. Here are just a few:
Water heating accounts for 17 percent of a typical home’s energy use. Many homes heat water with natural gas or other fossil fuels. That’s many tons of carbon going into the atmosphere. Switching to solar hot water is a great way to reduce carbon and other greenhouse emissions and protect our climate.
Many additional homes use electricity to heat their water. Most of the electric power comes from burning coal. Particulates and other byproducts of burning coal pollute our air and contribute to a number of negative environmental and health effects. When you heat with solar hot water, you become a part of the solution to these public health problems.
Carbon and particulates aren’t the only byproducts of burning fossil fuel. It has identified that power plants are the primary source of mercury and other toxic heavy metals which released in the environment each year. These substances are a major threat to the health of our rivers, streams and lakes — and to human health as well. Solar water heating is one practical step we can take to put a stop to mercury contamination of our watersheds.
A solar water heater can provide up to 80 percent of your hot water needs, even in temperate climates. This translates to major utility bill savings, month after month. In fact, a solar hot water system typically pays for itself in just four to eight years, and can be expected to last for 40 years or more. That’s a lot of free energy, and a lot of savings.