Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heating is one of the most innovative ways of saving energy while meeting the needs of consumers all around the world. Widely used in locations like Greece, Turkey, Israel, Australia, Japan, Austria and China. The first records of this innovative technology in the USA was before the 1900s, compromising of a black painted tank on top of roofs. Renewable energy is one of the most sought after solutions for environmental preservation, giving you the chance to enjoy continual hot water all year round without leaving harmful carbon footprints behind. Solar water heaters use the natural power of the sun to collect heat that warms working fluids that is pumped through it. The hot water is then stored in a tank for use. Residential water heaters come in two different groups. They come in compact or active (sometimes called pumped) systems. Both of these systems often engage an electric heating element already within the home or a gas heating system that is activated when the water within the storage tank falls below a certain degree determined as being too cold. This degree is often put at or around 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius. The tank is not open to atmospheric pressure, thus rendering it unaffected by the cold; which prevents the pipes from freezing. The use of back up power such as electricity in cases of minimum sunlight in wintery climates allows the user to always have hot water, even if there is a particularly cloudy or snowy day.

Solar washing and bathing is one of the most common uses of hot solar water because the thank is then full at night when the primary need of hot water is at it’s highest and the water is readily available. In most residential cases solar power can provide up to 85% of domestic hot water energy. The amount of solar power that can be used to heat residential water is directly related to how much sun the location of the residence receives on average. For example, a home in an area that is continually sunny like Arizona may receive more energy than a place located with a larger array of weather that is apt to continual change or heavy winters such as Utah. Even locations that don’t see a lot of sun have benefited from the ingenious technology that is solar power. Solar water heating provides continual hot water to homes through simplistic yet advanced technology, keeping consumers warm around the world!

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.

Surprising as it may seem, analysts believe that the annual total CO2 produced by residential water heaters throughout North America is roughly equal to that produced by all of the cars and light trucks driving around the continent. Another way of looking at it is: If half of all households used solar water heaters, the reduction in CO2 emissions would be the same as doubling the fuel-efficiency of all cars.

And that might not be such a tall order. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), there are 1.5 million solar water heaters already in use in U.S. homes and businesses. Systems can work in any climate and EESI estimates that 40 percent of all U.S. homeshave sufficient access to sunlight such that 29 million additional solar heaters could be installed right now.

Another great reason to make the switch is a financial one. According to the EESI, residential solar water heating systems cost between $1,500 and $3,500 compared to $150 to $450 for electric and gas heaters. With savings in electricity or natural gas, solar water heaters pay for themselves within four to eight years. They last between 15 and 40 years--the same as conventional systems--so after that initial payback period is up, zero energy cost essentially means having free hot water for years to come.

What's more, in 2005 the U.S. began offering homeowners tax credits of up to 30 percent (capped at $2,000) of the cost of installing a solar water heater. The credit is not available for swimming pool or hot tub heaters, and the system must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's "Consumer's Guide to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency," zoning and building codes relating to the installation of solar water heaters usually reside at the local level, so consumers should be sure to research the standards for their own communities and hire a certified installer familiar with local requirements. Homeowners beware: Most municipalities require a building permit for the installation of a solar hot water heater onto an existing house.

For Canadians looking to get into solar water heating, the Canadian Solar Industries Association maintains a list of certified solar water heater installers, and Natural Resources Canada makes its informative booklet "Solar Water Heating Systems: A Buyer's Guide" available as a free download on their website.

EarthTalk: Solar Hot Water Heaters
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.

Selecting a solar water heater
Solar water heaters will pay for themselves with saved electricity in a matter of months. If you use hot water, they are definitely worth buying.

Solar hot water system
Simply using a solar hot water system just to heat showers or to wash the dishes will still provide noteworthy savings.

Shenzhen Warms to Solar Power
More construction projects in the southern city will use solar power to supply hot water and generate electricity by 2010, according to the local construction authority.