SOLAR WATER HEATERS
Another key renewable energy unit is a Solar Water Heater. Like the other systems discussed within this website, solar water heaters can be built to work hand in hand as part of a larger home solar power system, or they can be used as a stand alone unit for simple water heating. Besides an upfront cost that is typically more expensive than you’re typical hot water heater, the long term energy savings from solar water heater far outweighs a standard system. After all, the sun is what powers these units, making them usable just about anywhere in the world.
Regardless of what area of the globe you reside, it only takes a little planning to position one of these units for a year round benefit.
SOLAR WATER HEATER TYPES
There are many types of solar water heater systems which are discussed in more detail in the solar hot water system article, but for the most part the systems are relatively similar. Regardless of the type of solar water heater, they all are designed to transfer the sun’s energy to either heat pure water, or an antifreeze type mixture within collectors. These collectors are typically mounted on the rooftop or other area of a home which receives substantial sunlight. Most systems have an electric pump that’s used to circulate the liquid throughout these collectors. This ensures a steady heating of the water throughout the day. The heated water is then stored in a water tank similar to what you’ll find with a conventional gas/electric powered water heater.
These systems are designed to work in just about any climate. Of course there is the prerequisite of adequate sunlight, but as mentioned before, the simplicity of these systems allows them to be built and installed to work just about anywhere and for any size need. Besides a proper supply of sunlight throughout the day, another factor that will affect the efficiency of the system is the temperature of the water that is coming into the system. In colder climates, insulation of the storage tank is crucial for a continuous supply of hot water. It’s also a good practice to be sure the pipes that travel from the solar water heater throughout a home are also insulated. Even though properly solar water heaters are very efficient, most state level building codes do require that the property being supplied also has a back up, conventional water heater. Keep in mind that this is only a back up and depending on the size of the solar water heater and the needs of the home or building; this unit may get very little use.
PLANNING TO CONVERT TO A SOLAR WATER HEATER?
Similar to the steps involved with moving your home over to solar (see Home Solar Power)and/or wind systems (see Homemade Wind Turbines); a good first step before investing in solar water heaters is to ensure your home is energy efficient. If you start to become conscious of energy saving practices such as lowering the temperature of your hot water to 120 vs. the typical 140 degrees Fahrenheit, this will allow you invest in a smaller, less expensive system. Follow this up with installing flow restrictors on your faucets and shower heads can also drastically reduce your need for a larger system and on a lighter note will ensure you don’t battle with the dreaded cold shower! To reiterate a point made earlier, another good energy conscious practice is to ensure the hot water pipes that travel throughout your home are properly insulated. It makes no sense to send heated water from your storage tank into an un-insulated pipe that travels down to a frigid basement sink. These simple tips can make a big difference with things. Just use common sense, after all were just talking about hot water.
For more information on Solar Water Heaters, go to the article titled Solar Hot Water Systems. This article will go into greater detail in regards to the various systems that are available and what environments and needs require them. Enjoy!