Solar Hot Water Heaters Reduce Home Energy Costs

Save on Your Home Hot Water Heating Costs by Installing a Solar Hot Water Heating System

By Mark J. Donovan

Solar hot water heating systems have come a long way since the days of large black pipes crisscrossing roofs. Today’s energy efficient solar hot water heaters consist of a couple of solar collector panels mounted on the roof that look similar to standard sky lights, and a hot water tank located in a basement, garage, or utility room. Between the solar collector panels and hot water tank a Glycol fluid, or potable water itself, runs through them to transfer the suns energy and provide hot water to your home. The temperate of the Glycol fluid based systems can reach as high as 400oF and can easily generate 120 to 160oF hot water temperatures in your home.

A back up hot water heating booster system running off of electricity or gas is also typically installed to ensure that even on cloudy days your home has plenty of hot water.

If your home faces south or southwest it’s a prime candidate for a solar hot water heater system. Even if you live in northern latitudes you can still significantly benefit from installing a solar hot water heating system. Currently there are nearly 2 million homes in the United States that are using solar hot water heaters and the rate of installations continues to grow. With 2 or 3 skylight size solar collector panels mounted on your roof, requiring less than 100 square feet of area, and an 80 or 120 gallon hot water tank located in a utility room, you can reduce your home energy costs by as much as 80%.

In addition, many states and utility companies offer rebates on the installation of a hot water heating system. As a result, the installation cost of a typical solar hot water heater system can be recouped within 3 to 7 years. In most cases, if you elect to include the cost of a solar hot water heater system in your mortgage when building a new home, the home energy cost savings are higher than the incremental increase in your monthly mortgage payments.

There are two main types of solar hot water heater systems, passive solar systems, and active solar systems. Passive solar systems utilize convection and/or heat pipes to circulate Glycol fluid or water through them to heat the potable water.

Solar Water Heating System Installation

Active solar hot water heater systems use pumps to circulate the Glycol fluid or water through the system. The passive systems cost less and are low maintenance however they are less efficient than the active systems.

Also, indirect or closed loop systems use a heat exchanger that separates the heating fluid from the potable water. Direct or open loop systems circulate the actual potable water through the solar panel collectors, and thus are less expensive to install since there is no heat exchanger.

Though some homeowners may be tempted to install a solar hot water heater system themselves, it is wise to hire a licensed and trained professional who knows exactly what they are doing. The last thing you want to do is install a solar hot water heating system on your roof and end up with roof leaks or damage to your roof. Also, the hot water tank and associated plumbing and electronics can be fairly complex to install.

Velux offers some of the latest technology in solar hot water heaters.

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Velux has had a long history of making skylights and they have gone to great lengths to introduce solar collector panels that look nearly the same as conventional window skylights.  Again, with just 2 or 3 solar collector panels from Velux you can produce all the hot water your family will ever need.

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