With the ever-increasing cost of electricity, natural gas and other fuels, more and more people are taking a look at the feasibility of solar power. The cost of photovoltaic cells has come down in the last few years and their efficiency have been improving, however operating the whole house with solar power is still not an affordable option for many people. For those who are looking for a more affordable way to take advantage of free energy from the sun a solar water heater may be the way to go.
There are many benefits to heating your water with a solar system and only a few disadvantages. Let’s take a quick look at the disadvantages first… The major reason that most home-owners do not seriously consider a solar water heater is the cost. Though in China a basic solar water heater can be had for less than $200, in the U.S. the average cost to buy and install a solar water heating system is about $6000 and can quickly climb to over $10,000 for bigger or more complicated systems. The second reason that many people feel that solar water heaters may not work for them is the fact that solar energy is only being produced when there is a sufficient amount of sunlight. The thinking is “No sunlight = no power”. Many people feel that they do not get enough sun or they live in a climate that is too cold for solar energy to be an alternative for them.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of a solar system and how they effect what most people feel are the disadvantages of a solar system.
1) Many municipalities, states and utility companies are currently offering rebates and tax breaks to people who install solar systems to their homes or businesses. Many times this can cut the cost of the systems substantially, sometimes as much as 40% – 50%.
2) An efficient solar water heater can provide up to 85% of the Studies have shown that even in the northern parts of the U.S. most locales get more than enough sunlight to heat water to above 115 degrees Fahrenheit even on an overcast afternoon. If you are not sure that you will have an adequate amount of hot water from your solar system, it is advisable to install a regular water heater as a backup. In that case, an in-line water heater is the most energy efficient because it only heats the water as it is used and does not have to “hold” the water at a high temperature when it is not in use.
3) With as much as 20% of the energy used in most homes being used to keep water hot, the pay-off on a solar water heater will be faster as the costs of electricity and other fuels continue to rise.
4) Whether we want to admit it or not, this beautiful planet that we live on has a limited number of resources. If we can transfer some of our dependence from these dwindling resources to the limitless energy available from the sun, the oil and gas may still be around for our children and grandchildren.
5) Solar energy is CLEAN energy, unlike any of the fossil fuels and it does not produce the deadly “left-overs” that nuclear power does.
It is obvious that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to a solar water heater. Whether you decide to d-i-y or have someone install a ready-built system, you should see an immediate reduction in your monthly energy bills. You’ll also have that “warm fuzzy” feeling that comes from knowing that you’re doing your part to conserve a portion of the earth’s limited and valuable resources for your children and grandchildren. And who knows…you may save enough on your hot water bill to buy a few solar panels to keep that water heater company on the roof.