Progress with green energy is as controversial as ever, but one thing no one can deny – it’s getting more and more efficient, and more and more affordable with each passing year.
Solar energy still has its drawbacks, when you look at it as the main source of the household energy supplier, but no one said you have to start at 100%. It might be more effective for a homeowner to start with small steps. One of these steps is implementing the technology of a solar water heater.
How Do Solar Water Heaters Work?
Solar water heating is a system that directly heats the water that gets pumped into your home. There are two main types of solar water heating systems – active and passive. Both can be dependent on the climate, so it is still recommended to give them a try during the warmer months of the year.
Active systems use pumps to circulate water through a series of pipes located in the solar panels. Passive systems use a storage tank and a solar collection tank, where hot water can be stored for later use.
The Two Types of Solar Water Heaters
- Active (direct circulation systems) – Automatic controllers sense when sunlight is being collected. It’s best suited for areas where temperatures don’t fall below zero.
- Active (indirect circulation systems) – This one functions in temperatures below zero. It can also be used for solar heating applications other than the pipes for hot water, such as heating a swimming pool. It’s also more expensive.
- Passive (integral collector-storage passive systems) – Because of the storage tank, it’s best suited for households with significant hot-water needs. Suited for areas where temperatures don’t fall below zero.
- Passive (thermosyphon systems) – The most reliable system. Works for people with strong hot-water needs and can work in areas where temperatures fall below zero. It’s also the most expensive one of all.
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Pros of Solar Water Heaters
- Clean and efficient water heating. As you know solar energy is free and abundant, not to mention it has no carbon footprint. If you want to get away from gas and hydropower, solar water heating is an excellent option, especially if you live in an area that receives a lot of sunshine, as approximately 80% of the radiation is turned into heat energy.
- Returning investment. Although solar power requires an initial investment to install, it replaces the energy you would otherwise be purchased from the power company. Depending on your location, the investment will eventually pay for itself in electricity savings. It’s estimated that with a solar water heating system, your water heating bill would be able to drop up to 80%.
- Easy to maintain. The solar water heating system does not require much maintenance. All you need to do is circulate a water softener in the pipes every 3 years.
- Quiet. There are few moving parts, but in general, the system does not produce much noise.
- Non-intrusive. Unlike other solar technology that required the installation of up to 16 solar panels, the solar water heater needs two or three. You’ll need some extra space for the storage tank if you’re using the passive method, but other than that it doesn’t take up much space.
- Renewable heat incentive. Domestic and commercial properties are entitled to claim the renewable heat incentive. This means that you will be paid for generating your own heat energy regardless of whether you use it all. There’s a user-friendly calculator available which tells you how much you can earn through this scheme. It can be hundreds of pounds a year.
Cons of Solar Water Heaters
- Financial costs. Unfortunately, purchasing and installing the system is still a serious investment, and it would take up to a few years before you start noticing a financial benefit.
- Depends on the climate. Like all solar energy, its effectiveness and output is highly dependent on the hours of sunshine your area gets during the day.
- Only heats water. This system cannot be used to power other electrical devices other than heating the water.
Important Things to Consider about Solar Water Heaters
Installation of the storage tank
We so far made it obvious that a passive type of solar water heaters is more effective, so if you’re considering going (slightly) green, you might be looking at it. But, the installation of the storage tank would be your biggest challenge.
Depending on the size of your household, you need an accordingly sized tank. It’s estimated that you would need an approximate two square meters of area for the first two family members and 1.5 square meters for each additional person. This way you calculate the area needed to place the storage tank.
Domestic water that is high in mineral content can cause scaling of mineral deposits, which is why it should be softened in certain periods of time. Also, there should be taken measures to prevent corrosion, by using a copper, bronze, brass, stainless steel, plastic, or rubber components.
Are Solar Water Heaters Worth It?
As you’ve seen, there are lots of pros and cons and other additional things to think about with the solar water heater systems. For those who are interested in long-term investment and living in areas with good sunshine, it might be the best decision they’ve made in their lives.
For others, not so much. We at Fantastic Handyman know one thing – in order to make the transition from burning fossil fuels for energy, to the renewable green energy options, we have to start somewhere. And, the more we show interest in them, the faster the progress will be.
We only have one planet and we should know how to treat it well, so it can treat us better. Everyone should do their fair share of healthy eco-friendly living.