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How Solar Water Heaters Work to Save You Money

Aug 21, 2008
Like the name implies, solar water heaters use energy from the sun to heat water. Initially, the cost of a solar water heater is high, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long term. In this article, we'll discuss the costs associated with solar water heaters, how they work and how to install them.

While solar water heaters are no longer supported by tax credits, they have become considerably more reliable, less expensive and more efficient than the popular models of the 70s and 80s.

For example, a moderate climate system that's capable of heating water for an entire household can be installed for anywhere from $2000-5000, making solar water heaters very competitive when compared to traditional electric and gas heaters.

What's the Annual Tab?

Typically, a solar water heating system has an annual operating cost of only about $50. Meanwhile, a traditional gas or electric water heater will cost you $500 and more - especially those that heat up the water all night while everyone sleeps.

Essentially, solar water heaters work by serving as a preheater for a conventional storage or on-demand water heater. They even work well with on-demand water heaters that have temperature adjustability.

Because the solar system preheats the water, the extra temperature boost required by the on-demand heater is low and people who use them can get a high flow rate and lots of monthly savings.

Installation Considerations

Those of you thinking of installing a solar water heater will have at an advantage if you have a south-sloping roof. This will make installation easier and your heater will run more efficiently. Most cold-climate families use solar as a three-season system and then fall back on a traditional water heater during the dark winter months.

Before installing a solar water heating system, always look for a qualified installer and dealer who can design and size your backup system. Ask about their certifications, and request referrals from past customers. This will be a fairly expensive job, so you don't want to be shy about insisting upon an experienced installer with positive customer feedback.

Thinking Ahead

You should also start planning now. Like most people, we don't think about replacing our water heating system until it actually fails and hot water becomes unavailable for several hours. In fact, depending on the design of your home water pipes, the main water valve to the entire house may need to be shut off until the water heater is replaced.

Then in those unplanned emergency situations, we wind up rushing out and putting in whatever system we can get. Instead, take the time to research different solar options, find the system that fits your energy needs and plan ahead to replace your existing water heater before it fails.

Remember, most water heaters have a lifespan of about 10-15 years, so be prepared. The energy savings alone could pay for that new solar water heater by the time the year is up, and you'll be happier knowing you're polluting the earth just a little bit less.
About the Author
For information on practical home energy savings ideas, please visit www.energysavingsoptions.com, a popular site providing great insights concerning energy cost cutting measures, such as garage door insulation , the helpful portable furnace , a Trane furnace , and many more!
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