Looking for the cheapest solar water heater in town? Look up. If you can figure out a way to get the sun to heat your water faster without the need for research and development, manufacturing, transportation and advertising costs, you will become the richest person in the world. Either that or be targeted for an “accident” by the electricity and natural gas cartel.
In all seriousness, solar water heating is the oldest form of water hearing known to man. But you don’t have to rely on the inefficient means of using the sun to heat your water the way your ancient ancestors did. What you do need–or at least need to consider as your greatest necessity for achieving maximum solar heating efficiency–is a nice little side of your house facing south that is as free of shade as possible. This is where you will be installing your solar collectors. We could take a diversion here and inform you about mounting solar collectors, but it would leave precious little room to discuss the matter at hand. Suffice to say, the more you know about mounting solar collectors, the quicker you will be enjoying your solar water heater.
Can you still enjoy solar heated water in your house if you don’t have a fair amount of unobstructed southern exposure? Sure. But you will pay more for additional things like needing more expansive collecting area, protection against freezing and a boost up a notch in the quality of the components.
What else is going solar for your water heating needs going to require? A storage tank. Pipes. The control system. All those elements of solar water heating are mandatory regardless of your expectations. Then there are those components that required depending on the type of system you use. An active solar water heating system needs a heater exchanger located inside a hot water tank and a pump to get that water moving through the system. A passive system doesn’t need the pump and instead relies on the very same science of thermosiphoning that has been getting hot water delivered to your shower on a regular basis for as long as you can remember.
That’s the basics, folks. Grab your credit card and head down to the local solar water heating installation store and get ready for a pretty decent experiencing using the sun to heat your water. Or, if you prefer, you could dig a little deeper into your bank account and make your solar powered water heater a thing of majestic beauty.
You see, here’s the thing about going solar. As with income distribution, not all solar powered water heating systems are equal. And the difference here has nothing to do with choosing an active or passive system. Both active and passive systems have their pros and their cons. If you really want to put together a solar water heating system that takes every possible advantage of the mechanism, you probably should have planned well ahead. As in building your house way ahead.
Delivering hot water throughout the house is only partially about investing in high quality components, having that stretch of southern exposure unencumbered by shade trees and choosing between a pump and a thermosiphoning system. Sure, even if your floorplan of your home looks like it was designed by M.C. Escher, you can still reap the benefits. A floorplan that situates your bathroom and kitchen bumped up against each other is even better. If you can carve out somewhere inside the house that allows for the solar storage tank to be as centrally located as possible, then you’re really cooking with gas. The gas produced by the sun, that is.
The most important lesson to be learned here is that the farther apart your solar water heating components are spread from each other, the less efficient use you will get from the system. Other tips for getting the most bang from you solar water heater buck include insulating all your hot water lines and the cold water lines nearest the heater, adding an external blanket to your water heater and switching over to a low-flow shower head if the one you’ve already spritzes you with more than three gallons of water per second.