Solar energy is coming more and more into focus these days, as the cost of utilities continue to sky rocket. One of the best ways to save money and make your house more energy efficient is to replace or subsidize your hot water heater with a solar system. Can you do this yourself as a do it yourself project or should you have a contractor do it for you? Follow this series of articles on choosing and installing your own solar hot water system to figure out what is right for you and your home.
First let’s take a look at how solar hot water heaters generally work and how a basic system is constructed. The basic solar hot water heating system consists of two main components, a storage tank, and a solar collector system. From here there are many different options for building your system depending where you live, and if you’re going to depend fully on solar energy, or plan to use your old hot water heating system as a backup. For the most part the sun’s energy heats the water via a series of pipes and then stores it in a well insulated tank until needed. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?
Solar hot water systems are divided into two main categories, active systems which use a series of pumps and controls, to control the flow of water or heating solution, and passive which rely more on gravity and thermal action. While each of these systems is distinctly different from each other, they both achieve similar results, using the sun to heat your water.
There are many factors that need to be considered before you choose a solar heating system for your home. Some of them will include where you live, what the laws, building codes and regulations are, and how your house is built. Where you live determines the amount of sunshine you get in an average year as well as the freeze risk, some systems simply will not work in an area where there is any risk of freezing. Many local municipalities, homeowners associations and building codes do not allow for outside modifications to your home. Always check with your local authorities before beginning any construction project and obtain the necessary permits, this will save you a lot of grief in the end.
How your house is built is another prime consideration, the structure of the roof has to be strong enough to support the weight of the system that you have chosen to install. Some of the systems require a holding tank to be mounted on the roof for optimum performance, while all of them require some form of collector system to be installed on the roof. However an active system can be installed on the ground if space permits since it uses a pump to create flow instead of relying on gravity
The next thing to consider is where you plan on setting up your solar collector, in other words is your site solar friendly. You do not have to live in an area that gets seemingly endless sunshine to reap the benefits of solar energy. For this particular purpose good southern exposure is the most important factor. You can contact your local solar heating supplier for help with choosing the location for your collector, even if you plan on installing yourself.
With this in mind our next article will cover more information about the several different types of solar hot water systems and how they work. I hope this has given you an idea of what solar hot waters heaters are, and that you will continue reading as we cover more about them, and how to install your own system.
Sources: eere.energy.gov, www.motherearthnews.com