Florida is nicknamed the “Sunshine State,” and sun is one thing we have plenty of! How about putting those solar rays to work for your Florida home in the form of renewable energy? Solar water heating is one way homeowners can begin to embrace the sun’s rays for clean energy that’s abundantly available right outside your home.
What Is Solar Water Heating?
Solar water heating systems use the heat from the sun to warm up water for home use. Unlike other solar systems which require special cells to convert the solar energy into electricity, most solar water heating systems don’t require a conversion to electricity in order for it to work. Instead of using the expensive conversion cells, these systems utilize solar collectors, which collect the heat and use it directly with no conversion.
How Does it Work?
There are two different types of solar water heaters: active systems and passive systems. The active system requires moving parts such as pumps and system controls, while passive systems don’t. Both will require a well-insulated storage tank for the hot water.
Some systems have two storage tanks, one of which is for the solar heating to preheat the water before it enters conventional water heater tank, reducing the amount of energy required to heat the water to the desired temperature in the conventional unit. Other systems have only one tank, combining both of these functions into one.
Your water heating unit will also require a solar collector. There are three basic types of solar collectors: flat plates, evacuated-tube or integral collector storage systems. These collectors will capture the heat for your unit and transfer it to the water storage tank which then heats the water.
Advantages to Solar Water Heating
There are many advantages to switching to this type of water heating for your home. These include, but are not limited to:
- Utilizing more “clean” renewable energy – Heating your water with solar is not only a great way to utilize more clean, renewable energy, but it’s also a way to harness free energy. Outside of your initial installation cost and any maintenance required, there’s no utility charge for solar energy you harvest yourself. The sun doesn’t have an energy meter attached!
- Reduces your consumption and dependence on fossil fuels – If you’re looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint while also reducing your consumption of fossil fuels, this type of water heater may be right for you.
- Cost effective – In Florida, we have the gift of sunshine. Because we have a higher insolation value, this type of water heating can be very cost effective.
- Tax credits – There are often tax credits available to consumers who purchase this type of water heater system. Check on the availability of tax credits and other incentives in your area.
- Relatively quick return on your investment – Unlike many other solar systems, solar water heating systems tend to have a relatively quick return on your initial investment. You’ll usually recover your additional costs within 5 to 10 years, depending on the area. As an added bonus, these systems require little maintenance.
There are some disadvantages to using solar to heat your water, such as:
- Relatively high upfront costs – Usually these systems have a relatively high upfront cost, which may be prohibitive to many people. Though you will have a return on your investment, not everyone is able to wait for such return.
- May still require backup – Even in sunny Florida, you may find that you require an electric or gas back up water heater for higher peak efficiency and for the colder times of the year.
- Low efficiency – Passive systems, in particular, are low efficiency, and this can cause issues in households with high demands for hot water.
- Must have excellent insulation – In order to keep your hot water hot, these types of systems require excellent insulation on the storage tanks.
If you need help determining if solar water heating is right for you and your family, contact our professionals at Aqua Plumbing & Air. We’ve been serving the Sarasota area since 1974.
Written by John Miller