Having a hot water heater in your home that is efficient, in good repair and is less likely to break down or leak (and as water damage restoration experts we have seen a lot of leaking boiler disasters) If the hot water heater in your home is getting on in age in the long term (and for the safety of your home and your family) it really is best to consider replacing it. But before you do you may want to explore a newer option that is available to you. .
Heating the hot water you need for use in your home can be a rather expensive business, as well as not particularly eco friendly. One alternative that some people are turning to to help cut costs and go green is a solar water heater. And although it may surprise you they can be used in any climate year round – they are not just a solution for those living in warmer places.
How a Solar Water Heater Works
A solar water heater has to do three things before hot water generated from it actually flows out of the faucets in your home or supplies appliances like a washer or a dishwasher. This process breaks down as follows:
Energy Collection – The first step in the process is the actual collection of energy from the sun. In the case of a standard residential solar water heater a collection plate is usually mounted somewhere on the south facing side of your home. As the sun shines and hits the collection plate’s glass it strikes either a rubber of metal absorbing layer. This material then converts the sun’s rays into long wave heat while also preventing the energy from escaping again. The effect inside is a bit like the one you get if you leave your car sitting in the sun all day with the windows rolled up – very hot. In fact the basic temperature in the collector can be up to 300F!
Energy Transfer – Once the energy has been collected it has to be put to work by transferring it from the solar water heater collection plate to the solar water heater’s tank. In most solar water heater models this is achieved by using a hot fluid that is pumped from the collector to the water tank. The pump itself does use a certain amount of electricity, usually provided from a standard electrical wall outlet although to go even greener a photo-valvic cell mounted near the tank can be used instead.
Storage – Once it is heated the water is stored inside the well insulated tank until it is needed. There is a certain amount of residual heat loss at this point but it tends to be very minimal. When a faucet is turned on the hot water is drawn up out of the tank and cold “make up” water flows in behind it.
The Downside of Solar Water Heaters
Energy savings and eco friendliness are the big upsides of a solar water heater but like almost any other appliance they do have their downsides as well. Since the sun only shines a certain number of hours a day a solar water tank usually needs to be larger than a conventional one in order to supply the home with enough hot water to see it through the day. Still occasionally this leads to a lack of hot water in the later evening or early morning hours and some homeowners do maintain a smaller backup source of hot water to be used in emergencies to avoid this. But, this kind of system is still well worth considering before you opt for a more traditional energy guzzler!