How solar water heaters work: the sun’s energy is used to heat water either directly or indirectly. When heating indirectly, a fluid (such as antifreeze) is heated by the sun, which then heats the water through a heat exchanger. This solar-heated water is stored for use as needed.
Solar hot water systems offer homeowners a host of attractive advantages:
They’re nonpolluting—Fueled by the sun, solar hot water systems don’t emit greenhouse gasses; therefore they don’t contribute to global warming.
They’re energy saving—Solar water heating systems can decrease the amount of electricity to heat water by 80 percent. (U.S. Dept. of Energy)
They’re money saving—On average, homeowners spend about 25 percent of home energy costs on heating water (U.S. Dept. of Energy). Solar water heaters use free solar energy and can save hundreds of dollars per year. It’s estimated that solar hot water systems pay for themselves in four to eight years.
Sure, it’s cloudy in the White Mountains (that is how they turn white!), but we’re not worried. Our system will be mounted on our south-facing roof, and even on the grayest days, the sun can provide at least 50 to 60 percent of a household’s annual water heating. (Solar water heating systems installed in San Francisco can produce enough energy to provide about 50 to 80 percent of a typical household’s annual water heating needs.)
During extended cloudy days, and during the coldest winter months, we will have a backup conventional electric hot water heater that will kick on.
All Energy-Star solar water heaters qualify for the government tax credit. As stated on the Energy Star website:
We are buying an Enerworks (Canadian) solar hot water system.
Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, with no upper limit through 2016 (for existing homes & new construction) for: solar water heaters