When considering what’s the greenest way to power your shower there are exciting new developments happening in the world of solar water heaters. Cutting your carbon footprint and your utility bills are two sure reasons why you might want to splash out. But how much is a solar water heaters?
Why using Solar Water Heaters?
One of the most practical ways to cut down on energy consumption is by installing a Solar Water Heater. Harnessing the sun’s energy and generating hot water is a cost-effective, guilt free way to go green. Originating in Israel in the 1950s, where the government enforced a ban on the heating of water between 10pm and 6am, due to an energy shortage, Solar Water Heaters are now gaining popularity across the world.
Innovation in the design of the heaters means that now the pallid skies of urban China and Japan can successfully heat domestic water tanks. It is said that approximately 30 million Chinese homes are utilising the sun’s rays to heat their water. In southern regions of Africa, solar water heaters are taking a foothold in the market thanks to EU funded projects that are promoting the environmental benefits of the switch to solar heating.
Positive news is coming in the form of governmental action across Europe, with regard to the switch to solar energy. In 2005, Spain became the first country in the world to require the installation of photovoltaic electricity generation in newly built buildings, and the second (after Israel) to require the installation of solar hot water systems. It alone is not enough to stop the icebergs melting, but it’s a step in the right direction in the reversal of the affects of global warming.
Now in many different climates, solar heating can provide a staggering 85% of hot water for homes around the world. In the UK and northern Europe, many solar ‘combisystems’ are used to provide 15 to 25% of home water heating. As sunshine is the ultimate democratic international currency, the only question is why not?
How do solar water heaters work?
Like any solar heating mechanism, there are active and passive types, the difference being active solar water heaters have circulating pumps and controls, whereas passive heaters don’t. Active solar water heaters work on the principal that water is pumped through evacuated tubes, behind a solar plate, usually placed on the roof of the house. The water is heated to a high temperature as it is passed through the tubes (due to the insulating nature of the vacuum the water can reach higher temperatures). Passive solar water heating systems are rarer, and like any solar heating system, consist of an architecturally designed system, that works in tandem with the microclimate of the site and takes into consideration the orientation of the building. Hiring an experienced eco-savvy architect for this would be best to equip your house with passive solar water heating.
Residential active solar water heating systems can be subdivided into two kinds of systems: compact and pumped systems. If in times of low sun, when the temperature of the water falls below a minimum heat level of 50 degrees, the water is usually heated by a supplementary auxiliary heating system (electrical, gas or oil). However, it doesn’t necessitate the need for a carbon fuel, as a wood stove chimney or wood pellet system can be used as an auxiliary heating mechanism too. Paradoxically, the mechanisms that pump the water through these tubes require energy to run, which is often electrical. However, recent innovations in solar technology mean that these pumps and control systems can be powered by their own separate photovoltaic panels. The ultimate in green energy design!
How much do solar water heaters cost?
As well as cutting energy consumption, another reason to install a solar water heater is cost. The financial savings on conventional gas / electrical / oil heating systems are enormous. Depending on the type of system installed, the price of the system will generally be recouped within 7 years. Although they are reasonably expensive to install, costing from £3,000 at the lower end to £6,000 for a top range system, they do recoup money by displacing fossil fuel energy costs.
For example, a switch to a solar water heating system will save you £65 a year on gas consumption and £95 a year on electricity. Also, the solar water heater market hasn’t ignored the global recession, and has adapted to the spirit that has boomed over the past year, with solar water heater kits now widely available. Along with recession-busting bright ideas ranging from budget cookery books, to organic waste compost kits and miniature vertical garden kits (for just £20!), the solar option is fast gaining a market foothold. They are easy to install, and the installation costs could be minimal. In particular the new freeze tolerant, zero-carbon PV pumped systems, are becoming common in parts of the UK and northern Europe, since their simplicity enables them to be plumbed quickly and safely without the need of a mains electrician.
Do not forget to read our free guide on best and cheapest solar panel prices in the UK.