It is a simple enough question. Can solar water heaters save money over traditional gas or electric water heaters? The answer is yes. But odds are if you are reading this you are not just looking for a simple answer. You want rationale. Let’s take a look.
Easy and Quick vs The Best Longer Term Decision
If you are considering the purchase of a new water heater, odds are there has been a problem with your old one.
With that thought in mind, let’s be upfront. It will be cheaper and easier to replace your water heater with a similar model to what you previously had. At least for today. The reasons are easy to understand. You currently have the wiring, ventilation and plumbing in place to just change it out. Find a similarly sized water heater and you can replace it relatively cheaply and quickly. But is it your best long term move?
You can choose a traditional storage tank gas water heater that heats water pretty quickly, but it may not be energy efficient. It also will not likely last as long as a solar water heater. If you currently have a gas water, it is easy to replace, but wouldn’t you rather improve than just replace?
A traditional storage tank electric heater takes longer to heat water, and other than better insulation these days, they are pretty much the same technology that has been used for years.
That leads us to tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters were touted as being a way in which users could save energy. The think was they would only use the energy absolutely needed to heat the water they needed right now. The problem is, it takes more energy overall to keep heating the same amount of water as your traditional tank heaters. If you are going tankless throughout your whole house, it will not only be energy inefficient, but if you have a large family it may have trouble keeping up.
In moderate climates like the Mid-West, a heat-pump water heater could be a viable option. A heat pump water heater uses the heat in the air to directly heat your water. It does this rather than converting it into heat through a heating element. These types of water heaters are expensive to buy and install, but can significantly save you long term on your water heating costs.
When it comes to solar powered water heaters, other than an initially higher cost of purchase and installation, there are few downsides. You will, after all, be using the free energy of the sun to heat your water, which can account for upwards of 15% of your total energy bill. When it comes to solar water heater systems, you have several choices. Your decision may be based on usage and where you live. The U.S. Department of Energy has an easy to read and understand explanation and graphics that detail your choices.
You should take into consideration that many custom built homes today employ the use of solar water heating systems. That is a pretty valuable indicator of the trends that lie ahead.
+Ken Uhrich likes energy efficient houses. In fact he lives in one. You can contact him at the Custom Home Group website