Solar hot water systems can save a lot of money and decrease a family’s environmental footprint. Deciding to install solar panels, however, is a huge undertaking. The first step of installing a solar hot water system is to evaluate one’s home’s solar resources. Is the home exposed to enough sun that installing a heater would be economical? Will daily heating needs be met by the amount of sun the panels will utilize? This can be found by either using the evaluation tools at energysavers.gov or by contacting your local solar contractor.
If the site receives enough sun to continue with the project, it must next be determined what kind of system is appropriate for the circumstances. If the system is to be installed in a warmer environment where the temperatures are rarely below freezing, direct circulation systems are best. This system pumps water through the solar collectors on the roof directly through the home, slightly increasing the efficiency but also increasing the possibility of frozen water and burst pipes. Alternatively, indirect circulation systems pump heat-transfer liquid through the solar collectors and then transfer heat into pipes in the home. This is better for colder environments where the water in a direct circulation system would freeze.
Once the type of system is determined, the rest of the parts, such as the heater and the solar collectors, must be selected. Different types of systems, such as active and passive heating systems, are better for different homes. The most important metric to keep track of when choosing parts are the system’s solar energy factor (SEF) and solar fraction (SF) The SEF is the ratio of the energy delivered by the system to the energy required to power the system. This ranges from 1.0-11, with higher numbers being ideal.
The SF is the decimal percentage of heat delivered directly by the solar panels. A rating of 0.75, for example, means that 75% of all heat in the home is delivered through the solar panels. The remaining 25% is being heated by a backup hot water heater. Other things to consider are the size of your home, total overall cost, and ease of installation.
Finally, one must consult with a solar contractor in order to obtain the parts for the home. Although it is possible to install the system individually, obtaining professional installation ensures an easy installation and lessens the probability of injury. Overall, however, the price of the professional installation will be offset by the savings obtained by using this environmentally friendly hot water system.
Shannon Marie Combs contributes articles for the Residential Solar Panels blog, her personal hobby blog centered on ideas to aid home owners find solar installers and learn how to to conserve energy with solar power.
This post was syndicated by Nathan Brown. He is the green building job recruiter for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, as well as a provider of going green ads, and info on how to build your own solar panels.