Most homeowners understand the two key benefits to having solar panels installed on their roofs: they save money by harnessing free energy and they reduce environmental impact by generating power with zero harmful emissions. While most residential solar panels are connected to the electrical grid or to home batteries, others are integrated directly into appliances like solar water heaters.
Solar water heaters aren’t a perfect fit for every home or climate, but most North American homes can benefit from this technology. And according to the Department of Energy, the energy savings provided by solar water heaters ranges from 50 to 80 percent of a household’s water heater budget.
Furthermore, because these appliances use a completely free fuel source, they insulate homeowners from price fluctuations in the traditional energy market. Read on to learn more about this technology and get a better idea of how your home might benefit from a solar water heater upgrade.
The Right Fit for Your Home
Solar water heater technology is constantly improving, so if you’re planning to upgrade a few years down the road, expect the available features to change before you’re ready to make a final purchase decision. Choosing a solar water heater is also more complicated than choosing a conventional model, so it’s helpful to enlist the expertise of a plumbing professional early in the process.
Most models are designed to be installed on the roof, which helps maximize sun exposure. But this typically includes the water tank, making the total weight of the components rather heavy. Not all roofs are built to withstand this weight, and the cost of reinforcing your roof could negate much of the savings potential of a solar water heater upgrade.
In this case, there are some models designed for ground-level installation, but sun exposure is even more important with these configurations. You might need to remove trees or bushes to ensure that your water heater can collect all the sunlight it needs.
Another big decision is between active and passive systems. Active systems have their own recirculating pumps which make them more efficient and capable of delivering hot water faster. The tradeoff is that these systems have a higher initial purchase price and tend to require more maintenance. Passive systems will have slightly higher operating costs on average, but are cheaper upfront and may last longer.
Some homeowners will consider this upgrade for the environmental benefits alone, but the savings sure don’t hurt. And in addition to the monthly savings in your energy bills, a solar water heater is also a great way to boost your home’s resale value.
But to maximize your return on investment, you should look into all of the rebates and tax credits available to homeowners who purchase these systems. A federal solar tax credit covering residential solar water heaters has been extended through 2021, so start planning now if you want to take full advantage. The credit is 30 percent of the system cost through 2019, with reductions to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021.
There may also be product rebates on various models or special offers through your local energy utilities, so use the ENERGY STAR rebate finder to see what’s available before making a purchase.
And when you’re ready to assess your home for solar water heater installation, reach out to your local plumbing pros!