Solar energy can be used for more than just generating electricity. More homeowners are discovering how solar energy can be captured to do what it does best and that is heat water.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in many cases, all it takes to offset two-thirds of your hot water bill is a couple of panels resembling skylights, an 80-gallon water storage tank and some shade-free southern rooftop exposure. Costs range from about $2,000 to $10,000, sums that can be halved thanks to hefty new federal and state incentives. Just last week, California launched a cash-rebate program that will average $1,500 for residents to install solar water heaters at home.
Water-heating is the third-largest energy expense in most households, after space heating and air-conditioning, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This year, Hawaii began mandating solar water heaters in most new homes, and cold-weather locales such as New York and Colorado are among the state leaders in installations.
Will it work in your house? As a rule of thumb, you need a portion of southern-facing roof or other spot on the property with minimal shading from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Two to three collectors (i.e. panels) typically suffice for most single-family homes. Your installer should use a tool, such as the Solar Pathfinder, to measure the amount of daily energy your collectors will get from the sun year-round.