With fuel prices rising dramatically all over the world, many people are looking for alternative or sustainable methods of heating their homes and their water. For many, the easiest option is solar hot water system that converts sunlight into heat and transfers this heat into racks of water pipes, most often mounted on the roof of their house. These pipes feed the water into a storage tank, either actively, by pumps, or passively, by the fact that hot water rises.
Solar water heaters are suitable for all-year-round use, but obviously in some climates and at higher latitudes, the intensity and duration of sunlight isn’t enough to heat the water to the usual 50c used in a domestic setting. When there is a shortfall like this, most houses will have a back-up gas or electric water heater to bring the water up to the required temperature. This might seem disappointing, but if you only need this back-up for two or three months of the year, then the savings are well worth it.
If you’re serious about installing a solar water heater in your home, then you need to be sure that your home is suitable. You need to determine if you have a large enough roof area – that also needs to be southerly facing – to accommodate the pipes. You also need to be sure that the roof is strong enough to support the weight of the equipment and, of course, the water.
The best thing to do is to seek advice from a reputable company that installs solar hot water systems. The company can tell you if your roof is suitable, and also if you need planning permission from a local authority to put up the heater. You may also find that your local government offers subsidies and grants to help you pay for the equipment, as the initial outlay can be expensive. Most solar water heaters cost in excess of $3,000, and so it can take several years before the heater starts to pay for itself.
This is a small price to pay, however, when you think of the long term, especially as the technology behind these heaters is becoming more efficient. At present, most of the world’s solar water heaters are in countries like Greece, Spain and China, but improvements in design and conversion rates will mean that they will become equally popular in the UK, North America and Northern Europe.
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