Solar Water Heaters
Until now, we have only discussed water heaters that rely on an energy source that is generated by a fossil fuel. For homeowners that want to not rely on the burning of fossil fuels to create hot water, a solar water heater is solution.
Though the equipment will cost more than a traditional water heater, it will be extremely energy efficient in the long run. An energy backup system can be used so one is not completely reliant on if the sun is shining when hot water is needed.
Solar water heaters are either called a passive or an active system. Below is the difference between the two. We will not go into the more technical details here on how either types works to keep it simple to understand.
A direct circulation or indirect circulation method is used for active solar units. With a direct style, a pump moves water through a solar collector to heat the water and then into back into the home to be used. For homeowners that live in warm climates this could be the style used. For those in climates where it does go below freezing temperatures, an indirect circulation system will need to be used. With this, a non-freezing fluid is circulated through the solar collectors and then a heat exchanger, instead of water. This fluid passes the heat it creates to water in the heat exchanger.
A passive solar system cost less in equipment and installation, but are not as energy efficient as an active system; even with typically lasting longer. There are two styles of these as well, thermosyphon and integral collector-storage. In the former, water flows through the system with the same principle that warm water rises and cool water descends. They are reliable but whomever is installating the system needs to mindful of the design of ones roof and weight the roof can withstand due to it using a heavy water storage tank.
Advantages to using solar water heating is that energy from the sun does not cost anything, verses using gas or electric. Solar thermal panels are efficient and usually last a long time. There have been different tax credits and incentives for switching to solar that homeowners can look into as well. Yearly maintenance should be done to make sure the parts are works as designed, but a professional can assist with this.