Solar water heaters are becoming popular, owing to their energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Is it economical to install them? Well, the lifetime operating cost of solar water heaters comes to around $1,000. Read on for more.
The Sun, just another star in the Milky Way, is an indispensable part of the solar system, supporting all the life forms on Earth from a distance of about 150 million kilometers. Owing to the magnanimity of its light and heat, the Sun serves as a wonderful source of energy. Being able to harness its energy free of cost, is perhaps one of the greatest things we Earthlings are blessed with.
Yes, solar energy as we prefer to call it, is the greatest boon to mankind in these times of energy crisis and economic inflation. Apart from being cost-effective, solar energy is also pollution free, thus proving to be an environment-friendly option of energy generation. Solar heating, solar air conditioning, and solar cooking systems are some of the most popular applications of solar power. Here we will look at solar water heater systems and focus on one of their major aspects, their costs.
Design and Working of Solar Water Heaters
Solar water heaters make use of the solar energy to heat water. They are composed of solar thermal collectors and a fluid system that helps in the transfer of heat from the collector to the point of use. Solar water heating systems are good for both home as well as business use. They are used to heat water that can be used for sanitary purposes or for generating electricity. To heat water in a solar water heater, a collector is fixed on the roof of a building or a wall that faces the sun. It is generally made of a glass-topped insulated box with a solar absorber, which is made of sheet metal painted black with copper pipes attached to it. The solar absorber can also be composed of metal tubes surrounded by an evacuated glass cylinder. Cold water is pumped into the collector, where it is heated and flown back to a collection tank for actual use. Solar water heaters have been in use since the 1800s. Today, around 1.5 million households and businesses across the United States have solar water heaters. If you are planning to install one for your house, you might like to go through these plans.
Solar Water Heater Prices
Solar water heater cost comprises the expenses borne in its installation, operation, and maintenance. A part of the incurred cost is compensated for by the energy saved with the use of solar heating systems.
The installation cost of a solar water heater depends on the type of system being installed. There are two main types of solar water heating systems; namely, active and passive. An active system consists of a circulating pump and some kind of temperature control, whereas a passive solar water heater is compact, has no moving parts, and works on the basic principle that hot water rises and cold water falls. Active water heater systems use a small pump for circulation but do not require a tank, while passive solar heaters do not use pumps but require tanks. Also, the solar water heater efficiency is different for active and passive water heating systems. Passive solar water heaters are less efficient that active ones, but they are reliable and last longer. In general, passive solar water heater cost is less than that of active ones. An active, flat plate solar collector system costs about $2,500 to $3,500, while a passive system costs around $1,000 to $2,000.
On an average, the installation costs of solar water heaters range from $3,000 to $5,000 for standard home installation. From 2005, the US has started offering tax credits for up to 30% of the installation cost.
According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), the costs of residential solar water heaters range between $1,500 and $3,500. Their annual operation cost is just about $50 as against those of gas or electric water heaters, which are $500. Considering the life expectancy of solar water heaters as 15 to 30 years, their lifetime operating cost sums up to an amount of approximately $1,000. As against this, conventional water heaters, with an average life of 10 years, cost you about $10,000 during their lifetime. However, this cost is recovered within the first few years after their purchase, as they result in substantial savings in the electricity bills.
And now, for the maintenance costs; it is but obvious that a solar water heater system requires proper maintenance so that it can function smoothly. Again, the maintenance costs of solar water heating systems vary with their type. Passive systems require less maintenance. The plumbing and water heating components of solar water heaters require to be maintained in a manner similar to conventional heating systems. Regular maintenance activities need to be carried out after every 3-5 years. Electrical components may require timely replacement. However, you must not forget the very purpose of solar heating systems and that is energy conservation. Maximum energy saving is possible only through proper maintenance of these systems.
Solar water heaters can supply almost 50% of the energy required to heat water in an average household. Harnessing solar energy contributes to a reduction in the depletion of fossil fuels and other conventional sources of energy. Moreover, solar energy does not pollute the environment. Thus, the relatively higher installation and maintenance costs of solar water heaters are almost nullified by the savings in the water heating costs of households.
After all, you cannot weigh everything in terms of money. The solar water heater costs that you incur can be considered as your contribution towards energy conservation and the creation of a pollution-free environment.