Supplementing Your Domestic Water Heater

Build Your Own Solar Water Heater

Build Your Own Solar Water Heater

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In This Chapter

^ Surveying systems to supplement your domestic water heater ^ Doing your pre-project homework ^ Installing systems for a variety of applications ^ Using solar-supported radiant heat floors

Sweating water for your home comprises anywhere from 17 to 28 percent of your power bill, and most hot water goes right down the proverbial drain. From washing dishes and clothes, to taking baths and showers, to cooking food and warming your pool water, the range of activities that requires hot water is extensive.

An electric water heater supplying a family of four uses 11.4 barrels of oil per year. That's more oil than that consumed by a medium-sized auto driven 12,000 miles per year, at 22 mpg, which uses only 11.1 barrels. When you install a solar water heater to supplement your domestic water supply, you're producing all the energy on site, in your collectors. There's no pollution at all.

In this chapter, I run through some of your options for supplementing your domestic water heater with solar power. I discuss the various systems, explain installation, and even talk a bit about warming your house with radiant heat. (For details on the basics of solar water heating, including info on solar collectors and other components, see Chapter 10.)

Tapping into your hot water supply

Hot water storage is never perfect. At night, all storage tanks lose heat, resulting in inefficiency. So the best time to use hot water is right after your storage tank has been charged up — in other words, afternoon. This is less true if your storage tank is very well insulated.

By changing some habits, you can literally reduce the energy workload on your conventional water heater to zero. For example, if each member of the family takes a shower at a different time of the day, a batch collector can heat up again between showers. If you take your shower in the afternoon, after the tank has been heating up during the midday sun, your residential heater has to do very little work. You can run your dishwasher or wash clothes in the late afternoon instead of the morning. The list goes on — use your imagination. Avoid using hot water first thing in the morning as much as possible.

In the winter months, when you're getting very little solar energy, the timing of when you use hot water doesn't matter as much because it almost all comes from your electric or gas heater.

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