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Solar Thermal – Hot Water for Domestic Use

October 19th, 2009
Written by Nan Fischer

My mom passed away in 2006, and her estate was finally settled in 2007. I had no idea what my brother and I would inherit, and from what the attorney, stockbroker and CPA said, it sounded meager. I was thrilled to find a check in my mailbox that would get me started on my remodel! Meager to a big-wig, perhaps, but abundant to someone living simply.

The first thing I looked into was solar thermal – hot water from the sun for domestic use. From www.energysavers.gov:

Solar water heaters – also called solar domestic hot water systems – can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home. They can be used in any climate, and the fuel they use, sunshine, is free.

Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have circulating pumps and controls, and passive, which don’t.

Most solar water heaters require a well-insulated storage tank. Solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collector. In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank.

solar dom hot water

After much research, like that above, I called a solar installer, Valverde Energy. The owner, Larry Mapes, came out to the house to do an assessment. We first talked about my current and future water use. My two teenage daughters were going to fly the coop in the next few years, so water usage would dwindle. All those long, hot showers, mounds of laundry and constant dirty dishes would be a thing of the past when I settled back into living alone as I had done before having children.

So instead of creating a system for a family of three, which would be big and inefficient just for me later on, we decided on a smaller system that would be adequate for all three of us, and would rely on very little natural gas back-up as our numbers shrank. This smaller system could be expanded when the house is sold and another family moves in.

Once we’d made that decision, we talked about infrastructure. This isn’t very exciting and is nothing anyone sees, but it was necessary to get it done.

I am on a shared well with three other homes. For years, we have talked about putting in new water lines, but not everyone had the money at the same time, and our bank account wouldn’t cover it all. I went ahead and replaced the aging line to my house. The stub-in had to go in a certain place to accommodate the solar system, since I was moving the hot water heater as well.

Larry suggested tapping into the natural gas line in the new road adjacent to my property. My gas supply was currently propane, which is more expensive, and he said this alone would cut my energy bills. It didn’t take much to persuade me to switch! The water line came in from the south, and the gas line came in from the north. My yard was chewed up all the way around! Ah… remodeling…

stubins_3428 The infrastructure upgrades needed to be done first, because those utility lines had to be in place for Larry’s crew to install the solar system and before we could pour a slab for the greenhouse. We joked that most women don’t care about these kinds of things in a home, because you can’t decorate them, but I was excited about the value of what he was proposing.

I quietly thanked my mom for making this possible. 515

More info on:

Solar hot water http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=12850

Valverde Energy http://www.valverdeenergy.com/

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4 Responses to “Solar Thermal – Hot Water for Domestic Use”

  1. Mandy Says:

    That is a very informative article. Thank you for sharing it.

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