Solar Water Heater

How Does Solar Water Heating Work?

A solar water heater uses the sun’s energy to pre-heat household water in a roof mounted solar thermal collector before it is stored in a special solar storage tank. Cold water is moved via a pump from a water tank and travels through solar collectors in a solar panel. In the process, it is heated up by the power of the sun hitting the solar collectors. This heat is then carried away from the solar collectors by the water returning to a heated storage tank. An auxiliary system will kick in when more hot water is needed. Auxiliary systems run on conventional energy, such as gas or electricity. A controller component regulates the pumping action of the water.

Depending on the size of your household, Compass Solar Energy typically uses an 80 gallon storage tank with a 4′ x 10′ solar thermal collector or a 120 gallon tank with two 4′ x 8′ collectors. Because of the tremendous amount of sun that Northwest Florida receives, a solar water heater could generate up to 95% of your annual water heating needs.

Solar Water Heater Timing

Solar water heaters have a backup electric element to make sure you are never without hot water – even in extended periods of bad weather. To maximize your savings, you should attempt to use the most hot water in the late morning and early afternoon when the solar system is operating at its peak. Also, it helps to spread your cleaning load over the week. For example, instead of washing seven laundry loads all at once it would pay to do one a day. This will reduce the amount the backup element will have to come on.

Solar Water Heater Tax Incentives

The federal solar tax credit or investment tax credit (ITC)  allows you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing your solar water heater from your federal taxes and there is no cap on its value. You can claim the ITC when you file your yearly federal tax return. 

Solar Water Heater Savings

Solar heating does have a payback, and it can vary from three to eight years. But it may be more useful to think of solar as an investment that yields an annual return, much as a bank savings account provides interest. A solar water heater will generate savings that can equal a bank account generating a twenty percent (20%) annual return, and the savings are not taxed as income, as is the interest you earn at the bank. The truth is, if you want hot water… you will be paying for that heat. You may prefer to pay the utility bill forever, or you may wish instead to go solar, and become your own utility. It is quite similar to the reason you once decided to buy your home and stop renting. Solar is simply the best investment available today because it guarantees a return on money that you will otherwise “burn” and helps you develop equity as you bank your savings.