Solar water heating dates back to the nineteenth century using tanks that were painted black and filled with water. In 1891, Clarence Kemp patented a new system that improved the solar water heater’s ability to retain heat, and the first commercial solar water heater was born.
Large advancements have been made in solar technology over the years, while the need for hot water has grown. Heating water for common household tasks like laundry, washing dishes, cooking, showers and baths accounts for around 30% of a home’s energy usage.
The good news is that switching to solar hot water is one of the easiest ways to reduce your electric bill. In fact, a solar water heater can cut your annual hot water costs by at least half. How much you actually save depends on the climate where you live. In Hawaii, where the climate is pretty sunny year-round, a solar hot water system can end up paying for itself in as little as 3 years. See how solar hot water works.
Not only do you save money on your energy bill that can be put towards other expenses, but a solar water heater also helps the environment by decreasing harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are released into the atmosphere.
According to mechanical engineers at the University of Wisconsins Solar Energy Laboratory, an average four-person household with a standard electric water heater requires approximately 6,400 kilowatt hours of electricity to heat their water annually.
Assuming the electricity is generated by a typical power plant with an efficiency of about 30 percent, the average electric water heater will contribute about eight tons of CO2 every year, which is almost double that produced by a car. The same family of four is responsible for around two tons of CO2 emissions annually if they heat their water using either a natural gas or oil-fired water heater.
Researchers believe that the annual cumulative CO2 emitted by residential water heaters throughout North America is roughly equivalent to that produced by all of the cars and light trucks driving around the continent. In other words, if half of all households converted to solar water heaters, the reduction in CO2 emissions would be the same as doubling the fuel-efficiency of all cars.
Having 50% of all homes use solar water heaters might not be an unrealistic goal. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), there are 1.5 million solar water heaters already installed in the U.S. Solar water heater systems are able to work in any climate, and EESI estimates that 40% of all U.S. homes have adequate access to sunlight where an additional 29 million solar water heaters could be installed right now.
Most people don’t give a lot of thought to hot water when they turn on their faucet, but as you can see, how you get your hot water can make a big difference. Use the unlimited power of the sun with a solar hot water heater and both your wallet and the environment benefit.