Ecology And Environment

Solar Water Heaters

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"Solar Water Heaters"
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"I shave in cold water," a friend of mine told me recently.

"Really, why?" I asked.

With a straight face, he told me because he was trying to cut down on how much carbon he contributed to the atmosphere. Hot water heaters are notorious for taking a substantial amount of energy, most of that coming in the form of electricity from coal-fired generating plants, or natural gas.

But for those of us who don't want to wake up with a face full of cold water every morning. There is another option. In a world where too often we are asked to choose between economics and the environment, solar water heaters give us the best of both worlds - something that provides relief in both areas.

Solar water heaters are not new, at least in technological terms. They have been appearing on homes for more than two decades. However, with the recent emphasis on green technologies, and the skyrocketing cost of energy, it is possible they are getting a second look by people who shrugged them off in recent years. And, given the fact that the units have been in existence for a while, their value has been well documented.

Yes, the initial cost of a solar hot water heater is much more than a traditional unit heated by electricity or natural gas, but for some it may be a good investment. Heating water through traditional means accounts for 20 to 30 percent of energy cost of a home, according to information from ECS Solar Energy Systems. Given that, for some installing a solar hot water heater on their home will be like cutting their utility bill by a quarter every single month for as long as the unit is in operation.

Further, solar hot water heaters can be very efficient in the actual heating of the water. Though there are some worries that solar heaters cannot handle the demands of larger families, that is generally not true. In fact, solar water heaters often make available an additional 40 to 80 gallons over traditional units. That represents almost double what an electric or gas unit can produce. Even on cloudy days, there is generally enough hot water from the solar panels alone, though there is always a backup electrical heater within the unit to ensure hot water will be available.

Solar water heaters use panels that often are placed in direct view of the sun. In most cases, the roof of the house makes the most ideal place for the panels. That usually provides them with a direct line of sight to the sun. Also, the roof location means there is a smaller likelihood of the panels being damaged. They sit on the roof with a very low profile and while, admittedly, they are visible, they are not unsightly.

While it is true that solar hot water heaters may not be for everyone, they do provide an opportunity that many may wish to research. In some areas, such as the South, they can be a very wise choice. After all, it is not every day you get to save money and help the environment.

More about this author: Kenneth Black

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