A theme has emerged around Sandra and Justin Larson’s renovation project, and that theme is “RE“. Part 1 showcased their REsourceful REuse of REclaimed building materials. Then, in Part 2, we documented their use of spray foam insulation containing REnewable soy to create an extremely energy efficient envelope. Now, we’ll take a look at their installation of a solar water heater system which will make use of a very abundant REnewable REsource…Colorado sunshine.
The Larson’s turned to Darren Hein (pictured above) and his team at Heinsight Solutions to source and install a Velux solar hot water system. Heinsight is a Velux 5-Star Solar Specialist installer. Darren brings many years of specialized roofing and skylight installation experience to bear. He’s the kind of expert you’ll want to seek out if you decide on a solar water heater for your home to ensure that upgrading your water heater system doesn’t downgrade your roof.
Heinsight installed a two-panel, indirect circulation, pre-heat system at the Larson’s home. The panels themselves are of the flat-plate collector variety. Indirect circulation means that an antifreeze liquid is pumped through the panels and down to a heat exchanger in a newly installed tank in the home, where the antifreeze then transfers heat to the water in the tank. It is considered a pre-heat system because the new tank is tied into the existing hot water heater, providing back-up hot water should a portion of the system go down. You can see the components and get lots of great information from Darren about system details, costs and rebates by watching the two video segments below.
There are quite a few different types of solar water heating systems. The U.S. Department of Energy website on energy efficiency and renewable energy provides excellent information about them, including this page on types and how they work.
These systems are extremely eco-friendly because they substitute energy from the sun for energy from natural gas or power plant generated electricity, using the latter only infrequently as back-up. According to Solar Energy International, more than 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from your local utility can be avoided over a 20 year period when a solar water heater replaces an electric one.
The economics of solar hot water are also quite compelling, and may even offer immediate payback if you are building a new home or refinancing for home renovation. The Department of Energy indicates that your monthly water heating bill will drop by 50% to 80% if you install a solar water heater. And, depending upon where and how you live, and which source you believe, heating water accounts for 9% to 30% of your monthly energy bill. Up-front costs and payback time for a solar water heating system are reduced by a 30% federal tax credit and additional regional credits. Follow this DOE link to get further guidance on determining solar water heater system costs, energy savings and payback time for your situation.
Well, that’s it from the Larson project for now, but we’ll be REvisiting them soon for more eco-friendly home project education.