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Thread: Interested in solar water heating system for my midwest home

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Strategery's Avatar
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    Default Interested in solar water heating system for my midwest home

    I live in the midwest with both extremes in hot and cold. Lately I've been looking at possibly getting a solar water heating system for my house. I currently have a relatively new electric water heater that does a good job but is a little costly to operate.

    Everything I know about solar water heating systems is from what I read on the internet. There's a lot of information out there and it can be tough to sort through it all.

    The lingering questions I have are:

    Is it really going to lower my energy bills? I get a LOT of sunlight here, but I'm still not sold on this concept quite yet to believe that there's enough for most of my hot water needs. There are 2 people in my house right now. We pay just over $500 a year to run the water heater. It seems like a big upfront investment for somewhat uncertain rewards. There's a lot of information out there about solar water heating systems but not a great deal about how much people actually spend on heating water BEFORE and AFTER. I'm fine with the initial upfront costs involved, from what I understand to be in the ballpark of 2-3 thousand after tax incentives and rebates, but that's only if I have some assurance that I'm eventually going to get it back in the form of dramatically lower hot water heating costs.

    In this cold midwestern climate is a pipe going to burst? I can experience extreme cold temps below zero some winter days. It's not the usual, but it does happen. Even with the pipes filled with anti-freeze (glycol if you like), is that enough a safeguard to prevent a pipe from bursting and causing one helluva problem? I don't want that.

    Is solar water heating REALLY that efficient? Wouldn't it be easier just to hook up a solar photovoltaic panel to my rooftop or garage and hook it up to my power system? If it could cut my annual energy expense by 200 or more dollars, isn't that basically accomplishing the same thing as the water heater but without all of the hassles of plumbing, storage tanks, heat pumps, worries about freezing pipes, leaks, etc? Factor in that installation of a solar water system is longer, more complicated, requires plumbing, more planning, and likely additional expense in maintenance?

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    DIY Junior Member roscho04's Avatar
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    hello,yes solar water heating does work.If you did it yourself you could save lots of money.Now pv setup would cost you lots of money.5k vs. 50k water is the way to go and you can also heat with it. just make sure you have a large storage tank.

  3. #3

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    Strategery, I'm with VELUX and cover the Midwest for our solar water heating package (http://solar.veluxusa.com/solar/products). PV is not a good option for water heating or really any resistance heating load of any kind since it is inefficient to covert PV electricity to heat. You would require about a 1.5kW PV array (@$13,000 installed) to accomplish the same end that a 1 panel solar water heating system (@$7,000 installed) would do for you. The PV system would also take up about 5x the roof space as well.

    Our system is a pressurized, closed loop system that has a propylene glycol solution as the solar fluid so it won't freeze during the winter nights. It works automatically without any operator assistance throughout the year. Offsetting electric water heating with a solar system is very attractive as a 1 panel, 60 gallon tank system will cut your water heating bill by 75% or so. A system that would be appropriate for you would take about 6 hours to install. We have a couple of installation partners in Iowa that you can find on the dealer locator of our website above.
    Last edited by Terry; 05-27-2011 at 10:51 AM.

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    DIY Junior Member Strategery's Avatar
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    I clicked the link and I filled out the information about when the solar water heater will pay off. It is estimating with my information that it would take 13 YEARS to pay off. I was under the impression that it would take 4-8 years or in that range.

    Also interesting that this system by velux uses a solar PANEL collector and not the evacuated tubes, which many argue are superior at heating water in colder climates. The benefit of the panels are supposed to be cheaper cost and less obtrusive appearance.

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    DIY Junior Member artthink's Avatar
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    If you really want to know how you can build your own solar hot water system i suggest you to visit this link for some of the best step by step guides:
    Last edited by Terry; 05-28-2011 at 11:04 AM.

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    DIY Junior Member cssolar's Avatar
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    Default vacuum tube solar water heaters

    Hi I deal in vacuum tube solar water heaters in Spain,

    A good way of installing a solar water heater and using your existing electrical cylinder is to pre heat.

    that means send the cold water line to the solar water heater and then bring the hot return back to the cold in of your existing electrical cylinder.

    You could always fit a by pass so you could use the hot water direct in the summer months.

    I am not sure what the climate is like there but vacuum tube units will work well all year round,

    I have a vacuum tube solar water heater fitted to my house , in the winter we get cold days but still have bright sunshine, the the cold out side temperature dose not affect the hot water production as long as the sun is out.
    Even if it is cloudy some heating will take place and if you pre heat to your existng bolier the will top up the heat and you will still save energy.

    I have a clip on you tube of one of my units boiling in the sun ( search -- cssolar1 )

    Regards tony importer for Deno solar equipment Spain

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    DIY Junior Member mkiernan's Avatar
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    Name:  securedownload-1.jpg
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    this pic shows what happens to evacuated tubes in the winters of the usa, you have to spec that they have alcohol in them or they will split at the bottom when it freezes outside. this pic is from a customer who bought the tube type and regretted it big time.

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    DIY Junior Member cssolar's Avatar
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    Default vacuum tube swh

    Hi

    Not all vacuum tube solar water heaters use heat pipes,

    The units I use have water in the tubes, anti freeze can be added as the unit is indirect.

    I prefer the water in tube type because it increases the hot water storage capacity also as heat is drawn from the unit cold water will sink to the lowest part of the unit which is the vacuum tube and remaining hot water will be forced up into the storage tank.

    Tony cssolar Spain
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