Solar water heaters use 1/3 energy, Progress Energy study finds

Progress Energy customers saved an average of $235 a year by switching to solar thermal water heater, representing an average annual savings of 63 percent on the water heater portion of their power bill.

Those are the results Raleigh, N.C.-based Progress reported this week to the N.C. Utilities Commission to wrap up a using 150 customers to test the efficiency of solar thermal water heaters. As part of the year-long pilot, Progress contributed $1,000 toward each customer's cost of buying a solar thermal water heater.

The company says that more than 15 percent of electricity used in a typical home is used for heating water. use the sun as their primary source of energy, with electricity (or ) as a backup.

Solar water heaters are known for their high efficiency performance as well as their high price tags, costing about 10 times to 20 times as much as a conventional water heater. Progress reported that buying and installing the solar water heaters averaged $7,271 per household, ranging from $4,000 to $12,375 per home.

Homeowners rarely pay the full price, however. In North Carolina, for example, solar water heaters qualify for a 30 percent incentive and a 35 percent state tax credit (up to $1,400), which would cut the cost by about half.

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Mar 28, 2012

You can look on youtube for videos of people making their own solar water heater for a few hundred dollars, and cutting their entire energy bill by 1/3rd. I'm not even talking about the advanced systems like vacuum tubes or home made heliostat parabolic troughs, etc.

They just took an air tight box with some insulation, and put a water tank painted black inside it, with some insulated glass, and found that it cut the water heating bill to almost nothing for most of the year. This was anywhere from 25N to about 35N.

With a bit more work, you can make home made vacuum insulated pipes, and with a few manual valves and check valves set it up so that the water always comes from the solar heater preheated almost to the right temperature before going into the conventional heater.

In some parts of Louisiana and Florida, you may even be able to totally turn off your electric or gas heater during some parts of the year.

It should NOT cost thousands of dollars for this project.

Mar 28, 2012
In an experiment on Greenpowerscience page on youtube, one vacuum tube with a polystyrene stopper and a FLAT back mirror, not even a parabolic back mirror, managed to boil water and MELT the polystyrene stopper within a few minutes.

Again, in that experiment, there were no fresnel lenses or parabolic mirrors involved. He was in Florida when he did that.

And he shows you some cheap ways to use PVC to make vacuum insulated pipes to maximize the efficiency for transferring heat from your collectors to your home's hot water system.

Vacuum insulated pipes doubles the cost of the piping, but the extra investment will pay for itself within a few months to a year.

Mar 29, 2012
Hey thanks for the links QC.

Systems and components designed and installed by experts typically include freeze and overheat protection, and conventional heating backup and interface.

They are more robust and more dependable than your popular mechanics variations, and can be installed in compliance with local building codes and ordinances so as not to endanger life and property.

Mar 29, 2012
I'm not against the solar heaters, but we should consider the cost of corrosion resistant and water tight materials and energy required for their production. Many environmental impacts will become obvious just after while and/or at large scales. In general, we shouldn't solve energetic crisis with introduction of raw materials crisis.

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