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Is Solar Hot Water Heating Cost Effective?

When we first moved into our new neighborhood, we knew it was the place to be. Our neighbor across the street had solar panels on her home for hot water heat. We had intentionally looked for a home with a south-facing roof with the goal of a solar panel installation some day, and it was nice to know we were around equally eco-conscious individuals. Our neighbor’s set-up made me wonder if solar hot water heat is a good first step before a full-fledged solar PV installation and how the two systems could work together to cut energy costs even more.

Comparing Costs of Solar PV and Solar Hot Water
A solar hot water system can cost anywhere from about one-half to three-quarters of the price of a solar PV system to meet your family’s electricity needs, according to estimates on the Web.

But it will only save you about $100 to $400 per year. A solar PV system can save you as much as 50 percent on your electricity (or more). In areas where the cost of electric is high (and rising), this can add up to $1500 a year or more.

A solar hot water system uses another form of fuel (gas or oil) at times when your solar panels are in the shade. It’s not tied to a grid of any sort, so your surplus hot water simply goes unused.

On the other hand, a solar PV system actually harnesses the sun’s energy for electrical power. During shady or dark times, you’ll get your electric from the electric company, but a grid-tied solar PV system feeds your surplus electric power to your power company. Your meter runs backward as you “pay” electric to the electric company, which can make up for the times when you need to use electricity from the grid.

Incentives and tax breaks are available for both types of solar systems.

Should You Get Solar Hot Water?
Solar hot water may not save you as much money as solar electric panels for your home. However, solar hot water is a good choice if:

  • You’re using it to complement a solar PV system
  • You want to make the eco-conscious choice for hot water
  • You have hot water heat, or you are installing hot water baseboard heating or a radiant hot water heating system in your floors — in this case, your investment will pay off faster.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

1 Comment

  1. Mark says:

    If your on propane to heat your hot water you spending about 70$ a month. All electric homes average 40-60 dollars a month. It’s a fraction of the cost of solar electric and produces the same amount of energy. The writter does not tell you how much was paid for the pv system or when the ROI would be. Typically the ROI on a solar hot water system is 2-4 years. On a PV sytem it’s 15-20 years.


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