4 things you didn't know about solar water heaters

October 16, 2014

Whether at home or the cottage, you can save money, energy and still have hot water to spare thanks to solar water heaters. Here are four things many Canadians don't know about them, but should.

The high-tech solar water heaters of today are designed for the Canadian climate, no matter your region’s temperatures. Solar water heaters can substantially help reduce fossil fuel use and your utility bills for the second-highest heating expense in your home – hot water. But how?

1. Here are the sunny facts about solar water heaters

Every Canadian province offers potential savings from solar water heaters. The high is 53 per cent in Medicine Hat, but you have to travel all the way north to Resolute Bay for your savings to fall to a low of 18 per cent.

The savings come from your solar collectors facing south, angled according to your home’s latitude north of the equator. If you live in Ottawa, your solar panels face south at an angle of 45 degrees. Temperature? Not a problem. According to Natural Resources Canada, you get peak performance (and heated water at 40 C) when the outdoor temperature is -20 C.

2. Installation vs. operating costs: pay now, save forever

The basic fact of installing and operating a solar water heating system is: you pay more for installation, but you pay nothing for operation. On average, equipment and set-up costs for a domestic solar water heater are about $3,500. A traditional water heater fuelled by gas, electric or oil may cost up to $1,500.

So that looks like a savings of about $2,000 right there, doesn’t it? Yes, maybe. But sunshine is free and fossil fuels are not. They cost you big bucks at the expense of the environment. You could save a ballpark figure of $700 annually in fuel costs for heating water with a solar energy system, especially if you are heating a home swimming pool or spa, too.

The math means your initial investment of $3,500 in a solar water heater pays for itself within five to six years. Basically, you pay now and then never again, or you can just keep paying and paying and paying with traditional fuel.

3. A solar water heater works for your home

If you have an expanse of roof facing south and space for a water heater tank, everything about the solar water heater works for your needs. You even have a choice of a seasonal system for your cottage to make your summer getaways economical.
Protected from both overheating on hot, sunny days, and freezing on brutal winter nights, a year-round solar water heater begins with solar collectors. Do you like the look of skylights? Retrofitted or new, today’s solar technology keeps the panels slim to integrate into your home’s roof. Downspouts camouflage the piping from your solar collectors to your water storage tank.

4. Know your options for powering a solar water heater
You can install your own solar water heater if you have solid experience with electrical, plumbing and carpentry work. Installation must meet Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards and all applicable codes. Yet, DIY installation may limit your system’s warranty.

Before you begin, know everything about the solar water heater you want for your home. Check online for the Canadian Solar Industries Association or the Solar Energy Society of Canada to find solar equipment dealers in your area.

4 things you didn't know about solar water heaters
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