I’ve been writing about alternative energy quite a bit lately and my interest in the subject goes deeper than blog posts. The fact is the thought of paying $3 to $5 per gallon of propane to heat our domestic water and our home is really wearing on me. I can’t help but wonder where the extra money will come from in our family budget. What really wears on me is why didn’t I evaluate these issues when we built this new house two years ago? Since I can’t go back in time I’m forced to evaluate spending a significant investment on a new home!
So I posed the question to a friend of mine Paul who designs solar hot water systems: Can you tell me what a solar hot water system would cost and look like for our new home? He said sure no problem just give me some basic information. First off you really do need a roof that faces as close to south as possible. Our roof faces 27 degrees west of south which I’m told should work pretty well. All he needed was the roof position, i.e. southern exposure, physical location, i.e., long. and lat., and then the number of people living in the home.
Next thing I know I get an email back from him with some preliminary results. His calculations show that I need two (2) 4 ft x 10 ft solar panels with an 80 gallon storage tank. Given that design the following chart shows the percentage of solar hot water that the system could generate compared to our hot water need (domestic hot water).As you can see from the graph I would have 100% of the hot water I need for 6 months of the year and almost 50% of what we need for 3 more months. 3 months out of the year would really not produce much if any hot water. Paul points out that the panel angles could be adjusted slightly to lower the summer output and increase the winter output to try and maximize the results.
So my next question is what would a system look like if I wanted to try and collect hot water to use with our radiant heat system. Paul says he needs some more info from me before he can run those numbers. What I’d like to do is present a cost comparison of both systems along with a return on investment (ROI). I’ll also investigate what federal and local incentives and rebates are available. Stay tuned for further discussions on this topic as I evaluate whether or not solar power would be a good investment for us.
(What would be really cool is if some solar manufacturer wanted to “donate” products in return for some great exposure on this site! We can all dream……)