Thursday, March 31, 2011

Solar water heating systems

Have you folks noticed the price of gas lately? Holy cow! The conflict in Libya has made things very unstable for those nations with an oil addiction, and of course, the US is one of them.

We live in New England, where winter hasn't quite let her grip on us go yet. In fact, we're expecting a freak nor'easter overnight, which I am convinced will be all rain. It better be! I can't do 12 more inches of snow, and I doubt my daffodils can either.

Regardless of that all, we heat our home using home heating fuel. We go through about 1200-1500 gallons of heating fuel per winter. We usually coast through the warmer weather with whatever remains from winter. We own a house with less than 1000 square feet, and we keep the thermostat at 62°F (16.7°C) throughout the winter. We still burn through that kind of fuel. And when fuel is around $3.70/gallon (we saw some the other day for $3.96!), we feel something needs to be done.

The boiler was shot when we bought the house. We considered natural gas instead of buying a new boiler, but they wanted thousands and thousands of dollars just to hook us up to the pipeline in the street. Buying a new boiler was a cheaper alternative at the time, and I'm not sure I want to come off one nasty addiction only to form another nasty addiction to something just as bad. (Don't think natural gas is that bad? Watch Gasland, do some research, be proactive and read up!)

So I was watching This Old House while folding the laundry at some point. They were installing these big things like looked like solar panels on a home outside of Boston. I was kind of chuckling to myself thinking they should wait on the solar panel thing - it'll get cheaper and more efficient! But no, they were installing a solar water heating system. Mind blown instantly. I had never heard of these systems, probably because it wasn't always feasible to install up here in the northeast.

Apparently, they can supplement your heating system, and really, I'll do anything to save money on 1350 gallons of fuel at $3.65/gallon and climbing every day. Oil never goes down for long! The system seems pretty practical, and really, the only reason I would even consider it at this point is because I trust This Old House.

There are a ton of tax credits and rebates on these systems, too. I did some reading, and it looks like we could get something like this installed on our home for less than $2,000, after all is said and done. Of course, I've yet to call anyone to get an actual estimate, but I wonder about it a lot, and I think it's worth looking into.

How does your home heat itself in the colder months? Are you lucky enough to live where the sun is abundant and the temperatures are mild? Do you use fuel, electricity or gas? Do you know anything about these solar water heating systems?? I'd love to hear your opinions!


Nicole said...

I think it is a great idea. We heat with natural gas because that is how the place is set up (and we rent). I keep the house at 65 degrees and we still pay $130 and up during the winter months. I've got three kids...that is a lot of money to fork out each month! Plus electric has been running us $120 a month. CRAZY. If I owned my home I would look into any way to save money.
That's my two cents worth ;-)

Tasha said...

How long will it take to earn back what it cost you to put in, though? And do you actually get enough sun up there that it'll cut down much on your other bills?

Tasha said...

Ours is all electric. We've got it budget-billed, so we pay about 156$/mo year round. That's not so bad, I don't think, especially since our house is nearly 3000 sq feet . . .

Sassafrass said...

We get a lot of sun! Not quite as you folks down in the southwest, but then not many places in the US do.

The install would pay itself off in savings in under 3 years, if my numbers are right. Of course, it depends on the actual efficiency vs. the theoretical efficiency.

But then again, anything to defer the costs of oil will help. I'm willing to do almost anything! I'm terrified of the oil prices, and I hate thinking how reliant we are on it!

Sassafrass said...


that would hold so much yarn and so many kitties

Made by Hand on Planet Earth said...

We heat with wood, which, as people say around here, warms you three times. Once when you cut it, again when haul it in, and a final time when you burn it. It's great heat, and we use up fallen trees and clean up the woods around us, so we pay in labor. There's noting like wood heat! I absolutely love it, even if it is a mess. But I know wood isn't an option for many homes, especially within city limits.

You are right about GasLand... there have been people from the middle east in our valley trying to convince us to allow hydro fracking! They are as evil as monsanto, in my opinion. My neighbor and I are campaigning against that, very hard. You understand why, since you are aware of the evils already.

I say go for that solar option. Things are more reasonable all the time! If you have sun, and you get good rebates and credits, it's worth the investment up front. Let us know what you decide...

Michelle said...

Solar has been popular over here in Australia for quite a while. A lot of people have heaps of panels on their roof and they sell the excess electricity back to the power companies. It is expensive to set up, but it pays off in a few years. There are also a lot of government rebates to encourage people to go solar - sadly those rebates are now being phased out.

Selene McGraw said...

The use of solar powered technologies is becoming more prevalent. And with the numerous benefits, it's not hard to understand why many people see these as better alternatives.