Bonterra Solar Renewable Energy & Solar Power
Questions About Solar Hot Water
- Why would I want a solar hot water system?
- Reduce your utility bill and save money!
- Contribute to our country’s shift to clean, renewable energy
- Reduce the amount of pollution created by burning fossil fuels
- How does a solar hot water system work?
- A Solar Hot Water (SHW) system consists of solar collectors that are installed on the roof of a structure and capture energy from the sun which is used to heat water. Effective in almost any climate, these systems can provide up to 80% of a property’s hot water needs for showering, laundry, cooking, pool heating or other processes that utilize hot water. See the details and diagram on our Solar Hot Water page.
- How much does it cost to install a solar hot water system?
- Prices will vary depending on where you live and what your demand for hot water is. A typical residential system costs approximately $6,500 while commercial systems can range from $10,000 to over $200,000 depending on the hot water demands of the property.
- How long until I break even?
The break-even period is the amount of time it takes for your savings to equal the amount of your investment. The break-even period for solar water systems is 1 to 5 years depending on the following factors:
- How much hot water you use (the more you use, the more you save and the quicker you break even)
- The cost of your system,
- The cost of energy you are currently using (offsetting higher energy costs speeds up your break-even time), and
- The available Federal, State and utility incentives which reduce the amount of your investment and lower your time to break even.
- Is a SHW system a smart investment?
- YES! Your solar hot water system is an investment that will provide a significant Return on Investment as well as increase the value of your property. The value of a home should increase by at least the amount of the system while commercial properties should increase by at least 50% of the system cost based on the application of a cap rate to the utility savings produced by the system…
- How should the collectors be installed to ensure optimum performance?
- Solar hot water collectors should be oriented geographically to maximize the amount of daily and seasonal solar energy that they receive. In general, the optimum orientation for a solar collector in the northern hemisphere is true south. However, recent studies have shown that, depending on your location and collector tilt, your collector can face up to 90o east or west of true south without significantly decreasing its performance. You’ll also want to consider factors such as roof orientation, local landscape features that could potentially shade the collectors, and local weather conditions as these factors may affect your collector’s optimal orientation. In most areas, the collectors will be mounted on the roof at a predetermined angle in order to maximize the system’s output.
- What is the difference between a passive system and an active system?
- In a passive solar hot water system, the system has no pumps or motors and is designed on basic principals of physics — hot water rises and cold water falls. Therefore, through that basic principal, water circulates through the system to provide hot water for the property. In an active system, a circulating pump is utilized to pump water through the system.
- How long does it take to install a system?
- It typically takes only one day to install a residential solar hot water system. Depending on the size and complexity of the system, commercial solar hot water systems typically take 5-7 business days to install and would cause minimal interruption to the property’s operations.
- Are there any rebates?
Yes, there are Federal, State and Utility incentives offered for the purchase of a solar hot water system. The state and utility incentives vary by location, so please contact us to identify available incentives for you! Below is a brief description of credits available:
- Federal Tax Credit — 30% off of the total installed cost of the solar hot water system. Business can elect to receive this as a cash grant in 2009 and 2010.
State Tax Credits — these vary by location and can range from 0% to up to 55% of the cost of a solar hot water system. A sample of state incentives are as follows:
- Arizona — 10%
- California — Up to 55% (proposed incentive based on system output)
- Hawaii — 35%
- Utility Rebates — Various utilities offer additional rebates toward the purchase of a solar hot water system. These can be as much as 60% of the cost of the system.
- What if there is no sun to heat the water?
- Although solar hot water systems work in both sunny and overcast conditions, under periods of prolonged cloud cover, the system may not produce enough hot water that the property demands. Therefore, we advise our customers to keep their conventional electric or natural gas heater in place to be used as a back up system which can be utilized at night or during periods of prolonged clouds.
- How hot does the water get?
- Our systems will usually heat water to 130 to 150 degrees.
- How large of a storage tank do I need?
- This is a matter of your hot water use and the size of the solar hot water system. For most residences, an 80 or 120 gallon tank is sufficient. For commercial systems, we assess your hot water usage and proposed system size to design a system that utilizes optimal storage.
- How do Solar Hot Water systems compare with an on demand water heater?
There are three costs which should be analyzed when making this comparison:
Although a solar hot water system costs more than an on-demand system, a SHW system costs virtually nothing to operate. Thus over the long run, you should save significantly more by employing a SHW system versus an on-demand system. In addition, a SHW system should last longer and require less maintenance than an on-demand system.
- The purchase price
- The cost of operating the system
- Maintenance costs
- How much do the collectors weigh?
- Weight should not be a concern when deciding whether to purchase a solar hot water system. At approximately 3 pounds per square foot, these collectors should not create any load problems for your roof. For commercial systems where a large number of collectors may be installed, we hire a structural engineer to ensure that the roof/structure can hold the weight of the system (this has never been an issue).
- When should we recommend using a Solar Powered Pump?
- Anytime our customers prefer utilizing Solar Power over Energy created by fossil fuels, we offer the option.