Creating a Homemade Solar Water Heater
In American households, hot water is the second largest consumer of electricity. Therefore, a homemade solar water heater will remove a large part of this energy expense. A typical family of four with a standard 80 gallon tank consumes about 150 mill
Over a seven year lifetime, a standard 80 gallon (300 l) electric hot water tank serving a family of four will consume approximately 150 million BTUs (British thermal units). This will cost approximately US$3,600 (at US$0.08 per KWH), not including the cost of fuel increasing. Eventually this unit will be replaced by another just like it, with the same poor level of effeciency. Obviously, this cycle is costing households quite a bit of money that could be saved by using a solar energy water heater.
Taking advantage of free, “always on” solar energy is an excellent way to do your part for the environment while saving money at the same time. There are many methods of capturing solar energy, and creating a homemade solar water heater is a great one.
Solar heating systems usually include solar thermal collectors and a pipe or hose system to move the heated water from its original to point of use. The system may use electricity for pumping the fluid, and may have a resevior tank to store the heat and water. While these systems may be used for industrial and business applications, in this article we’ll be focusing on the homemade solar water heater. What can you use this for? Space heating, underfloor heating, and heated swimming pools are a few examples.
Check out this video of Solar Water Heater in Action
Remember: You can get a solar water heater much cheaper by making it yourself!
Oftentimes, a residential solar water heater can actually provide as much as 85% of a home’s hot water needs.
Solar water systems can be generally divided into two classes: passive systems and active systems. We’ll focus on passive systems in this article, as active systems require an external source of power, and the idea here is to reduce our dependance on the utility company. Passive systems are also low cost, relaible, can be built with readily available materials, and require very little maitenance, if any.
It’s interesting to note that while the world is vigorously searching for ways to implement renewable energy sources today, homemade solar water heaters were actually used in the US as far back as the early 1800s. In fact, Butch Cassidy’s roost in Utah allegedly still has remains of the original solar heater-a black can of water in the sunlight. The design advanced from there, of course, and the first commercial solar water heater was patented in 1891 by Clarence M. Kemp.
5 Key elements of homemade solar water heater design:
1. Make sure you set it up in a place that receives maximum sunlight – more exposure = more heat
2. Make sure it is an effective collector – In other words, “paint it black.” Black paint has an absorbtion rate of 96%
3. Make sure it will retain heat -This is crucial for using heated water at night.
4. Make efficient connection to the conserving backup system -
5. Make it the right size – This will on how much water you need to heat, allow about 30 gallons of storage per person per day.
6. Build it to last – Done right, these systems will last years with minimum maintenance.