The subtropical sunshine of Southwest Florida offers a plentiful source of free solar energy; however, the equipment needed to capture and store solar energy can be expensive. The typical solar water-heating system consists of collectors, a pump, a storage tank and electric controls. Because solar heat must be captured and stored during daylight hours for use throughout the day, the storage tank should be significantly larger than a typical tank-type water heater. A well-designed solar water-heating system will save up to 80 percent of the cost of heating water. Don’t forget maintenance costs when figuring payback time on a solar water-heating system. Constant exposure to the sun makes solar collectors high-maintenance equipment. It’s not unusual to require repair or replacement of collectors within seven to 10 years.
Water heating can account for 14 to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home, second to cooling and heating. Understanding your habits, learning how to conserve and installing the most efficient water heater that best fits your needs will help manage your water heating costs.
Because daily baths and showers are the primary use of hot water, family size drastically affects the annual energy use of heating water. A 40-gallon water heater in Florida consumes 150 to 200 kWh per month for a two-member household with standby heat loss when set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on water-heater efficiency.
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Although other methods of heating water are more energy efficient, they may not be cost-effective. Purchasing expensive water-heating equipment is not recommended unless the projected savings will pay back your initial investment in a reasonable period of time (less than five years).
The HRU uses the wasted heat of the air-conditioning process to heat domestic hot water. This technology can be cost-effective for many households. The tank-type water heater is retained to serve as a storage tank for hot water during the air-conditioning season and is called upon through winter months to heat water when the air conditioner is not in use. Some households can even disconnect the electric supply to the tank during air-conditioning season and force the HRU to meet all hot-water needs. Large households that use air conditioning extensively achieve the greatest returns.
It should be noted that when a new, highly energy-efficient air-conditioning system (16 SEER or above) replaces an older, less energy-efficient system, a HRU may not produce the desired savings. Due to the many variables that determine the HRU’s performance and return on investment, it is recommended that you consult with LCEC’s energy experts to help evaluate your specific situation before investing in a HRU.
Unlike conventional hot-water tanks, which are activated by a thermostat, tankless water heaters are activated by the flow of water when a hot-water valve is opened. Although this theoretically provides an instant, unlimited supply of hot water, there are several issues to consider.
The latest technology to gain popularity in water heating is the heat pump or hybrid heat pump water heater.
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