Solar power is the most popular form of sustainable energy used by average homes, and solar hot water heaters and tanks are a great way to improve energy efficiency while still ensuring you can supply all of your family's requirements. The cost of replacing or repairing an old electric or gas hot water heater can actually be more than the price of a brand new solar hot water heater, and the latter can also help you to cut your energy bill: some estimates suggest that a solar water tank can cut the gas bill for your home by 60-80 percent. However, some people are concerned about the cost of a solar hot water tank: calculating the costs of installation and use before purchase can help to set your mind at rest.
1. Consider Size
The size of the solar hot water tank is a major factor in how much it costs to install and run. You will need to identify the size of tank you need by calculating how much hot water your household uses. As a guide, experts recommend calculating the hot water use of a typical family in the following manner. The first two people in the house should be considered to use 20 gallons of hot water each day. Any additional members of the family should be calculated as using between 10 and 15 gallons a day, although others round this up to 20. Therefore, for a four-member family you should consider an 80 gallon tank.
2. Consider Materials
Solar hot water tanks now come in a range of materials, which can help to reduce the initial costs of purchasing a solar hot water system. Not all tanks are created equal, however, as a stainless steel tank, while more expensive, has a greater longevity than other materials, such as vitreous enamel. The life of the latter tanks can be improved by replacing the anode every six years, but this will result in additional costs.
3. Consider Accessories
As well as family needs, the cost of a water tank can be determined by the size of the accessories. Tanks need to be large enough to accommodate the heat produced by solar panels. Solar hot water devices will heat up water constantly, so the tank will need to have room for 1.5 gallons of hot water for every square foot of solar panel or collector. This will ensure that the water in the tank does not overheat. The cost of these accessories will need to be added to the cost of the solar hot water tank. As not all tanks have the same features, if you are replacing an old solar hot water tank you will still need to replace the accessories.
4. Consider Installation
Installation is probably the biggest cost of using solar power. Plumbing charges can be offset using government rebates, but you will need to invest in Energy Star approved solar hot water tanks, which can be more costly than some others. Installation should cost around $2,000 for both tank and manpower, but be prepared to pay nearly $6,000 in some areas, depending upon the number of accessories and features desired. To this cost should be added any maintenance charges, although householders can perform some maintenance themselves.