The basic need for hot water is very expensive as it heaps a huge amount of energy. It is believed that more than 18% of domestic energy is used to heat water. In most homes and businesses this energy is generated from fossil fuels – gas and oil. Most modern domestic boilers run on gas and heat water on demand. On top of that, there are many people who prefer using electricity to heat the water which is the most expensive method out of all.
We also can’t deny the fact that we need hot water on a daily basis, and in some manufacturing businesses, hot water is the lifeblood. We can try and save energy by implementing some lifestyle changes to use less hot water (for example, running fewer full baths, using thermostats on our heating system more efficiently), but in the 21st Century, we all want hot water on tap.
The advent of ‘green energy has helped people to adopt efficient and sustainable methods to carry out daily activities. Here, the ‘green’ energy is generated from the natural and ultimate source of natural energy that is the sun, using solar panels. Solar energy comes from natural sources and leaves no carbon emissions like other fuels. In addition, the process does not produce any waste, does not produce any noise pollution, and neither leaves any hazardous effects on the environment. We know the major advantage of the solar panel is power saving. We are using the natural source of energy that is free, renewable, and unlimited- You will definitely notice the decreasing rates of the electricity bills. Electricity bills are usually high because of electrical water heaters and using sustainable and affordable methods of heating solutions will definitely cause a decline in electricity bills. So, it makes perfect sense to look for sustainable and affordable water heating solutions.
One way to cut down the massive electricity bills due to water heating is to invest in solar water heaters. Solar water heaters will not only reduce the electricity bills but will also offer numerous other advantages in a cost-effective manner.
Here are the few advantages of solar water heater:
Ideally, the solar panel uses energy from the sun. This means we do not have to pay a single penny to the power grid for using electricity. Being a renewable source of energy, it is completely free and available each day. All we need to do is figure is how to fine-tune our panel to optimize the performance in cloudy weather. You can contact the best solar water heater suppliers to know more about how solar water heaters can be effective in all seasons.
One of the primary reasons solar panels have great outweigh any other form of energy is that when it comes to heating water is the efficiency, they bring to us. Efficiency here means the solar panels convert almost up to 80% radiation into heat energy without making use of any external fuels.
You will spend a lot less to install a solar panel in comparison to a PV panel. A good way to earn rewards is by transferring the unused unit back to the electricity grid. They are a one-time investment for long-term benefits.
If there is a thought of space for mounting a solar PV panel, we do not need to worry about it as well. If the room is not enough, we can go for a thermal panel.
Save for environment
The world is accepting ‘green’ and there is no greener energy than solar panels. They have no dependency on fuels, have zero-emission, and lower carbon footprints.
Solar water heaters do not require high maintenance. It only demands simple cleaning. As it does not contain any moving parts, there will be no tear and break which would need regular repairing attention. The manufacturer of solar water heater guarantees that it will work for almost 20-25 years but tend to work longer.
Solar water heater requires an initial investment but is always a better alternative for heating water. The only thing we need to remember is the correct number of solar panels in order to meet the appropriate requirements of heating at your home.
It is advisable to connect to professionals for solar water heating mounting. If you are looking for an expert solar water heater in Ahmedabad, you should take a step towards Citizen Solar. They are a recognized solar water heater supplier, known for offering top-notch quality and service.
A mural painted by Diego Rivera shows the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. Photo by Wolfgang Sauber under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
By Diane Boudreau
June 2, 2016
Nearly 1,000 years ago, the Aztec people left their ancestral home of Aztlan under orders from Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war. He prophesied that the people would find a new home when they saw an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, devouring a snake—or so the legend goes.
The people wandered for hundreds of years through what is now Mexico. They settled in several places, but never for very long—their propensity for human sacrifice did not endear them to their neighbors. Finally, in 1325 AD, the Aztecs found their unlikely sign. Unfortunately, the cactus on which the eagle perched grew out of a small island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. Undaunted, the Aztecs built the city of Tenochtitlan, and eventually a flourishing empire, on the swampy site.
“They built this amazing civilization. But of course living in a lake bed imposed a lot of challenges. It was also a huge benefit in that the lake itself provided food for the communities, and it was also a defense,” says Hallie Eakin, a human geographer at Arizona State University.
Eakin studies Mexico City, which was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Today, the city’s metropolitan area is home to 21 million people. It is one of a growing number of megacities—cities with more than 10 million residents—in the world today.
The urbanization of Mexico City has wrought massive changes on the ecosystem it inhabits. For example, Lake Texcoco is almost completely gone. Conversely, the ecosystem has a profound impact on the city and the people who live in it. For instance, the city’s location in a lake basin leads to extreme flooding.
Eakin leads an interdisciplinary research project called MEGADAPT, which explores the challenges of flooding, chronic water scarcity and associated health problems in Mexico City. The project is a collaboration between ASU and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), funded by the National Science Foundation.
Unlike some cities that have just begun experiencing major flooding due to climate change, like New York, the people of Mexico City have been adapting to their environment for centuries.
“The city itself appears to be very capable of managing extreme events, in the sense that they don’t cause major collapse,” says Eakin, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability. “However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t huge costs to that stability. The question for us is whether those forms of adaptation are preventing the system from getting into a more sustainable state, in terms of who bears the risk and then the cost.”
The relationships between a city, the natural environment and human decision-making are extraordinarily complex—particularly at the scale of a megacity. Sometimes solving one problem can inadvertently create others.
For example, even though Mexico City counts more rainy days than London, clean drinking water is often scarce. About 70 percent of residents have no running water for more than half of every day.
One way to get potable water is to pump it from underground. However, this can cause the land to sink down into the emptied aquifer, making the area even more vulnerable to floods.
To understand these complex interactions, the researchers are integrating vast amounts of data about the natural environment, urban infrastructure and human behavior.
“Our aim is to pull this all together and create a platform for decision-making in which we can understand what is really driving the dynamics of risk in this city. How much of it is coming from problems of topography, problems of increased rainfall, and how much is actually due to human decisions?” asks Eakin. Ultimately, the model they produce could be adapted for other megacities around the world.
Building a storm
The team has already made one important discovery. As Mexico City grows, rainfall is increasing. The finding was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on April 4.
For a city located in a lake basin, more rain can cause problems.
“The city today faces continual problems with chronic flooding, from intersections becoming impassable in the rainy season because of lack of drains, to occasionally severe floods of a meter or so of water over particular neighborhoods. It’s not just the flooding, it’s that this is a combined rainwater and sewage system, as many old cities are. And that water is highly contaminated,” says Eakin.
Matei Georgescu experienced this firsthand when he met with MEGADAPT collaborators in Mexico City.
“I was stuck for about two-and-a-half hours in a bus because of the flooding. When all the main arteries get flooded all the public transportation comes to a complete stop,” he says. “We were finishing up a meeting at UNAM and were supposed to go back to the hotel to meet for dinner. We never made it to dinner. But it was an experience to fully understand what the flooding problems are.”
Georgescu is an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. He leads the climate modeling portion of the MEGADAPT project.
“Previous research has shown through observation that rainfall has been increasing over the Mexico City metropolitan area over the last century or so,” he says. “People had assumed that this increase in rainfall was somehow associated with urbanization, or what’s known as the urban heat island. But the link was never made. Correlation doesn’t mean causation.”
His team used satellite data to create a highly detailed map of Mexico City, identifying different land uses such as residential or commercial. They entered that data into the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and compared their results to the weather that was actually observed in the city.
Valeria Benson-Lira, the lead author on the study, traveled to Mexico City and worked with the Servicio Meteorologico Nacional (the Mexican weather service) to gather the observed weather data. The work was part of her master’s thesis research.
“Because I’m from Mexico, I wanted to do something that will have an impact on my country,” says Benson-Lira, who received her master’s degree in geography in May 2015.
Because of the mass quantity of the information, she had to retrieve it in person. She sifted through data from 16 weather stations that took readings every 10 minutes between 1999 and 2012. That adds up to nearly 11 million data points.
The team compared a subset of this data with the WRF model’s predictions and found that they matched closely. This told them that their adapted model works well.
Next they entered data about the pre-urban land cover of the area, developed at the University of Wisconsin, into the model. They found that Mexico City today experiences more rainfall than in the past, due to the growth of the city.
How does building a city attract more rain? Georgescu says two elements are required for precipitation to occur: moisture in the atmosphere and rising air, which forms condensation as it cools.
Precipitation systems tend to move over Mexico City in the late afternoon and evening, providing the first element—moisture. But they need rising air to unleash a rainstorm.
Urban structures like roads and buildings absorb more heat from the sun during the day than natural environments, creating an “urban heat island” effect. They release that heat in the evening hours. This provides the energy to lift the air, right at the time that precipitation systems move over the city.
“We’re not creating new precipitation systems, we’re just raining more out of what already existed. So essentially rainfall becomes more efficient,” says Georgescu.
The human element
MEGADAPT will take models like Georgescu’s adapted WRF model, integrate them and allow them to “talk” to each other. These include a hydrological watershed model and models of how the city distributes waste and drinking water through its infrastructure.
It’s not enough, however, to understand physical processes. The model also needs to account for human decisions and actions. Eakin interviews many people—from government officials to farmers to urban residents—about what issues they perceive, how they prioritize them and how they respond to them.
For example, Mexican disaster-management officials described major flooding that inundated homes in low-income neighborhoods with sewage-tainted rainwater.
“They basically lose all of their property. They have to evacuate populations. Things that are contaminated all have to be thrown out. Small business owners who are losing all their stock may not have insurance that covers these losses,” she says.
When she visits households, Eakin often finds that people have elevated important appliances like stoves onto bricks. Some will even elevate their thresholds, raising the front door off the ground to prevent water from getting in.
She says these adaptations are helpful, “but on the other hand, they are kind of letting the populations that are the most vulnerable dedicate scarce resources to this type of risk management, which really doesn’t get at the heart of the problem. We’re trying to understand whether there are interventions that can be made in a much more systemic way that would avoid these populations having to bear the burden.”
Every adaptation that people make, whether on an individual level like elevating appliances or on a government level like building infrastructure, is a decision based on certain perceptions, priorities and responsibilities.
For example, a community suffering from water scarcity might petition the government for rainwater capture systems. They see plenty of water washing away during the rainy season, and they get frustrated and angry with the government for not implementing what seems to be an obvious solution.
“And the government may say, ‘It’s all very well to think about rainwater capture but it’s going to be a drop in the bucket when we think about the volume we need to satisfy our population. Therefore it’s not an investment priority for us,’” explains Eakin. “People get frustrated that the solution they think is viable is not being adopted, and the government thinks people just don’t understand the complexity of the problem.”
The MEGADAPT model will allow users to compare the costs and benefits of different solutions, reveal unintended consequences, and offer insights that could lead to potential new solutions, as well. For instance, knowing that urban heat increases rainfall, city officials might consider exploring green infrastructure to reduce temperatures.
The researchers will leverage UNAM’s Decision Theater facility—modeled after the original Decision Theater at ASU—to help stakeholders simulate and visualize the modeling data. The team also plans to make a user-friendly version accessible to the public.
“I would be naïve to say we’ll solve it, but we’re trying to get some better instruments to help people think about these very complex interactions,” Eakin says. “It’s enormously complex.”
The team’s approach in Mexico City could also be applied to other cities.
“The developing world is urbanizing. Their data is not always in the best condition or widely available. There may be plans and protocols for certain things but they may not always be followed to the letter,” says Eakin. “This is the reality of most urban environments in the world. If we can get a hold of how to grapple with these complexities for more effective decision-making in Mexico City, perhaps we can extend this to Dakkar and New Delhi and Guatemala City.”
Build a strong relationship with your client and not only will they be happy to work with you again in the future, but they’ll also even rave about you to others when your project is complete. There are plenty of benefits to building great relationships with clients; communicating well, providing accurate information, and ensuring your presence is a positive one will all pay off in the long run.
Your communication during the project should be as positive and as frequent as it was when you were courting the customer for their business. Choose your preferred method of contact and make sure your client has an easy way to get in touch. Regular communication throughout the project can help build trust and ensure your customer feels cared for and that their home is in good hands.
You know every step required for the job at hand, and understand what a residential construction zone looks and sounds like, but your customer may not. A simple welcome packet or email with a “thank you,” a quick outline of what to expect from the project, and a note from you to get in touch any time they have a question, provides insight and makes your customer feel like they are in the loop. Some homeowners do not like relinquishing control of parts of their home, so by providing this information up front, you ease any anxiety they are having about the unknown.
Keep Things Positive
You’re always on stage when you’re in the client’s home – and your subs and workers are too. Make sure your team looks presentable, refrains from using NSFW (not safe for work) language, and maintains a positive, professional attitude. Even if you’re stressed out or angry that something was done incorrectly, maintaining a professional and positive atmosphere will prevent those feelings from spilling over to the client and possibly souring them on the job at hand.
Listen and Teach
Listening to the homeowner can help you truly understand their needs. When they feel heard, they’re more likely to respond positively to you. Not all your clients will be expert contractors themselves; that’s why they hired you. Taking the time to explain “why” a load-bearing wall needs to be in a specific place can help position you as an expert and allow you to develop a great relationship with your client, too.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Use technology to ensure you are providing accurate estimates and delivering what your client expects. Eyeballing or using a manual tape measure can give you a ballpark idea, but using a platform like HOVER ensures your estimates and proposals are accurate every time. Backtracking, changing your approach, or even coming in over budget can destroy the rapport you’ve worked so hard to build up. Technology like HOVER can prevent you from having to adjust on the go.
Give your clients the experience they deserve every time. By communicating well and often, listening to their concerns, and using technology to provide the best possible service, you can be sure you’re building relationships that last. Make the most of your time with a client; use HOVER to provide key details, visualize every change to the look of their home and deliver an accurate estimate for every project.
The water system in your home is one of the most important systems that you have to take care of. It’s a system that brings water into your home, provides you with a means to flush and clean your toilet, and removes the dirty water from the house. There would be no way to live in a house without the plumbing system. Your home’s well pump and water tank are essential for your family’s health and quality of life. When your household water system is in working condition, you can enjoy various benefits that range from convenience to long-term savings on your monthly water bill. If you have an older well pump or tank, there is a chance that it may not be as efficient as newer models. In addition, the water pressure will fluctuate as more people turn on their faucets or showers. This can lead to a more expensive water bill and an increased risk of leaks. That’s why it’s good to have a plumber install and maintain your home’s well pump and water tank so that you can benefit from the many advantages these systems offer.
The plumber is an expert who knows how everything works in the plumbing system. They are trained for this job, and they know it inside-out. They can help one with any problems that may arise with the plumbing system, whether they are big or small. They provide many different services like installing new water lines, well pump installation, fixing leaks, replacing faucets, repairing toilets, and unclogging drains. A professional plumber has the knowledge and experience needed to ensure that it does what it is supposed to do. They’re going to help you take care of the plumbing problems in your house, and they’ll do so at a lower cost than what you would pay if they weren’t there. Working with a plumber is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. Here are some of the reasons why you need an experienced plumber:
A plumbing problem can lead to more significant issues.
A plumbing problem in one area can cascade into other house areas. Common plumbing problems include pressure issues, poor under-sink drains, leaks, sewer problems, and expensive repairs. This means that hiring a plumber is important for ensuring that everything runs smoothly and efficiently. The quality of service you receive from a plumber is crucial for your peace of mind. Many potential causes for a plumbing issue include water seeping through the walls, leaks in roof systems, or even a burst pipe. To prevent these problems from getting worse, you should have your own expert who knows how to fix them.
Insurance protects you from future problems.
Insurance is the most important factor for using a plumber because it protects you from any potential problems. Plumbing problems can lead to more significant problems in the future, so insurance will protect you from those unwanted surprises. If an issue needs to be fixed, make sure your insurance company covers it. With no insurance coverage, not only will one have to make up the cost of a service or repair, but also have to pay out of pocket for any other necessary repairs and services. If a plumbing problem requires more than one service or repair, the insurance will cover it. So if there are pipes under your sink that need repairing and replacing in order to maintain water flow, it is good to ensure insurance covers this; otherwise, one will be stuck with an expensive bill.
One will always know who to call when something goes wrong.
A plumber is a business, so it’s important to choose a company that has experience in the area of service. One will want to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of what a home needs. You don’t always have the expertise to make these decisions yourself. That’s why you should consider hiring someone with experience. Hiring an experienced plumber ensures that you’re getting the most out of your decision. They have knowledge of plumbing, know their way around your home, and can make sure they’re doing all the necessary things to fix any problems that arise during their work. Working with a professional means you’ll get expert advice on how to prevent future problems too. They have access to up-to-date technology, which can help make your home more efficient. They will give you suggestions on how to maintain your home better so that you won’t have to worry about any future issues.
Plumbers offer warranties and guarantees
This can be very cheaper than paying for any additional repairs down the road because of faulty service. Having the right tools and supplies will get the job done faster, so you won’t have to wait around for an unexpected plumbing issue. When you hire an experienced plumber, they’ll advise you on the best way to repair your plumbing problem. If a leaky pipe needs to be fixed, a plumber will typically recommend a few different options. Working with an expert can help you avoid more costly problems in the future. A plumber’s insurance policy may cover any damages that may occur during their work, so it’s worth hiring one for your home or business.
Your experience with the plumber will be more pleasant.
The experience you have with your plumber will depend on the type of plumber you hire. If you hire someone who isn’t experienced, then there is a good chance that they won’t be able to help you in the way it is needed. This can lead to a more unpleasant experience and more problems.
If you hire an experienced plumber, they will be highly skilled and knowledgeable in their field. They will also know exactly what needs to be done in order to fix any problem that arises during the project. The more experienced a plumber is, the more likely they will avoid any future issues and ensure your plumbing project goes off without a hitch.
Additionally, suppose you hire an inexperienced plumber. In that case, the service will likely take longer than expected, and there’s a high chance of them not being able to fix whatever problem has arisen. This can be very frustrating for customers who have paid for an expensive service without receiving value in return.
The tools and supplies will get the job done faster and better.
This will help you finish your plumbing project quicker and better. In some cases, the right tools might even prevent future problems. Using the wrong tools or supplies can lead to costly repairs down the line. So if you do decide to hire a plumber, make sure they have the right tools and supplies with them.
Allows continuous water supply.
If you’re on a limited income, it can be difficult to afford high utility bills. Having a well pump service and water tank in your home might be just what you need to reduce your monthly expenses. You might also want to install one because you live in an area where it’s hard to get water from a municipal supply source. In these cases, it may be necessary for you to install your own private system of water supply. A third reason is if your municipality has had mandatory restrictions on the number of people who are allowed access to their public water supply at any given time. After this restriction has been reached, then all customers will have their taps turned off until the restriction has ended. This means that you will not have access to running water for your whole house or even just one room of your home during this time period. In this situation, it is good to have a plumber who will be carefully monitoring the water supply in your home.
What should you know before getting a plumber?
When you’re ready to hire a plumber, there are some important questions and issues that you should know about before doing so. If you’re hiring a professional plumber, these things will help you ensure that the job gets done right.
How long have they been in business? – You need to make sure that your plumber has been in business for more than five years. This will ensure that they have experience and a good reputation among customers.
What is their licensing status? – You want to ensure that your plumber is licensed and insured. These are important factors in ensuring safety when working on your plumbing system.
What type of plumbing services do they offer? – Your plumber will carry out many different services such as drain cleaning or installation. Make sure your plumber offers the service that you need.
Is the company trustworthy? – Make sure you trust your contractor before hiring them. The company’s reputation and reviews from previous customers can give you an indication of how good their work is.
Households today rely heavily on their water supply and the well pump that supplies it. To keep your home water system running efficiently and to avoid potential health problems, it is important to have a well pump and water tank installed and maintained by a professional plumber.
Many people are switching over from electric water heaters to solar water heating systems due to their so many advantages. This has brought out a lot of competitors for solar water heaters in the market. Even though most people go by recommendations from other people to choose a product for themselves, a solar water heating system should be bought after a lot of consideration. Given below are some tips that will help you choose a good solar water heating system.
This is the first step and the most important one to know which one suits your needs best. The internet will come in very handy for this. You can easily search the topmost competitors of a solar water heater in your location. Search each of them and see which one has the benefits to offer.
Check The Reviews And Recommendations
Always choose at least 2-3 competitors from the internet that are the best in the market. While choosing from them you can check their reviews on the internet. Go through their websites and see if their clients are satisfied with their services. Most companies are transparent enough nowadays to let you know about their reputation in the market. If your chosen competitor has a lot of good reviews and recommendations, you can choose them.
Contact The Manufacturer
Once you have come down to one option, you can take the next step and contact the manufacturer. You can easily contact them through their websites or any other listing site. Talking to them will give you a more clear idea of whether choosing them has been the right step or not.
Ask About The Installation Process
The whole installation process should be taken care of by the company itself. Make sure you learn beforehand what kind of services they provide and if they are willing to install them for you at your home. They will also be able to tell you the best place to install it at your residence once they check out the place to help you get the best from your solar water heating system.
Check The Warranty Period
A solar water heating system is usually a long-time investment. So, lastly, check out the warranty period your company is giving you. Usually, a solar water heating system tends to work smoothly for at least 15 years. If your company is providing you with a satisfying warranty period, you have chosen the perfect system for yourself.
Why should you choose solar water heaters for your home or business? Here are some of the biggest benefits of investing in a solar hot water system.
Once you invest in a solar hot water heater, you’ll start to get that money back in the form of free energy. The typical home will see an average of at least a 50% reduction in water-heating electricity use. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of suns, like Arizona, you could see as much as a 90% decrease in your water-heating bill.
Who wouldn’t want to save money and get free energy?
Reduced Carbon Footprint
The general consensus is that climate change is occurring and that carbon emissions are a major contributing factor. A solar water heater uses the renewable energy of the sun to warm up your home’s water.
If you can use solar energy to heat up water, that’s less fossil fuel or natural gas being used and released into the atmosphere from traditional electric or gas water heaters. That means you’ll be helping save the environment in addition to lowering your gas or electric bill.
Heating up your water directly from the sun’s rays is much more efficient than converting sunlight into energy that is then used to warm up your home’s water. Why take two steps to heat up your water when you can do it in one step?
They Take up Less Space than Traditional Solar Panels
Since solar water heaters are more efficient than traditional solar panels, the average home only requires one to three solar water heater panels. If you don’t love the idea of your entire roof is covered in solar panels, then a solar hot water heater may be a great option.
They’re Cheaper than Solar PV Panels
Since you need fewer solar water heater panels, they’re much cheaper to install than traditional solar PV panels. If you can help save the environment and reduce your gas or electric bills for a lower initial cost, then what’s holding you back from making that investment?
Contact Us Today to Learn More!
Does a solar hot water heater sound like it’s right for you? Contact us today to learn more about how your home or office could benefit from a solar water heating system. We would love to help you find the best solar solutions for you since solar energy is our passion.
Next time you get a really big electricity or gas bill, your thoughts may turn to solar panels. Wouldn’t it be good if you could catch all the power you need from the Sun? Millions of people already do get their energy this way, though mostly in the form of heat rather than electricity. Solar electric panels (also called solar cells or photovoltaic cells) that convert sunlight to electricity are only just becoming really popular; solar thermal panels, which use sunlight to produce hot water, have been commonplace for decades. Even in relatively cold, northern climates, solar hot-water systems can chop significant amounts off your fuel bills. Typical systems generate anything from 10–90 percent of your hot water and pay for themselves in about 10–15 years (even sooner if you’re using them for something like a swimming pool). Let’s take a closer look at how they work!
How to build a solar heating system
Imagine you’re an inventor charged with the problem of developing a system that can heat all the hot water you need in your home. You’ve probably noticed that water takes a long time to heat up? That’s because it holds heat energy very well. We say it has a high specific heat capacity and that’s why we use it to transport heat energy in central heating systems. So can we devise a simple solar heating system using water alone?
Stand a plastic bottle filled with cold water in a window, in the Sun, and it’ll warm up quite noticeably in a few hours. The trouble is, a bottle of water isn’t going to go very far if you’ve a house full of people. How can you make more hot water? The simplest solution would be to fill lots of bottles with water and stand them in a row on your window-ledge.
Or maybe you could be more cunning. What if you cut the top and bottom off a plastic bottle and fitted pipes at each end, feeding the pipes into your home’s hot water tank to make a complete water circuit. Now fit a pump somewhere in that loop so the water endlessly circulates. What will happen is that the sunlight will systematically heat all the hot water in your tank (although it’ll never get particularly warm because plastic bottles standing on window-ledges aren’t that brilliant at collecting heat). But, in theory, you’ve got a working solar heating system here that’s not a million miles away from the ones people have installed on their homes. It’s very crude, but it works in exactly the same way.
The parts of a solar-thermal hot-water system
In practice, solar heating systems are a little bit more sophisticated than this. These are the main parts:
Photo: A typical solar hot water panel uses a flat-plate collector like this. Photo by Alan Ford, courtesy of US Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DOE/NREL).
This is the technical name for the big black panel that sits on your roof. Smaller homes (or ones in hotter climates) can get away with much smaller panels than larger homes (or ones in colder climates); typically collectors vary in size from about 2–15 square meters (~20–160 square feet). Not surprisingly, collectors work most efficiently on roofs that have a direct, unblocked view of the Sun (with few trees or buildings in the way). Broadly speaking, there are two types of collectors known as flat-plate and evacuated tube.
Flat plates are the simplest collectors: at their most basic, they’re little more than water pipes running through shallow metal boxes coated with thick black glass. The glass collects and traps the heat (like a greenhouse), which the water running through the pipes picks up and transfers to your hot water tank.
These are a bit more sophisticated. They look like a row of side-by-side fluorescent strip lights, except that they absorb light rather than giving it out. Each tube in the row is actually made of two glass tubes, an inner one and an outer one, separated by an insulating vacuum space (like vacuum flasks). The inner tube is coated with a light-absorbing chemical and filled with a copper conductor and a volatile fluid that heats up, evaporates, carries its heat up the inner tube to a collecting device (called a manifold) at the top, where it condenses and returns to the bottom of the tube pick up more heat. The manifold collects the heat from the whole row of tubes and ferries it to your hot water tank. Unlike flat-plate collectors, evacuated tubes don’t let as much heat escape back out again, so they’re more efficient. However, since they’re a bit more hi-tech and sophisticated, they are usually much more expensive.
Photo: An evacuated-tube collector. Note the gray manifold at the top and the white water pipe flowing through it. Photo by Kent Bullard, courtesy of US National Park Service and US Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DOE/NREL). Artwork: How it works: a number of parallel, evacuated tubes (blue) receive concentrated solar energy from parabolic reflectors either side (yellow), which they send to a combined heat-exchanger and manifold (brown), through which hot water (or some other fluid) flows from entry and exit pipes. Artwork from US Patent 4,474,170: Glass heat pipe evacuated tube solar collector by Robert D. McConnell and James H. Vansant , US Department of Energy, October 2, 1984.
Artwork: A closer look at how an evacuated tube collector works. 1) The copper in the inner tube absorbs solar heat and evaporates the volatile fluid. 2) The evaporated fluid rises up the tube to the manifold at the top and gives up its heat. 3) Water flowing through the manifold picks up heat from all the tubes plugged into it. 4) The fluid condenses and falls back down the tube to repeat the process.
Hot water tank
There’s no point in collecting heat from your roof if you have nowhere to store it. With luck, your home already has a hot-water tank (unless you have a so-called gas “combi” boiler that makes instant hot water) that can be used to store heat from your collector; it’s a kind of “hot water” battery that you heat up at conveniently economic times (usually at night) ready for use during the day. If you don’t have a hot-water tank, you’ll need to have one fitted. The more people in your household, the bigger the tank you’ll need. A typical tank for a family home might be about 100–200 liters (30–60 gallons).
Typically, solar panels work by transferring heat from the collector to the tank through a separate circuit and a heat exchanger. Heat collected by the panel heats up water (or oil or another fluid) that flows through a circuit of pipes into a copper coil inside your hot-water tank. The heat is then passed into the hot water tank, and the cooled water (or fluid) returns to the collector to pick up more heat. The water in the collector never actually drains into your tank: at no point does water that’s been on your roof exit through a faucet!
Photo: A different and much bigger solar hot-water system. This one uses parabolic mirrors to collect the Sun’s energy and focus it onto water pipes running through their centers. The water is pumped back to the building in the background (Jefferson County Jail in Golden, Colorado). Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DOE/NREL).
Water doesn’t flow between the collector and the tank all by itself: you need a small electric pump to make it circulate. If you’re using ordinary electricity to make the water flow, the energy consumed by the pump will offset some of the advantage of using solar-thermal power, reduce the gains you’re making, and lengthen the payback time. Cleverly, some solar-thermal systems use solar-electric (photovoltaic) pumps instead, which means they are entirely running on renewable energy. A good thing about a design like this is that the solar pump is most active on really sunny days (when most hot water is being produced) and less active on cold, dull days (when, perhaps, you don’t want your solar panel to be working at all).
If it’s the middle of winter and your roof is freezing cold, the last you thing you want is to transfer freezing cold water into your hot water tank! So there is also generally a control system attached to a solar-thermal panel with a valve that can switch off the water circuit in cold weather. A typical control system may incorporate some or all of the following: a pump, flowmeter, pressure gauge, thermometer (so you can see how hot the water is), and thermostat (to switch off the pump if the water gets too hot).
How solar-thermal panels work
Here’s a simple summary of how rooftop solar hot-water panels work:
In the simplest panels, Sun heats water flowing in a circuit through the collector (the panel on your roof).
The water leaving the collector is hotter than the water entering it and carries its heat toward your hot water tank.
The water doesn’t actually enter your tank and fill it up. Instead, it flows into a pipe on one side of the tank and out of another pipe on the other side, passing through a coil of copper pipes (the heat exchanger) inside the tank and giving up its heat on the way through.
You can run off hot water from the tank at any time without affecting the panel’s operation. Since the panel won’t make heat all the time, your tank will need another source of heating as well—usually either a gas boiler or an electric immersion heater.
The cold water from the heat exchanger returns to the panel to pick up more heat.
An electric pump (powered by your ordinary electricity supply or by a solar-electric (photovoltaic) cell on the roof keeps the water moving through the circuit between the collector and the water tank.
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than this! What if it’s winter and there’s no useful solar heat outside? You don’t want the solar system pumping cold water down into your home, but you still need hot water. And what if it’s really cold? You’ll need to stop your solar system from freezing up, so it would be useful to pump hot water from your home through it occasionally. That’s why a typical solar system will look more like this one, with two interlinked water circuits. One (purple) pumps water through a solar panel as we saw above and down into a tank inside your home. This is connected to a second circuit (red) with a conventional hot water tank that can be heated by electricity, a natural gas furnace, or some other standard form of heating. On hot days, you effectively capture hot water in the purple circuit and then divert it around the red circuit into your home. On cold days, you can switch off the purple circuit using various valves or divert water from the red circuit through the purple circuit to stop it from freezing.
How good is solar thermal?
“… One of the most effective and efficient steps the government can take is to encourage the use of solar hot-water systems—a well-developed and relatively low-tech method for using the sun’s energy.”
Larry Hunter, The New York Times (Op Ed), 2009
In pure efficiency terms, solar-thermal panels are over three times as efficient (50 percent or so) at harvesting energy as solar-electric (photovoltaic) panels (typically around 15 percent), but that doesn’t mean they’re three times better: it all depends what you want from solar energy. If you live in the kind of family home where people are taking baths and showers all the time, especially in summer, solar thermal makes perfect sense. A decent system should be able to produce around half to two thirds of a home’s total, annual hot water needs (all your hot water in the height of summer and very much less in winter). The obvious drawback of solar thermal is that it produces nothing but hot water—and you can only do so much with that; unlike photovoltaics, solar-thermal panels can’t help you heat your home or produce truly versatile, high-quality energy in the form of electricity. The typical payback time for solar thermal (when your original capital investment has paid for itself in fuel savings) is about a decade, with a range of 5–15 years (depending on the cost of the fuel you’re saving, how much sun your home gets, and how much hot water you use).
Here’s a very rough comparison of the payback times for different types of green energy. It does depend entirely on what you’re installing, what you’re replacing, what existing fuel you’re not using instead, how much you used the old and new systems, and various other factors (such as tax incentives), so please don’t take the figures too literally.
Tom Silva, This Old House general contractor, shares how homeowners should evaluate a potential contractor before hiring him or her to work on a house. Here are his top 8 pro tips to help you find a contractor from start to finish.
1. Get Recommendations
Start with your friends and family and then check in with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area. You can also talk with a building inspector, who’ll know which home renovation contractors routinely meet code requirements, says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, or pay a visit to your local lumberyard, which sees contractors regularly and knows which ones buy quality materials and pay their bills on time.
2. Do Phone Interviews
Once you’ve assembled a list, Tom recommends that you make a quick call to each of your prospects and go through these questions to ask a contractor:
Do they take on projects of your size?
Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
Can they give you a list of previous clients?
How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
How long have they worked with their subcontractors?
The answers to these questions will reveal the company’s availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project, and how smoothly the work will go.
3. Meet Face to Face
Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. Tom says that it’s crucial that you two communicate well because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. On the other hand, don’t let personality fool you. Check-in with your state’s consumer protection agency and your local Better Business Bureau before you hire a contractor to make sure they don’t have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.
4. Investigate the Facts
Now that you’ve narrowed your list, put your research to use. Call up former clients to find how their project went and ask to see the finished product. But Tom says you shouldn’t rely on results alone. Even more important, visit a current job site and see for yourself how the contractor works. Is the job site neat and safe? Are workers courteous and careful with the homeowner’s property?
5. Make Plans, Get Bids
You have your shortlist of contractors whose track records seem clean and whose work ethic looks responsible. Now it’s time to stop looking back at past work and start looking forward to your project. A conscientious contractor will want not only a complete set of blueprints but also a sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to spend. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins, and other expenses. Generally, materials account for 40 percent of the total cost; the rest covers overhead and the typical profit margin, which is 15 to 20 percent.
6. Set a Payment Schedule
Another important tip for hiring a contractor is to work out a payment schedule ahead of time. Payment schedules can speak to a contractor’s financial status and work ethic. If they want half the bid upfront, they may have financial problems or be worried that you won’t pay the rest after you’ve seen the work. For large projects, a schedule usually starts with 10 percent at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project, and a check for the final 15 percent when you feel every item on the punch list has been completed.
7. Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide
“Throw out the lowball bid,” says Tom. “This contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work”—hardly an encouraging sign in a healthy economy. Beyond technical competence, comfort should play an equal or greater role in your decision. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it’s better to spend more and get someone you’re comfortable with when hiring a contractor.
8. Put it in Writing
Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtains lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, Tom assures us. It’s about ensuring a successful renovation.
Finally, remember that as soon as a change is made or a problem is uncovered, the price just increased and the project just got longer. The four most expensive words in the English language? “While you’re at it….”
If you are finding a good home improvement contractor, just contact us for more information.
When it comes to solar energy advantages, we’ve heard it all: It’s for hippies, it’s too expensive or it doesn’t work. Yet more solar energy systems are being installed on homes and businesses than ever. We explain some FAQs about the advantages of solar energy.
Advantages of Solar Energy
1. Solar is a proven technology.
The history of photovoltaic solar power began with scientific experimentation during the late 1800s. The first PV silicon cell capable of converting the sun’s energy into power that could run electrical equipment was introduced in 1954, and by 1983, worldwide PV production exceeded 21 megawatts. Currently, there are 47.1 gigawatts of total solar capacity installed nationwide, so it’s safe to say solar is a proven technology and that its adoption as a source of clean energy will continue.
SunPower‘s long history in the industry is an advantage as we’ve had plenty of time to perfect and improve our solar products. The company has been in business for more than 30 years and globally has installed more than 8.2 gigawatts. That’s more than 25 million solar panels! SunPower® solar panels are the most efficient, durable technology on the market, with an expected useful life of more than 40 years.1
2. Solar works in many climates.
Many people believe that solar won’t work in colder climates. That’s not true. Solar panels actually work more efficiently in colder temperatures because excessive heat can reduce the output voltage. While more hours of direct sun exposure will indeed help a solar system generate more electricity, modern panels are quite efficient and can still generate energy in low-light situations. Someone living in Seattle, for example, just may need a somewhat larger solar array to get the same results as someone in Southern California. Bottom line: Solar works anywhere there is daylight. (For more, read How Solar Energy Works.)
3. Solar is more affordable than ever.
The price of a solar system has dropped significantly. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the cost dropped 9 percent, and prices continue to decline. In many markets worldwide, solar power is less expensive than conventional energy. There are a variety of financial incentives available, such as tax rebates and state policies, that help make going solar affordable for more families and businesses. There are also a variety of solar financing options, from no-money-down leasing2 to home improvement loans that make solar more affordable. With SunPower, you can buy, lease or finance a solar power system. If you purchase a solar power system in the United States, you may be eligible for a 30 percent federal income tax credit and other local incentives.3
Businesses, schools and government entities may also qualify to use federal investment tax credits or accelerated depreciation for commercial solar panels.
4. Solar energy benefits the whole electricity grid.
Around the world, excess solar energy can be used by the conventional utility grid, reducing the burden on the whole, and, depending on local policies, the solar owner may even be compensated for that contribution via, for example, feed-in tariffs in some international markets such as Japan and parts of Europe. In most U.S. states, there are net metering policies. Net metering is a billing strategy that essentially pays solar users for their surplus electricity by giving them credit against their use of the electrical grid at night. (For more, read about net metering here.)
One of the advantages of solar energy is that the addition of PV panels generally increases home values. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory analyzed about 22,000 home sales, almost 4,000 of which use PV solar systems in eight states. It found that a typical PV system added about $15,000 in value. 5
8. Solar is a nonpartisan energy source.
Solar isn’t just for hippies. It is being embraced by people across the entire sociopolitical spectrum. Homeowners covering all demographics; Fortune 500 and oil companies; and governments and schools across the world continue to install solar energy systems. Mainstream banks are financing solar. Progressive solar policies have been driven at the state level by Republicans and Democrats alike. The environmental benefits of solar power are undeniable, but it’s being embraced widely because it makes good financial sense.
Your water heater requires a little regular maintenance to run efficiently, effectively, and last longer. That’s because minerals and other sediment accumulate in water heaters, and this buildup means your water heater has to work harder to do its job. It can even cause the tank to rust. But with a few steps and tasks you can help prevent these problems:
Adjust the thermostat to 120 degrees: At temperatures higher than this, even more minerals settle and form deposits. So keep it in the zone. And when you plan to leave for a few days, change the thermostat on gas water heaters to “vacation” setting, which maintains the pilot light without heating the water.
Flush the water heater tank: This should be done once or twice each year. Start by turning off the electricity or gas to the heater. Then, close the valve supplying cold water. Connect a hose to the drain valve. Open the hot handle of any faucet and safely drain the tank. Once the tank is empty, close the drain valve and remove the hose. Then, you should open the cold water supply. Next, open the hot water faucets throughout your house one at a time, and wait until water flows out from them before restoring power to the heater.
Check the “sacrificial” anode rod: This is a long metal rod that attracts corrosive minerals and removes them from the system. Look closely for damage – if it is too corroded, it cannot do its job. Replacing the rod is much cheaper than buying a new water heater! Newer heaters made with a plastic versus metal lining may not have this rod.
Test the temperature and pressure relief valve: This valve is built to open automatically if pressure or the temperature inside the tank rises to dangerous levels. A buildup of minerals or corrosion could cause this valve to freeze, however. To check the valve, turn off the electricity or gas to the heater, and close the cold water supply valve. Lift the trip lever on the valve, and expect some water to discharge. If the valve does not release some water, that means that it should be replaced.
Consider a water softener or filtration system: Installing either of these will not only affect the quality of your home’s water, but it will also increase the life of your water heater – making a multi-purpose, multi-benefit investment.
While your owner’s manual can step you through all of these maintenance tasks for your water heater, it is often best to hire a professional technician to handle annual maintenance needs and potential repairs. This will ensure the job is completed fully, safely and properly. And that your water heater runs in tip-top shape all season, and year, long.