Water heating accounts for 25 per cent of the energy used in an average home and is responsible for 23 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from home energy use. Reducing your hot water use and using renewable energy sources to heat water are great ways to reduce your environmental impact.

By installing the most appropriate and efficient water heater for your household size and water use patterns you can save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without compromising your lifestyle. An efficient hot water system can also add value to your home and help you to meet local council or state/territory regulations.

More than half of hot water use is in the bathroom, a third is in the laundry and the remainder is in the kitchen. One of the best ways to reduce your energy bills is to reduce hot water use by installing water efficient showerheads and taps – you will save on energy and water.

ENERGY SOURCES FOR HEATING WATER

Solar energy

Solar hot water systems are storage systems and, depending on your climate, can provide up to 90 per cent of your hot water for free using the sun’s energy. Solar hot water systems cost more to buy and install than other hot water systems, but can save energy and reduce your bills. Seek expert advice to help you choose the most cost effective solar water heater for your needs. Be sure to consider the energy source for boosting (gas or electricity), energy tariffs, ease of installation and product cost.

To provide hot water on cloudy days or when demand exceeds supply, most solar water heaters come with a gas or electric booster. A gas booster usually produces less greenhouse gas emissions.

Booster systems located inside the storage tank can be inefficient – cutting in and pre-empting the sun. Override switches and timers can correct this problem if well managed. An increasingly popular approach is to use an inline gas booster that works like an instantaneous water heater – it guarantees a suitable temperature while maximizing the solar contribution.

The solar collector and storage tank is generally located on the roof of your home, facing north. The storage tank can also be located inside the roof or at ground level.

SOLAR HOT WATER

Installing a solar water heater can greatly reduce your energy bills as it will use energy from the sun to heat water at zero cost.

Using solar energy to heat water produces no harmful greenhouse gas emissions. A solar water heater can provide up to 90 per cent of your total hot water requirements, depending on the climate and the model of heater.

The upfront cost of a solar water heater (including installation) is higher than electric or gas water heaters. Government rebates are available from the Australian Government and several State Governments to assist with the initial purchase cost of a solar water heater.

Although the initial cost of a solar water heater is higher, it can save energy and reduce your bills. The time required to break even (the payback period) depends on the climate, the type of system installed and the energy tariff applied. Solar water heaters have additional benefits, as they last longer than conventional water heaters and add to the value of your home.

 

HOW DO THEY WORK?

Most solar hot water systems use solar collectors or panels to absorb energy from the sun. Water is heated by the sun as it passes through the collectors. It then flows into an insulated storage tank for later use.

In passive systems, water flows due to a thermosiphon effect between the collectors and the tank. In active systems, water is pumped between the collectors and the tank.

The storage tank is usually fitted with an electric, gas or solid fuel booster that heats the water when sunlight is insufficient. Some solar water heaters also have frost protection to prevent damage in frost prone areas.

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