Monday, August 6, 2007

Learned something new - solar water heating

Yesterday, we met with Maverick, a guy who builds solar powered "everything" and does it as a hobby! He even has a solar powered lawn mower, and we couldn't help but ask what his house must look like :-). Anyway, we were at the Alternative Energy Meetup, and though it was just us three, it was a greet meeting with lots of free information. The guy is an engineer who likes to build solar power projects, and the topic for the day was solar water heating.

There are several systems for heating your water, some really cheap and/or simple, and some can be elaborate, but a very doable DIY project if you know how to put together pipes.

1. Batch system, where sun heats water directly on the tank. The tank can be painted black to absorb heat and can be used alone or with an On-Demand water heater. Con is that it can freeze over because it is exposed to the elements. Typically used in the tropics, where the only likelihood is when hell freezes over! :-P

2. Thermosyphon, similar to the batch system, except in structure, where heated warm water travels up the tubes and to the top of the tank and cool water enters at the bottom of collector. Batch and thermosyphon systems are both non-automized systems, they work with physics, saving electricity, obviously!

3. Open loop direct, preheats water as it is consumed and controlled with a snap switch or digital controller in your house. A small pump (usually PV powered) circulates the hot water.

4. Glycol system, designed to be freeze resistant, where the collector fluid is a glycol/water mix and the heat exchanger transfers the heat from the collector loop to the consumption loop. It is within your home

5. Drainback system, similar in construction to the glycol system, but the collector fluid can be just plain water and requires the least maintenance. Water does not come in contact with freezing temperatures. The advantage is fewer parts and no chemicals!

A system with new parts and installation can cost about $3,500-4,000, or you can buy used parts & PV panels (solar panels) from e-bay, craigslist or through Maverick Solar and install it yourself for about $1,000 if you're a good DIY person.

Anyway, Maverick was very informative and gave us some great resource material. He says if you are considering solar panels, you must visit these places: (a must for solar power users, he recommends you subscribe to the mag and download the free PDFs)

Alas, here's some free PR for him (although this is his hobby, he probably will consult):
Maverick Solar (

If you contact him, please tell him where you heard about it!


maxmsf said...

That is a really great overview, complete with nice photos too. There's a ton of info packed into those brief descriptions-- you were paying close attention!

Jan & Myleen said...

Thanks maxmsf for your support and great Building Green TV blog - it means a lot that you have interest in our project.

solar water heater system said...

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