by Tom Lane
IS SOLAR HOT WATER A GOOD INVESTMENT FOR ME?
The potential savings on hot water bills are affected the most by the type of fuel you are using to heat your water. If you are heating hot water for two people or ‘ more and do not have natural gas available then solar hot water can be a great investment If you have to heat your water with electricity or with your own bottled LP gas tank (propane) then you owe it to yourself to look at solar hot water as an investment.
WHAT ABOUT THE PAYBACK’ ON A SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEM?
The term -payback” is a misconception that shows a false value towards an income generating device. When you purchase a more efficient air conditioner or car, the decision to buy comes not from how long the savings generated will pay you back for your initial purchase, it comes from your ability to get the same service for a lower operating cost giving a better rate of return on your investment Solar water heaters do just that. Solar systems provide quality hot water at lower cost than heating with electricity or LP gas and are typically designed to last as long as your home with little or no maintenance. At current electric rates, hot water for showers, laundry and dishwashing will cost up to $850 a year for a family of four. A properly sized solar water heater can be expected to save 80-90% of that cost. An important point to remember is hot water is a c:onstant daily expense compared to air conditioning and heating which are seasonal expenses.
WHAT ABOUT THIS INVESTMENT” IN A SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEM?
It is ironic that you, if you are an individual with electric water heating, will pay for a solar hot water system over the next 5 years whether you get one or not! You can invest today in a solar hot water system and have something to show for your money in savings and equity value in your home …or you can send the same money that would have gone into savings and home equity to the utility company for taxable rate payments on a temporary service. The accountants advice or the winning decision is to stop paying for only a service from the utility each month and start owning what you are already making payments on but not getting. Your choice i3 whether you will get anything other than a temporary service for your money. Your solar system savings will be offsetting at the end of approximately four years instead of having nothing to show for your money but paid receipts. Another important point to remember is that all solar savings are in nontaxable income. A dollar saved on your hot water expenses is typically equivalent to $1.30 earned that is taxable! The only choice is what you are going to be getting for your money. You will be incurring a monthly debt with no equity and higher payments with no savings or return if you do not want to go solar. The choice is only about what you actually -get” in spending the money anyway. Either you invest it for more equity and savings, or you give it away for a temporary service provided by your local utility.
WHAT ABOUT PUTTING A SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEM IN THE MORTGAGE?
This is the best time to install a solar hot water system. The monthly savings are far greater than the small increase in mortgage payments and the tax savings as a part of a home mortgage or home improvement loan, typically 25% or more, count as an itemized deduction off your income tax. Typically the after tax rate of return on investment will be over 20% per year for even two people, up to 30% for a family of four. You can also increase the value of your home and its visual perception as an energy efficient, environmentally responsible home.
WHAT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF GOING SOLAR?
Anytime you use solar energy to do anything which offsets the amount of burned fuel your lifestyle would normally be responsible for, you contribute to the health and welfare of all of us who depend on a clean environment for survival, including you and your family. An electric water heater operating in a household family of four will be responsible for more pollution per year from the electricity generated at a coal fired utility plant than a family car that travels 40,000 miles a year. Most people have come to realize that by burning coal to make electricity we are slowly poisoning our environment with toxic heavy metals, like mercury, etc., besides the other fouling of our air and water that routinely occurs. The stories of panthers dying and large mouth bass being too contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals to eat are all a part of the legacy of burning dead dinosaurs. How you make your home energy efficient will have a telling effect on the environment for as long as the home lasts, Solar water heating, recycling and the green movement are an investment in the planet we live on and our children’s future.
The decision can be delayed.
Many solar contractors make a good living in Florida, selling solar pool heating systems. Solar systems outsell fossil fuel systems by 2 to 1. It is easier to sell solar pool heating systems than domestic water heating systems. When you have a pool, without a heating system, you are not in control. You do not have an automatic comfort controlled, heated pool. So, naturally many will look to change that situation. They will want something they currently do not have. With domestic water heating the situation is different. We already have hot water, so we can delay the decision to install a domestic solar water heating system, even if it makes a lot of sense to do it right now.