The author's Wisconsin straw bale home incorporates both a solar water-heating system (upper roof) and a photovoltaic solar-electric system.
PHOTO: JOHN IVANKO
With proper design and careful installation, a solar water-heating system can provide a large percentage of a home’s hot water for many years with little maintenance.
CROMWELL & RAMSEY ENVIRONMENTAL
Solar hot water heaters have very low operating costs.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Most of the United States receives sufficient solar energy for water heating, with potential ranging from excellent (deep orange) to moderate (tan).
Best for warm climates or seasonal use, integrated collector storage (ICS) systems are the simplest solar water heaters.
Ideal for all climates, closed-loop antifreeze systems use heat exchangers to transfer heat from the antifreeze mixture to the water, which remains in the storage tank until used.
Best suited to moderate/hot climates, drainback systems include a tank that holds the antifreeze solution when the system is off.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of installing a solar hot water heater.