Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Solar hot water heaters
Let's look at three levels of solar hot water heater.
First we have the Yuppie level. Hire a reputable firm to install the latest in solar hot water heaters. It's a wonder of copper, glass, pumps, computer chips, and other cutting edge technology. It most likely has sophisticated freeze protection: automatic drain back or a working fluid with heat transfer. It probably has thermal mass storage for cloudy days. You really don't need to know the details. What you need a big fat bank account as these systems start in the $10,000 - $30,000 range and goes up from there. May you live long enough to see a return on your money.
Next we drop way down to where I live, the Downwardly Mobile. We look at solar water heating because other ways of heating water are too expensive. Our designs are based on old hippie-tech from the 70s. Salvaged water tanks, recycled glass and wood. Google or look on Youtube for batch solar water heaters and you'll get an idea what they look like. It could be as simple as a big coil of black plastic pipe left out in the sun. No two will be exactly alike. This is all do it yourself work. If we spend over $100 we feel wasteful.
Now let's go all the way down to Hobo level. This is where you end up when all your other plans have fallen into the crapper. Your budget is about $3. You find a one gallon jug with a screw on cap. You punch a bunch of holes in the cap. Then you paint the jug black. If you don't have paint maybe you wrap it in black tape. The jug sits in the sun full or water until hot. Sprinkle it over your head as needed.
Do not disparage the hobo water heater. Your finances might be a hobo level, but you don't have to smell like an urban camper. When it get right down to it, hot water is all about cleaning.
My hope is that by doing the “downwardly mobile” tech, I don't slip too far down and have to employ hobo tech.