//Do-It-Yourself Solar Water Heater

Do-It-Yourself Solar Water Heater

Heating water can be as much as 50% of a households energy use, so when a device comes along that can reduce that by up to 50% it’s an investment well worth making. And this is the first system that has been designed with Do-it-yourselfers in mind.

Hot2o is a lightweight, affordable solar DIY solar water heater. Launched in 2007 by Chico-based FAFCO Inc., this system was designed in conjunction with Oregon’s Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Hot2o is a complete solar system in a box. Weighing about 65 pounds (traditional solar panels weigh hundreds), the system can be easily self-installed in less than a day. It is designed to work with existing electric or gas water heaters.

It doesn’t depend on heat, only sunshine, says Doug Kohl, spokesman for FAFCO. Kohl, who lives in the Sierra Nevada and installed his Hot2o system in under eight hours, said “if the panels are seeing sunshine, even if it’s in the 40s, they generate hot water around 104 degrees.”

A switch senses when the roof temperature exceeds the tank temperature, turning the collector on. It channels water through the unglazed panels, absorbing the sun’s heat. Heated water is then transferred to the hot water tank for storage until needed. When not in use, water in the solar collectors is stored in the drainback tank, preventing the water from freezing.

1. The sun heats the Hot2o solar panel

2. The timer operates the system when the solar energy can heat your water

3. When the system is operating, the panel channels water through the panel to absorb maximum heat from the sun

4. The circulation module transfers the heated water from the solar panels to storage in your hot water tank

5. The solar heated water is available in your hot water tank for all existing hot water needs (including laundry, dishes and bathing)

6. When not in operation the water in the solar collectors is stored in the wall mounted drainback tank to prevent any chance for the water to freeze

FAFCO’s solar panels heat water up to 120 degrees. Their low profile makes them almost invisible to passers-by and enables them to withstand severe weather conditions.

FAFCO’s DIY system qualifies for up to 30% federal tax credits, pricing a basic system to about $2,200. Dealer-installed systems average $5,000. This is significantly less than a standard home solar electric system’s price of up to $50,000.

Homes with gas water heaters require adding an additional storage tank to accommodate this innovative system, to offset the tank’s internal heat exchanger, which normally heats the water.

“The net effect is your gas hot water heater goes to sleep,” saving energy and lowering utility costs, said Freeman Ford, FAFCO’s CEO and co-founder.

For eco-minded consumers, there’s an added plus. “When you install one of our systems, you’re parking a car for a year in terms of carbon saving equivalents,” said Ford.

You can find a Hot2o dealer at www.hot2o.com.