In a tense economy homeowners are continually searching for ways to save money while still living comfortably. With the ‘green’ movement, consumers are constantly looking for environmentally friendly choices as well such as wind and solar energy. Both resources have advantages and disadvantages, but for most folks, a hybrid approach is proving to be the way to go.

In a home a large portion of energy is used for the hot water heater. Usually operated by gas or electric, these units consume valuable energy that is slowly depleting valuable fossil fuels and costing the homeowner money. In parts of the country where adequate sunlight is available, solar hot water heaters have proven to be an efficient way to generate hot water using the sun’s unlimited and free energy.

Solar hot water heaters heat water directly or a fluid, such as antifreeze, that indirectly heats the water through a heat exchanger. Heat water is then stored for use as needed. A conventional water heater provides any additional heating that may be necessary.

There are two different types of systems: active and passive. Active solar water heater use electrically powered pumps, valves and other equipment to help circulate water or heat-transfer fluid through the system. Passive solar systems circulate water or a heat-transfer fluid without electric pumps and other devices. To learn more about these systems, visit U. S. Department of Energy’s website.

There are several advantages to a solar hot water heater. First, they are non-polluting because they are powered by the sun. Second, they save energy which saves the environment. Finally, they save you money by reducing your energy bill. Plus depending on where you live, there may be state and local government rebates available to you.

However, there are some disadvantages to solar hot water heaters. First is location. If you do not have an unshaded, south-facing location, then a solar hot water heater would not be a very effective means to heat your water. Also, areas with hard or acidic water are not ideal locations. Hard or acidic water tends to corrode systems that circulate water. Also, climates that freeze or have frequent power outages will not work due to systems not heating without the sun or electricity. And even though the systems may pay for themselves over time, they can be a costly initial investment in comparison to a conventional hot water heater.

So if you are looking for an environmentally friendly way to heat your water, a solar water heater may be for you. Be sure to do your investigation into the product and make the best decision for you.