It’s easy to say that your biggest carbon footprint is with your motor vehicle. It’s easy to say, “Man, we need to use less electricity.” But there is another area of your home life that you need to think of when it comes to getting a little bit “greener”.
So when was the last time you thought about your hot water heater?
Hot Water Heaters Have A Huge Carbon Footprint
Surprised? It’s true that your car’s carbon footprint is pretty sizeable, but the hot water heater in your home is something people rarely (if ever) think about when it comes to energy consumption. When it comes to burden on the environment, traditional water heaters could have the biggest impact among sources that no one ever thinks about. Water heaters (gas, electric and tankless) actually produce as much, if not more, CO2 than your typical automobile. At nearly 6,400 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, the water heater produces about eight tons of carbon dioxide annually, which doubles that of the standard automobile.
Worried about cars and other modes of transportation stomping all over the Earth? Let’s start worrying about our water heaters and start thinking about solar water heaters.
Solar water heater on roof from Shutterstock
A Few Things To Consider Before Jumping Into The Solar Water Heater Market
I know that after I saw some of these statistics, I wanted to run out and grab one for myself. But there are a few things you need to consider before making the leap.
- Communities may have standards for solar installations. If you end up installing your solar water heater outside your local code, you will have to re-install it – and usually at quite a price. So before you install your solar water heater, be sure to check if your community has codes that you need to comply with. Usually your local city’s website will have this information.
- Some of you may be wondering whether any solar unit is right for you because you live somewhere that is overcast for most of the year (like Seattle). Luckily, there are many different solar heating systems perfect for any type of climate.
- There are also costs that come with solar water heaters that you’ll need to take into account, so here’s a quick rundown of the cost comparison between solar water heaters and traditional water heaters.
Solar Waters Have Long-Term Cost-Efficiency
From the outset, water heater installation may be cheaper with traditional water heaters. The units cost anywhere from $150 to $450, but could be more depending on the type of water heater you choose and the type of equipment needed to outfit your house with the appropriate tools for that water heater (pipes, installation fees, etc.).
When installing a solar water heater, you will pay anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500, depending on your area and the type of system you choose. Yes, the difference in price is staggering, but keep in mind that the real cost of the traditional water heater lies mostly in the rising cost of electricity and natural gas. And be reminded that all this energy usage is making your house a footprint that can be seen from space. With solar water heaters, you pay that initial price, but you don’t pay the electricity bills or natural gas bills that you would with traditional water heaters. As with all solar energy systems, you are using renewable energy, which saves you a ton (or eight, in this case) in the long run. According to the Consumer Energy Center, the average solar heating system pays for itself in four to seven years.
If that initial cost is a big deterrent, the U.S. government offers homeowners tax credits of up to 30 percent (with a $2,000 cap) to help offset the cost of installing a solar water heating system. If you were to get the full $2,000 on a $1,500 system, you’re actually making money to install an energy efficient water heating system.
This program from the government will help you see which credits are available to you.
Diane Kuehl is a home improvement professional and co-owner of DIY Mother. She lives on her farm in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.