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Commercial Solar Water Heaters ?

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Posted by Rob Dekker on September 1, 2005, 2:14 am

While in Spain and Isreal it seems that everyone uses
solar-water heaters, here in California, there seems to be
very little commercial activity, and painfully few solar water
collectors on roofs.

With solar water heating being such an obvious way to save energy cost,
I've been very surprized to find that solar water heating seems to be
still in the almost build-it-from-scratch do-it-yourself projects phase.

Anyone knows where you can simply buy a 'package' for a
typical direct pumped system, with solar collector, some insulated piping,
pump, valves, control unit and optionally a standard (gas-powered)
water-heater (if you cannot use the existing heater)....

This seems something that should be available at Home Depot....

Quick calculation of my own (average home) water-heating cost,
solar water heating should save me $00/year easily. If I can
buy the ready-to-install hardware for $000 or less, I will get
my investment back in just a few years.
Or would commencial systems be more expensive than that ?

I have gas-powered water heater. Electric water-heater users
should save much more. And for apartment buildings, with more
water users in a single building, there would probably be much more
potential for saving energy cost.

Where is the commercial activity ?

Posted by Morris Dovey on September 1, 2005, 3:43 am
Rob Dekker (in NttRe.1332$la.1045@newssvr22.news.prodigy.net) said:

| Quick calculation of my own (average home) water-heating cost,
| solar water heating should save me $00/year easily. If I can
| buy the ready-to-install hardware for $000 or less, I will get
| my investment back in just a few years.
| Or would commencial systems be more expensive than that ?

| Where is the commercial activity ?


I'm manufacturing passive solar heating panels and have designed,
built, and tested /one/ prototype DHW system I considered good enough
to take to market. That's not much of an experience base, but enough
for me to develop some numbers.

A commercial high-quality (efficient, long-life, reliable) DHW system
including the associated pumps and control subsystem suitable for
installation in the upper midwest is likely to cost in excess of $K -
which I decided was more than most homeowners would be willing to fork

There's an additional "fly in the ointment" in that once such a system
is sold and installed, it's (currently) extremely difficult to find
anyone to provide after-sale maintenance/repair service.

Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
DeSoto, Iowa USA

Posted by Rob Dekker on September 1, 2005, 4:53 am

One prototype is nice as a 'feasibility' experiment, so I have to assume
that it will take you a while but sell 10 of the systems
and you are a business. Then move to 100, to 1000 etc...

That's really cool !
Is that your production cost price ? Or you retail price ?

Considering that PV systems that people are installing today cost much more
than that and probably create less $'s energy savings, there has to be a pretty
good market for your system.

I would guess that in California (more sun-hours/day, virtually no risk of
the collector could be smaller and the system simpler, and thus will be cheaper,
so you might have a winner here !

Also note that the 'million solar roof initiative' is now on our Governator's
desk :

If approved, there would be considerable rebates for buying solar systems.
That would bring the price of your system down to less than $000.- !

So the market might be ready for a good commercial system.

That probably depends on the system that you want to sell
and the people you want to sell it to.

The first real market would probably be the 'self-installers'.
People that know how to follow installation instructions,
and know how to hold a crewdriver and would install their own stuff.
People that buy water heaters at Home Depot, so to say.

It would require a fool-proof / safe-proof system though....
Easy to buy, easy to install, and self-correcting (no complicated tools,
adjustements or test equipment needed).

Beyond that, a regular plumber should be able to learn how to
service a simple solar heater system after in a day of training or so....
Where there is a market, service people will sprout up...

Posted by Christian Kaiser on September 1, 2005, 7:54 am
 Somehow strange that in the US this seems to be so rare...

Here in Germany it's easy to buy one, either for do-it-yourself
installation, or a finished, installed system. Buy collectors, pump systems,
exlectronic control, ... anything. It's more difficult to get a good heat
tank, but manageable. A lot of  plumbers also (at least announce that they
do) know how to install and manage them. Which is fairly trivial. I had no
experience at plumbing whatsoever, and I was able to install the solar
circuit part myself. Experience in some details of planning and design would
be an advantage (where to optimally install the heat tank, how large the
system should be, etc).

Costs are higher here though, but oil also is more expensive, so it is
getting cost-neutral in about 10-15 years here (faster maybe due to the rise
in oil price in the last months!)... but it's always a good feeling not to
need any oil (well, nearly) during summer.

I installed a relatively large system, but it can supply us with warm water
for up to 4 bad weather days, which is needed here where I live :) I always
compare economical systems with ecological ones, and I chose ecological
(more expensive than needed, but it also saves a few percents more of oil
than the other due to the layout of the system).


Posted by nicksanspam on September 1, 2005, 10:52 am

That's a big cost item. Large and heavy, and it wears out. Our solar pond
concept has an inexpensive plastic pipe spiral instead, with no fresh water
pump or antifreeze. The horizontal pond collector eliminates lots of piping
and minimizes pump power and makes a box on the lawn vs a box on the roof.
I'd like to see this commercialized as an easy-to-assemble kit. See



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