Solar energy is one of the “greenest” sources of power on earth. Anyone who has lived in the desert since the beginning time has used solar power for one thing or another and often make it a way of life. Some of these tricks can still be used today. One handy trick is a solar water heater. These may be a little difficult to install and slow to heat, but they are great money savers.
You can easily cut your electric or gas bill in half or more, every month. All you really need is some wood, black paint and some more pipes for your water lines. You can mount the new system either in your backyard or on your roof. This device is really very simple to create and does not take much time. You can even use your existing water heater for this project, which can save even more money.
The first thing that you will need to do for this project is to create the cradle for the heater. Many people will use two heaters for this method of heating water. This will allow for more hot water before having to reheat. You will want to monitor your families hot water usage to determine how large of a water heater you will need or how many. Once you determine the size and number of heaters that you will want to install, you can start to build your carriage. The carriage is the platform that you will mount your heaters on. It will need to be at least 6″ larger in each direction than your heater(s). The base for it will be constructed of plywood and lined with 2×4’s. You may also want to reinforce the center of the carriage with an additional 2×4. This will make the frame more sturdy and can lengthen the life of it. You will want to use a weather coating on all of the wood. This will protect the wood from the elements and keep it from breaking down prematurely. Once you treat it with the weather seal, you will need to paint one side in black. This will attract the suns heat and energy and help to heat your water for you. After you completely coat the entire surface with black paint, you can start to build your carriage. Piece it all together and get it nailed together. Then you will want to go over it in the black paint once more.
Now you can mount your heaters into the carriage. You may want to attach the carriage to its final resting spot first. If you want it to be in your backyard, you will want a location that is constantly in the sun the entire day. The roof may be a better location to reduce the amount of usable space that is used. This location is often in the sun for longer times in the day. By attaching the carriage first, you can reduce the weight of the entire structure. This makes it a lot simpler to install. Once you find the proper location, you want to place the carriage there and evaluate any needed supports that you will want to install. You want the carriage to sit at a 45-degree angle. This will maximize the surface exposed and still allow the water to flow correctly from the heaters.
Now that you have the carriage installed, you can install the heaters. You will want the heaters installed prior to the water pipes to help with the ease of installation. You will want to install a shelf to set the heaters on. This will keep the heaters in a stable position and reduce the risk of falling and causing property damage or injury. You will also want to strap the heaters to the carriage. This will help to secure them. Once the heaters are installed, you can start to install the pipes. You will want to use the existing pipes to aid in the ease of the installation. You can run an additional pipe to the existing inlet for your hot water. If you just extend this to the new heaters, you will not have to reinstall the entire pipe system in your home. You can choose to run the pipe through the walls, underground or exposed. This is all your decision on how intricate you want the installation to be. Once the pipe is run to the heaters, you will want to leak check them before you cover the pipes. This will save you in water damage and make repairs easier. Once the pipes are leak checked, you can now pressurize your system. You are now ready to use your new heaters. You will want them to sit for several hours for the sun to heat the water before the initial use.
One tip you may want to consider is adding a cover to your carriage. If you use a thick plastic cover, it may act as a greenhouse and speed the heating of your water. You may also consider keeping power or gas lines attached to your heaters in case of bad weather or freezing temperatures. The “greenhouse” effect can also increase your water temperature. There are many different tricks and tips to helping your water heaters perform. These can be found online or at your local hardware store. This is just the beginning step to making a greenhouse that helps save money and the environment.
See also our guide “how to choose the best solar generator“