According to the US Department of Energy, hot water usage in US homes represents between 15% to 30% of a home’s energy demand. That equals to consumption between 24-42 gallons of hot water per day for an apartment or house, reaching up to 12 gallons per hour during peak times. Despite these high numbers, the technology used to heat water in the US is often outdated and inefficient when compared to the tankless or on-demand technologies now used regularly in Europe and Asia. However, things are taking a turn in favor of solar energy. Research into solar processes has been marked by rapid progress in recent years, in line with the country’s growing interest in renewable energy sources. From 1975 to 2008, more solar energy patents were linked to US Department of Energy than to any other organization in the world. These efforts have resulted in growth to a sector that increased the number of installations, reduced solar energy costs by more than 30%, and developed a job market that employs more than 100,000 people in all 50 states.
Solar thermal has grown into a utility with various applications:
- Residential – solar energy can be used for domestic water heating, swimming pool heating, and space heating and cooling
- Commercial – Hot water used in: restaurants, laundromats, hotels, hospitals, spa centers and community swimming pools.
- Industrial – food processing businesses.
In 2008, the Federal Investment Tax Credit was initiated. Under this program, a 30% tax credit is awarded to residential and commercial properties who take steps into installing a solar water heating system. This initiative will end in 2016.
In May 2010, California added a new program subsidizing the purchase and installation of solar water heating equipment. The program, directed at reducing the use of natural gas and grid electricity, set aside $358 million for direct economic subsidies and market development support. The program is expected to continue through 2017.
The goal of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for 2015-2020 is to achieve solar space heating and cooling systems that can deliver energy at a cost of $0.4-$0.57 kWh. However, when employing a renewable energy system , there is a whole array of benefits that one should consider:
- Energy independence. Even though the price of fuel has dropped in the last few weeks, in the long run they are foretasted to rise again. So why not harness a free, available, unlimited source of energy?
- Lower your utility bills and offset a larger mortgage payment.
- Use solar energy for both space and water heating.
- Lower your carbon footprint and be part of the “green” revolution.
- A solar heating system requires very little maintenance over its lifespan, most of the components being extremely reliable.