Since I arrived in Mexico City a couple months ago, I have observed many new and old homes with strange contraptions on the roof. At first I thought they were skylights, but then I realized that they are in fact solar water heaters. This seemed like a great idea, especially for places that get a lot of sun. Not only are they economical, but they also help to save resources. After doing a little research, I learned that heating water is the second largest energy consumer in the average American home, so a more efficient system would mean great savings in energy costs.
I also learned that these types of heaters can be used in many different kinds of weather, including those with cold winters. And, although I haven't tried it myself, some models seem to be reasonably easy DIY projects too!
There are several types of solar water heaters, and if you are considering making or installing one, you will need to do a little research before choosing the one appropriate for your home. Luckily, there are many websites out there to help you out. Here are a few that I found helpful:
Build It Solar is a very thorough website with lots of useful info. It has step by step instructions on how to do a solar site survey (to see if you get enough sun), basic information on solar water heating systems, descriptions of the different types of systems with their pros and cons, and information and manuals for different DIY heaters, including these:
Arizona Solar Center explains very clearly the technology and the different types of heaters.
Energy Savers has a lot of information on how to determine the right system for you, and lots of practical information, including how to choose the right contractor when installing or maintaining a solar water heater.
Do you have a solar water heater? Has it been as efficient as you thought it would be? Have the savings been as much as expected?