Home » We Found an Affordable Way to Go Solar (& it Feels So Good!)

We Found an Affordable Way to Go Solar (& it Feels So Good!)

Solar hot water heaters can help you recoup the cost in a fraction of the time of solar electric. I never knew that it would feel so good to get off the grid.

We want almost nothing more than to come off the grid and burn less fuel. We couldn’t find a way to make solar electric work for us financially, as it requires a large outlay of cash and takes ten years to recoup it. (This could change soon because companies are now offering discounts when whole neighborhoods go solar, and some companies have started to lease, rather than sell, roof panels right now.)

The sun is heating up our shower water - Photo: Andreas Krappweis, sxc.hu

The sun is heating up our shower water – Photo: Andreas Krappweis, sxc.hu

But in the mean time, several green energy experts advised us that solar hot water heaters make a big difference with a smaller investment and quicker cost-recoup time. We didn’t have a hot water heater. For ten years we had been getting hot water off of the already undersized, inefficient, builder’s-grade oil burner that came with our house. This meant that you couldn’t shower with the heat on or run two faucets at once unless you wanted an ice bath.

It also meant that something like one-half to seventy percent of our oil burner’s heat production was going right out the chimney along with that much dinosaur muck (i.e. fuel oil) which, after all, is a limited resource and a source of conflict in the Middle East and here, not to mention its rising price tag. Soooooo…..

Our old, inefficient dinosaur. Photo: Lisa C. DeLuca

Our old, inefficient dinosaur. Photo: Lisa C. DeLuca

…we replaced our dinosaur with a super high efficiency oil burner, a solar hot water heater and a back up oil hot water heater for those cloudy cold days. We found federal and state income tax rebates that will be in place until 2016. These helped us pay for part of the cash outlay. And in our first year of operation we used almost half (!) the amount of oil we did the year before. True, the first winter with the new unit was exceptionally warm. But we continue to track our use and we our on track for saving a substantial amount of fuel this year.

Our System 2000 super high efficiency oil burner with solar hot water heater (left) and backup oil hot water heater. Photo:  Lisa C. DeLuca

Our System 2000 super high efficiency oil burner with solar hot water heater (left) and backup oil hot water heater. Photo: Lisa C. DeLuca

With the price of oil continuing to rise, we expect to recoup our costs in a few years. After that, we will see pure savings.

The unit came with a little device that tells you when the solar unit is kicking and the temperature of the water. I love this little toy and I now run the dishwasher during mid-day instead of at night. It feels good knowing that the hot water I’m using at that time is costing me and the planet nothing, zilch, nada. And less than five percent of the heat generated by the oil burner is escaping.

What I didn’t realize before we did this is how thrilling it would be to tap into an unlimited, free, natural resource and to know that you are not polluting when you are doing everyday things like washing dishes. Investing in something that has your money actually working for you instead of getting sucked out of your pocket up the chimney also just feels good.

It’s addictive, really, and we will be looking into leasing solar electric panels next. Have you found a way to start getting off the grid? Can you relate to that feeling that this is addictive? Please leave a comment and share your ideas.

©Lisa C. DeLuca 2012, all rights reserved.  It is a violation of copyright law to reproduce this work on the web or for business use without permission from the author. This article was originally published on the web on December 12, 2012. Please contact the author with your reprint request.

 

 

 

3 Responses to “We Found an Affordable Way to Go Solar (& it Feels So Good!)”

  1. Nathan says:

    Lisa,

    I saw your post on the web and I also saw the Flanders sticker on the tank. I myself are having them put in the Smart solar hot water as well as a system 2000 oil burning system.

    My question to you since it has been over a year since your post, how is the systems? are you truly saving like they say?

    – Nate

    • Lisa says:

      HI Nate. Thanks for your great question, I had been planning on posting an update so here it is. The first year with the new System 2000 (March 2011 – March 2012) we used a little more than half of the oil we had used the prior year. But if you remember, the winter of 2011 – 2012 was a really warm winter, so I figured the huge drop in usage was at least in some part due to that. This past winter (2012 – 2013) was a very cold one, and our second year. Our oil usage was only SLIGHTLY higher than the very warm winter, so still, our oil usage was only a little more than half of what it was before the new system. Remember that we did the solar hot water heater too, and I thank that has made a huge contribution to the low numbers.

      We are delighted with the new system. Good luck, let us know how you make out with yours.

  2. Nathan says:

    Lisa,

    Thank you for your response and I just wanted to get you and update on our system. The System 2000 and smart solar system install was finished a little more than a week ago. I can tell you right off the bat that this set up is amazing. Not only does the boiler run when only asked but the solar is a HUGE benefit.

    Laundry, dishes, etc., as long as the sun is out, it is running off the solar almost 100% of the time. My only beef with the solar is it does not heat the water for the baseboards, that still runs off oil. The install looks amazing, the work they did was top notch. At least i know a made a good decision for hopefully the next 30 years lol

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