“Do-It-Yourself” Solar Water Heating Systems?
I came across a video yesterday touting the benefits of a “Do-It-Yourself” solar hot water system for homeowners. As a life-long scientist and inventor, I applaud anyone’s efforts to create a better mousetrap. I have learned in my three decades of experience in the solar industry that some ideas are better than others. “Better” doesn’t always mean cheaper. We all know this. Few people would build their own car and drive it to work just to save money. Likewise, few homeowners possess the plumbing and electrical skills to effectively pull off a task like building their own solar water heater.
In areas where the climate is mostly warm, like California and Florida, DIY solar hot water is more popular because of the mild winters. Hard freezes are not common. But in areas where the temperatures often dip or stay below freezing, these homemade systems seldom last a few years. They can also cause a lot of headaches at the wrong time.
From a thermodynamics perspective, homemade systems are significantly less efficient and in many areas of the country they will not meet code. Plus, a lot of the incentives that make solar hot water so economically attractive require a certified professional to perform the installation.
For those super-handy and intrepid do-it-yourselfers, I say the following: If you want to have fun and learn about solar, but don’t care if it works very well, then go for it. It is a great learning experience.
But if you don’t want a lot of hassle, and you want it to work well, you need factory made equipment and professional installation.