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Solar Hot Water

Conservation and Efficiency

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Water and energy conservation and efficiency provide the foundation for smaller, more efficient and affordable solar hot water systems.

While it’s easy to get excited about solar and other renewable energy technologies, energy and water conservation and efficiency should be considered first. Why? When you or a contractor sizes your system, it is based on the amount of water and energy you use. The less you use, the smaller, more efficient and cost-effective the system will be. The initial purchase as well as operation and maintenance costs will be less. You will reduce your water, sewer, natural gas, and electric bills, and, reduce use of your back-up system that is typically powered by natural gas, electricity, or propane.

Buildings that do not waste water (conserve) and use water-efficient fixtures, appliances, and machinery can reduce water use up to 30 percent. Households (without wells) spend as much as $500 per year on water and sewer bills. Simple changes for using water more efficiently can reduce utility bills by about $170 per year.

Also, when we all use water more efficiently, we reduce the need for new tax-payer funded water supply infrastructure and wastewater treatment facilities. People who receive water from wells reduce the amount of water drawn from aquifers.

Water Conservation & Efficiency Tips

Whether hot or cold, using water wisely has many benefits. Solar hot water systems provide water for showers/ baths, kitchen and bathroom faucets, clothes washers, and dishwashers for homes. Heated water is also used in agriculture buildings for processes and cleaning.

If your home or building was built before 1992, consider installing WaterSense-labeled low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and toilets. Installing a WaterSense showerhead, which uses ≤ 2.0 gallons per minute versus 2.5+ gallons per minute with a standard showerhead, could reduce hot water use by 2,300 gallons. WaterSense faucets typically reduce water use by 30 percent. Be sure to fix water leaks because they can account for up to 15 percent of your water bill.

WaterSense labeled products must undergo independent, third-party testing and certification to ensure they meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criteria for both efficiency and performance.

When purchasing appliances and machinery, look for the Energy Star Label. An Energy Star, high-efficiency clothes washer often uses 50 percent less water and energy than a traditional clothes washer. Many high-efficiency clothes washers clean clothes effectively using cold water. For dishwashers, look for the Energy Star label and compare the yellow EnergyGuide labels to compare energy use.

For more water conservation tips, visit: www.epa.gov/region01/eco/drinkwater/ water_conservation_residents.html

Insulate hot water storage tanks and pipes (especially if located in an unheated space). It’s cheap, easy, and pays for itself quickly. Heat loss through the tank and pipes (called standby losses) can account for 20 percent of your water heating bill. For tips on reducing hot water use, visit: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/ index.cfm/mytopic=13050

While not related to heated water, it is important to mention that farms can conserve large amounts of water (and energy) by switching to a linear/pivot system and drip irrigation practices.

Did You Know?

While it is obvious energy is required to heat water, a large amount of energy is also required to treat (drinking water standards) and pump water. It also takes a lot of energy to treat our wastewater before it is pumped into a river or other body of water. According to the EPA, American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours per year — enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year.


Energy Trust of Oregon. (2010, April). Reduce Irrigation Energy Costs. Retrieved April 30, 2011, from: http://energytrust.org/library/forms/PE_BRO_Irrigation.pdf

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). (2008, February). Clean Energy Farming: Cutting Costs, Improving Efficiencies, Harnessing Renewables. Retrieved April 30, 2011, from: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/ Bulletins/National-SARE-Bulletins/Clean-Energy-Farming

U.S. Department of Energy. (2010, October). Reduce Hot Water Use for Energy Savings. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_ heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13050

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). WaterSense: Benefits of Water Efficiency. Retrieved February 2, 2011, from: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2011) WaterSense: What Are the Environmental Benefits of Water Efficiency? Retrieved February 2, 2011, from: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/