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We installed our solar hot water system in December of 2008. This obviously is the worst time of year for collecting solar energy. We were amazed at the amount of energy available even at this time of year. One day in January the sun heated our tanks to almost 140°! Even when the tanks only get to 80 or 90° it takes much less propane to go from 90° to 140° than it does to go from 45° to 140°. We won't know until the end of 2009 what our actual savings will be. In the mean time we enjoy watching the gauges each day. I guess it doesn't take much to keep us entertained.

The system we installed is fairly large due to the amount of hot water we require. The collector is a 90 tube Apricus Evacuated Tube Solar Collector. A glycol loop takes the heat from the collector and moves it to a heat exchanger coil inside of our 160 gallon Stiebel Electron storage tank. When the storage tank is warmer than the propane water heater a circulator pump turns on to move heat from the solar storage tank to the propane water heater. This increases our storage capacity to 240 gallons. The washer is connected to the propane water heater. When the washer needs water it draws water from the water heater through a mising valve. The mixing valve ensures that the water going to the washer is not too hot. As water is drawn from the water heater it is replenished from the solar storage tank. The solar tank works as a preheater for the propane water heater. The propane only fires when the solar heated water is not hot enough. The mixing valve makes sure the water going to the washer is not too hot by adding cold water to regulate the temperature. This system should produce about 20,000,000 BTUs per year which equates 220 gallons of propane.

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