When you hear the term “solar power,” you probably think of solar electricity generated by photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.
But there is another form of residential solar power that is both affordable and efficient: solar thermal panels for solar hot water. Just like PV panels, solar thermal panels require exposure to sunlight.
Even at lower ambient temperatures, sunlight that falls on thermal panels can heat domestic water via a solar hot water system. In other words, you don’t have to live in California or Florida to generate hot water with solar energy! People throughout northern regions of the U.S. and in European countries like Germany enjoy free hot water from their solar panels.
There are several different methods for heating water with a solar thermal system, some of which are specifically designed for areas that experience frost and lower temperatures. The savings from solar hot water can really add up, too. By replacing a gas or electric hot water tank with a system using solar thermal panels, a household can save $500-1000 each year.
Because solar thermal panels are less expensive than PV panels, the return on investment is shorter, as well. At current energy prices, expect an ROI of 8-10 years. However, if utility rates further increase, a homeowner with solar hot water is protected against such spikes and may achieve payback for the system in 5-7 years, or less.