06 July 2008

Solar water heaters' time has come

I noticed that my new friends over at Metaefficient ran a story the other day about solar water heaters in Israel. According to their website, 90% of all Israeli homes have solar water heaters. And then last week, Treehugger ran a story about Hawaii's new requirement that all new homes use solar water heaters. And then finally, my beloved St. Pete Times reported on 2 July that the thieves at Progress Energy were granted another rate increase so that as of January, Floridians will be paying $135 per kilowatt hour; that's a $27 increase over what we're paying today. Hmmmm. Wouldn't it make sense for the Sunshine State to start to tap into what's arguably our most plentiful natural resource? Saint Petersburg, my adopted hometown, is widely claimed to have 360 sunny days a year. Yet when I look over the rooftops of this paradise-by-the-sea what I don't see anywhere are solar panels. Might it have something to do with our one-party legislature making conservation and alternative energy synonymous with communism? Now I ask you, how is saving money and using resources wisely a partisan issue? Well, in a country where the Vice President goes on record with the quip "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy," nothing is a surprise.

Anyhow, enter the solar water heater. For most people, 30% of their monthly electric bill goes to heating water. Wouldn't it be cool as well as a great way to stick it to the thieves at Progress Energy to generate 90 to 95% of your own hot water and thereby keep more of your own money? Now imagine a world where everybody had these things. Progress Energy wouldn't need to raise rates or build new gazillion dollar power plants. No new power plants would mean a less blighted landscape, cleaner air and better water quality. Wow, it sounds as if conservation could be the basis of a sound and comprehensive energy policy after all Mr. Cheney.

A solar water heater is a pretty cool thing. They consists of three or four panels on the roof that have water circulating through them. The water gets heated by the sun and stored in a regular water heater tank. On a cloudy day, the regular electric water heater kicks in to guarantee a supply of hot water. On sunny days, the system hums along and keeps you with all the hot water you could hope for and it doesn't cost anything to operate. Talk to these guys , ECS Solar Energy Systems, Inc of Gainesville, about getting a system of your very own.

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