Energy Tip-No To Plastic/Solar Water Heaters

So where in the world did October go? Well for me October was filled with lots of running around trying to get caught up or not get any further behind, one work trip to Lubbock, TX and then a nice week long vacation with my lovely bride to Maui.

I could go on and on about how beautiful Maui was, from the scenic hikes we took, to the snorkeling and so on, but instead I am going to tell you about some other bits of information about the island. I found it fascinating that the entire Island had no plastic bags on it! That meant when we went to the supermarket for some snacks, bought souvenirs or whatever the case you were not carrying out your stuff in plastic bags.

We visited a Walmart (imagine that, they had a Walmart there) and at the check outs they had the bag carousels but no plastic bags. When we bought items at small shops the items were put in paper bags and we were not given a paper or plastic option. It seems that the Island of Maui in January of this year took away all of their plastic bags so you either bring in your own recyclable bags or you just tote your shopping cart out to your car and unload the items one by one into the floor. I thought this was a pretty neat idea and wish the rest of the US would adapt this.

Another neat thing was that our hotel room had no liner in the trash cans and the room even had a separate trash container for recyclables. There were recycle containers located beside most trash containers in almost every public place and you could just tell that they people just had recycling and reusing as a way of life.

So whats this solar stuff in my title? Well another thing that I found to be of interest was that solar water heating was huge over there. I saw more ads and advertising about solar products (mainly water heating) than I did for any other service. It was weird driving around and seeing a water heaters sitting outside of the homes but it was really cool to see all of the solar panels installed that were preheating the water that fed these water heaters.

Coincidentally enough the week that I returned from Maui I was already registered to attend a solar water heating class so I was anxious to learn more about the design and installation of these products. I learned that solar water heating is quite a bit more expensive to install than conventional and hybrid water heaters so it may not fit your budget, even with the big tax credits available. There is however a market for solar water heating, so it could be something to investigate if you are looking to save on fuel and plan on staying in your home for several years. The way that a solar water system typically will work is that the solar panels (generally located on a roof) will heat the water as it passes through the tubes. This preheated water then travels to a storage tank that can be a standard water heater or tankless type water heater and the hot water that you use in the home pulls from the storage device. If you need more hot water than the solar panels can provide for you then the storage tank or backup source will kick in and heat the water for you.

I can see several advantages and disadvantages in using solar to heat the water in a home. The main advantage is that the sun energy is free, so the monthly energy cost will be lowered in a home. The main disadvantages are the initial cost is high and when most people use the biggest bulk of hot water in a home (morning and night) the sun is not out so you will be likely pulling from your backup source. So if your in the market for a new water heater here is yet another option for you to consider, but I urge you to do some homework first and find a company that has installed several solar systems that can give you solid referrals if you go the solar route.

PS lets get the rest of the world on board with Maui and do away with these plastic bags, if you want I will send you a free reusable grocery bag to get this fad started. Just shoot me an email at with your mailing address and I will send one to you.

Until next month, thanks for reading have a great week and a Happy Thanksgiving!