Power by the sun’s natural energy
QUEENSLAND is called the Sunshine State for a reason – we have lots of sunshine.
But even with such a moniker most households are not using this free natural resource to heat their hot water, save money and help the environment.
For most Queensland households, around 35 per cent of their annual energy use is for hot water.
However, by using the sun’s energy to heat water, the average household can reduce its yearly hot water costs by 85 per cent when compared to conventional electric systems.
And as well as costing less to run, solar hot water systems have a significant environmental benefit as their reduced energy use means less greenhouse gases produced.
“Climate change has risen in prominence as a major global issue and is now the single biggest environmental threat facing us today,” EPA Sustainable Industries Division executive director Dr John Cole said.
“Reducing energy and water use is critical to managing climate change. Sustainable houses do that and save money for the homeowner.”
The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) is working in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote sustainable housing practices. “Despite Queensland’s year-round abundance of solar energy, most Queensland households still use electric hot water systems, which are the single largest electricity consuming item in most homes,” REIQ executive manager Leonie Foster said.
“As solar hot water systems provide the greatest potential for savings on energy costs and greenhouse emissions, they make smart sense for homeowners and the environment.”
A solar hot water system works by taking energy from the sun in a similar way that a hose does when it is left lying in the sun. Heat from the sun is absorbed through solar collectors. This solar energy heats water, which circulates through the collectors and into a storage tank, ready for use.
Queensland Sustainable Housing Regulations came into effect on 1 March 2006, requiring greenhouse-efficient hot water systems to be installed in all new houses.
According to the EPA, there are two types of solar hot water systems available to be installed in homes.
Thermosiphon system: this is the most common system available. It consists of roof-mounted solar collectors with a storage tank positioned immediately above the collectors; and
Split system or forced circulation: for householders who prefer their tank at ground level, this system has the solar collectors on the roof and the storage tank on the ground. These systems require a small electric pump and as a result are generally more expensive to buy and operate than a thermosiphon system.
Ms Foster said the number of people in your household should determine the size of the storage tank. “Installing a solar hot water system can save average households between $200 and $250 a year on electricity bills, with many systems being also eligible for rebates from the Federal Government,” she said.