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Solar Water Heating: Making More Sense Than Ever in MA

Solar water heating can make a big dent in the costs and emissions associated with heating your water. A new MassCEC rebate program will enable widespread adoption of the technology in MA.

Did you know that water heating is the second largest consumer of energy in your home, behind only space heating?  If you are interested in reducing your energy bills as well as your carbon footprint, addressing it is one of the most impactful ways to do so.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center understands this, and has just launched a $10 million program that will run through 2016 to support widespread adoption of solar water heating technology.  Christie Howe, Program Manager at the MassCEC, says that “by providing education and financial support to home and building owners to install solar thermal, the new Commonwealth Solar Hot Water Program will advance MassCEC’s mission to increase solar thermal installations in the state, reduce fossil fuel consumption and create local jobs throughout the Commonwealth.”

The MassCEC rebate is calculated using several factors including system size, but is designed to cover around 15% of the installed cost.  When combining the rebate with the 30% federal and $1,000 Commonwealth tax credits, around 60% of a system’s cost is covered.  Additionally, the Cape Light Compact has a $500-$1500 rebate for its customers that substitute solar hot water for electricity, further sweetening the dea!

So why solar hot water, anyway?  Many homeowners have little clue about how their water is heated, its contribution to their energy bill or the alternatives available.  The only time we think about it is when the shower suddenly turns cold at an inopportune moment (it’s always when the in-laws are in town, right?) or 50 gallons of water ends up on the utility room floor; in other words, when your water heater fails.  So let’s examine some basic facts.

Water heating consumes 18% of the energy used in American homes…that is more energy used than powering all of your home’s lights, computers, refrigerators, TVs, Xboxes and other electronic gadgets combined!  Residential water heating across the US results in $34 billion in annual expense and 162 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.  Have your attention yet?

When most people generically speak of "solar" technology, what they are often referring to is photovoltaic, or PV, technology.  Solar thermal, of which solar hot water is a sub-category, is PV’s cousin, the difference being that PV generates electricity; solar thermal directly heats something up, like a garden hose left in the sun.  Most solar hot water systems come with a backup heating element for those less-than-sunny days, so you will always have hot water.

Solar hot water technology can reduce up to 75% of costs and emissions associated with home water heating by substituting free solar energy for gas, electricity or heating oil.  As with any improvement to your home, there are a number of important factors when considering a solar hot water system, including shading on, available space and age of your roof.  If your current water heater is over 10 years old, why not replace it with a money-saving, carbon footprint-reducing solar hot water system?  With the new MassCEC rebate, it makes more sense than ever!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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