Make A Solar Heater Pay Off: What’s the ROI on Making My Own Solar Heater

Solar Air Heating – Return on Investment

Generally speaking, 20% to 35% Return on Investment (ROI) per year is common for people who make a solar heater, or people who buy their own solar heater.

Solar air heating has a very quick turnaround time in terms of ROI.

But you might not trust that this is a good idea.

You might think that solar air heating won’t work in your home or in your location.

And so you want to calculate the return on investment in advance.

That’s fine, you can do that.

Just so you know though, most commercial solar air heating systems (when done right) pay for themselves in as few as three to six years.  The factors determining ROI are:

  • solar heater size
  • solar heater efficiency
  • installation
  • insulation
  • sunlight
  • fuel costs at your location

As a result of these factors, if you really want to know the specifics of how much you’ll save (in advance of actually putting in the solar heater), you’ll need to do some homework.

  • How much heating time per day will you have (on average)?
  • How many sunny days do you get during the winter time at your location? (If you’re in a location with sunny winters, you’re going to have the maximum benefit compared with a location that has cloudy winters.)
  • Can you attach your heater to a large room where you spend a good amount of your at-home time?
  • You might need to use multiple collectors.  Or if the room you’re heating is quite large, you might link a few solar heater panels together to cover more square footage.
  • How is the internal circulation of the air in your home?
  • How expensive are your current fuel costs and how much are you paying to heat your home right now?
  • How well insulated is your home? (If your home is poorly insulated, then your home will have a negative effect on any heating system you choose.)

Once you have built or bought a solar heater, and either installed it yourself or had someone else install it for you, you’ll probably want to know how to calculate the amount of money you’re saving.

So, here’s how to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) for a solar air heating system you’ve already installed.

As mentioned, an easy way to figure out how much you’re saving is simply to compare your heating bill from the previous year to this year.

Take this example:

I buy a solar heater for $1000.

I pay $300 to have it installed.

Total cost $1300.

Before Solar Heater             After Solar Heater

August 2009             $20     August 2010             $ 0       Savings         $20
September 2009       $30     September 2010       $10     Savings         $20
October 2009            $60     October 2010            $30     Savings         $30
November 2009        $70     November 2009        $32     Savings         $42
December 2009        $95     December 2010        $55     Savings         $40
January 2010           $110   January 2011           $60     Savings         $50

Total savings = $202.

If this trend continues, in 2011, I would pay about 50% of what I would have paid without the solar heater.

Let’s say the total savings added up to $300.

$1,300.00/$300 = 4.3 years to pay back the initial investment in the solar heater.

Once the system has paid for itself, it provides you with free heat for its entire lifetime.

If you buy or build your collector out of the right materials (aluminum and/or copper which is naturally antibacterial, etc.) the lifetime of your solar heater may be 50 years or more.

If you build your panel correctly, making it strong and durable, or you buy a panel that uses aluminum framing, tempered glass glazing, and a metal sheet underglass, it really will last a long time.

It is possible that the fan will need to be replaced.  But your fan motor will probably last many years before needing replacement.

The fan motor (only part potentially needing replacement)

  • Only running in the daytime
  • Only running on days when there is sunlight.
  • Usually on during cool seasons only (less wear/tear)

Again, a solar air heater is to supplement other heating, so you will still need another heating source for the nighttime and for cloudy days.

However, your furnace will always continue to cost you money, because it’s always necessary to put fuel in to your furnace to keep it going.

With a solar air heater, you don’t have to add any fuel.

The only “fuel” you might use for a solar air heater is for any models that run on AC household current (the kind you plug in).  But even then, you’re using a tiny amount of electricity to run a fan, and electricity can be generated in a renewable way.

A solar air heating system can cost quite a bit less upfront and produce some of the same efficiency gains.

However, if your primary heating system needs to be replaced, always get the most efficient model that you can, as well as getting a solar heater.

That will give you the greatest possible way to reduce heating bills while increasing the efficiency in your primary system.

We’ve covered a lot of information about solar heaters this week.  Now that you’ve got a basic understanding, we’ve going to get into actual plans for solar heaters.

Stay tuned!

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