Can we afford to go green at home with a solar water heater?

A few years ago, I installed a tankless water heater at home — it’s about the size of a small suitcase and only heats water as you need it — because I needed a new one and the cost of doing the tankless one was only about three times more than installing a regular one. I figured it would take a few years to break even — the financial savings each month of not heating water all of the time would eventually equal the extra money I spent installing the gadget. And even if the financial return was questionable, I figured it was a good thing to do.

I see in a DMN story today that Oncor is trying to incentivize people to install solar water heaters now: You can get up to $1,500 back on an installation that uses a roof panel to collect heat from the sun to ultimately heat water in the house. The only catch: It can cost up to $8,000 to install the solar system, which is expected to generate utility savings of about $35 per month.

If you do the math, that’s a payback of 15.48 years, assuming the installation cost is reduced to $6,500 (after the incentive) and assuming you save $420 a year in utility costs ($35 per month — this is an estimate from the DMN story). I would like to be as green as possible, but in this case, "possible" needs to include a reasonable financial incentive. A couple of years on a payback — I can live with that. Fifteen years on a payback — if things go as they usually do around the house, I’ll be replacing the solar system before it pays me back.



WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Oak Cliff.