Using solar panels for heating water is a technology that has been around for a long time. If you haven't checked out the capability and price of solar systems recently, it's worth taking another look.
At the 3iShow in Dodge City, one vendor of solar systems is Acme Energy from Macon, Mo., who sells solar water heating units for home hot water heaters and swimming pools and solar powered pumps for irrigation wells.
The water heater combines a solar panel-powered pump with an array of vacuum tube collectors.
The collectors are tubes that heat an element on the end that mounts directly into the heat exchanger tube, reducing the risk of forming water pockets that can freeze in the system.
The pump operates only when the sun is shining and keeps the water circulating through the heat exchanger tube. When it stops operating the water drains back into the water heater tank or pool.
The water heating system costs $1,400.
Acme Energy owner Keith Porter said he sells more units for heating swimming pools than any other purpose.
"In Florida, where they have a lot of in-ground pools, the water in those pools stays cold all year long," he said. "The electricity to run a pool heater can get pretty pricey. I've had people tell me that pool heating runs upwards of $300 a month."
In Missouri and Kansas, he said, pool owners like the system because it enables them to use their pool earlier in the spring and later in the fall.
By 10 a.m. on Friday, the water in the tank he had connected to the solar unit was at 120 degrees. By the end of the day, he said it would reach 190 degrees.
"In a home system, you'd be using a bigger tank, so you wouldn't have a problem with getting it too hot," he said. 'It generally maintains about 110 to 120 degrees."
Insulation in the tank keeps the water hot overnight and a supplemental utility hookup provides home hot water when the weather doesn't cooperate.
The high volume solar pumping system for irrigation wells includes collector panels and a pump that that can be used in a well or from ponds or creeks.
Porter said the units provide an ideal solution for areas where there is water but no power source. The systems include a float control, low water shutoff and up to 100 feet of control wire,
Pumps deliver about 5.7 gallons per minute from 0 to15 feet, 5.1 gallons at up to 60 feet, 4.4 gallons at up to 100 feet and 2.4 gallons at up to 150 feet.
The irrigation pump systems sell for $3,400.
For more information, visit the company website.