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16-Year-Old Solar Water Heater
A simple open loop solar heat collector has provided hot water for Don Ficker and his wife for more than 16 years. From mid-April to mid-October, the Maine couple hardly ever has to turn on their electric water heater.
The home-built solar collector measures 4 by 30 ft. and is built right onto the roof. It consists of a plywood base overlaid with 2 by 4's. Plate glass from salvaged sliding doors lays over the 2 by 4's, which are notched on the bottom to accommodate ten 30-ft. sections of copper pipe that run across the collector. The pipes rest directly on the plywood.
"I used black Rustoleum to paint the plywood base and the copper pipe for increased heat absorption," says Ficker. "The ends of the copper pipe are connected with flexible automotive heater hose."
Fresh well water enters at the bottom of the collector and exits out the top where it's piped to an intake tap on the water heater. Well pump pressure is all that's needed. Draining the system for the winter is easy, says Ficker.
"The system has stood up well, and even at today's dollars, it wouldn't cost much," he says. "Once I got all the joints tight there was no leaking, and even 13 years later the flexible pipe has showed no sign of cracking."
Ficker is well aware that he's only saving $10 to $15 a month on his electric bill. But he appreciates that the heater makes him a little more independent. "And anything we can do to cut down monthly expenses is worth doing," he says.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Don Ficker, HC 70, Box 30, Machias, Maine 04654 (ph 207 255-4753).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #2