How Fresh is Your Energy?

Clean, fresh solar energy is best for heating water.There are many ways to heat water but in the end, it really boils down to how we make use of the sun’s energy. Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario One: Ancient Energy

The process starts hundreds of millions of years ago. The sun shines down on our planet providing energy for plants and animals to flourish. The life process pulls carbon out of the air and over many millions of years, some of the remains (including the embodied solar energy) are concentrated, buried, compressed, heated and transformed by various geological events. Pockets of this ancient sunlight, also known as fossil fuels, are sequestered in the Earth’s crust and after spending billions of dollars to find, drill, pump, refine and transport thousands of miles, it is eventually distributed to your home where it is burned beneath a tank of water. In some cases, it is burned beneath a large tank of water at a power plant and the resulting electricity heats the water in your home. Either way, in the end you get to take a nice hot shower.

Scenario Two: Fresh Energy

The sun shines down on our planet and heats the water. You get to take a nice hot shower.

Of these two scenarios, which makes the most sense? Of course you know that ancient energy is messy and toxic. It results in daily spills, leaks and disasters that wreak havoc on our environment and health. Fresh energy results in a sunny day, especially here in Southern Nevada!

Solar water heating technology has come a long way. Professional systems are well designed, tested and have proven track records. There are standards in place with third-party certification systems that provide solid information about the performance of available products.

What’s the payback? There is no payback at all with a traditional water heater. Solar systems can save enough money to pay for themselves over the long run and they start helping the environment right away.

Incentives – Get ‘Em While They Last

If you like the idea of using fresh, clean energy to heat your water, this is a good time to consider it. Incentive programs designed to enhance the solar energy industry are working, helping manufacturers, installers and customers alike. Whether your ancient energy is electric or gas, there is a rebate program that can help offset the cost of installing a clean solar energy system. If you also take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit, the overall cost of “going solar” can be reduced by 50% or more.

You can find more information at if you are a Southwest Gas customer, or at if you are an NV Energy customer. It is my understanding that there are only a few solar thermal  incentives remaining for electric customers of NV Energy so if you are interested, contact them right away.

Ancient energy is messy and toxic. It results in daily spills, leaks and disasters that wreak havoc on our environment and health. Fresh energy results in a sunny day, especially here in Southern Nevada!

Every homeowner must replace their water heater at some point. When I needed a new one, I upgraded to a high-efficiency tank that was part of a solar water heating system. After incentives, the added incremental cost of the solar component was quite reasonable. Plus, it added solid equity to my home since nothing says “value” better than lower monthly operating costs!

I still use some ancient energy during the colder months or under certain circumstances, but most of my water is now heated eight minutes after the light leaves the surface of the sun. I think that is the best form of energy: clean and fresh. Either way, the sun provides the power we enjoy. If we leave the old stuff in the ground, we’ll get to enjoy fresh energy for a long, long time to come.

The day after this column was published, I joined Southwest Gas VP of Energy Solutions, Jose Esparza for a few minutes on a local morning news to promote solar water heating. Hey, every little bit helps, right?


  1. Jim Rossi says

    Great info: solar water heaters and “passive” solar – using insulation, shading, daylighting & ventilation to reduce your home’s energy consumption – are usually cheaper and way simpler ways to reduce pollution & save money.

    • Steve,

      Once again you have beautifully simplified a complicated process for all to understand in the first part of this article. The shortest distance between two points…

      Thank you as always for continuing to educate me.

  2. Steve Rypka says

    Jim, you are absolutely correct that there are many ways to reduce our carbon footprint and save money. I’ve done most of them and continue to find new ways to go even further. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I appreciate your comments as well Mary Beth since you are a shining example of someone who steps up to the plate, learns about important issues and then helps others understand them too. I’m glad you’re stopping in here occasionally, from half-way around the world!