Sustainable Hot Water
Most people really like a nice warm shower, but heating water takes energy that has to come from somewhere. At Dancing Rabbit our covenants prohibit using non-renewable energy sources for domestic hot water, so alternatives must be found to the standard gas water heater.
At DR, there is a wide range of how people deal with hot water for washing. In general we minimize hot water use through low flow shower heads and faucets and efficient dish-washing techniques. Some people don’t have hot running water at their homes or kitchens at all unless they heat a pot on the stove, which really teaches you how to conserve.
For those who do have hot running water it can be heated with solar collectors, either flat-plate or evacuated tube style. Both are an affordable way to provide hot water, though it’s hard to provide it 100% of the time from solar alone, winter time and cloudy weather making that difficult.
Another option is wood heated water. Some of our larger buildings have systems that heat hot water with wood, both for domestic use and for radiant floor heating in the winter. A large heat storage tank is used so that a fire need only be burned occasionally while still having hot water for days. Solar and wood can work well together, even sharing a heat storage tank.
If one has abundant renewable electricity one could consider an on demand hot water heater that heats water directly at the point of use. This prevents having to keep a tank of water hot, which wastes energy, and it allows ongoing hot water that’s not limited by tank size.
On our new common house we hope to have a system that utilizes solar hot water and uses the ground source heat-pump as a backup.