STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EARTH SCIENCES - EARTH SYSTEMS PROGRAM

Sustainable Choices

Solar Water Heaters, Photovoltaic Panels, Geothermal Heat Pumps

Simplicity:
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Carbon Impact:
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Money Savings:
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Health Helper:
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Overview
Want to get off the grid and go completely renewable at your home? These renewable energy sources require some initial investment for the purchase and system set-up, but once they are installed they can reap big rewards. Solar water heaters use the sun’s energy to directly heat water that can then be used in the shower or sink. Photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s energy into electricity to be used in the home. Geothermal heat pumps tap into the Earth’s temperature to provide heating, cooling, and hot water. By installing a solar water heater, photovoltaic panels, or a geothermal heat pump, you can dramatically decrease your fossil fuel energy consumption—even eliminate it altogether.

Tips & Tricks
Do a life cycle cost analysis. You may find that you will recoup your initial investment over the course of the life of the product. For instance, over ten or twenty years, a photovoltaic panel will reduce your electricity bill by a lot.

Reduce upfront costs with rebate programs. Many government bodies and energy providers have developed rebate programs to create incentives for installing solar panels. Start your search by checking here.

Web & Print Resources
Solar water heaters:
www.eere.energy.gov

General water heater information:
www1.eere.energy.gov

Build your own solar water heater:
www.motherearthnews.com
www.motherearthnews.com

Photovoltaic panels:
www.eere.energy.gov

Geothermal heat pump:
www.eere.energy.gov
www.energystar.gov

Rebate programs:
www.energystar.gov
www.pge.com

Fun Facts

During a 20-year period, 1 solar water heater can avoid over 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Source This is equivalent to burning over 5,000 gallons of gas in your car. Source

PV systems can still produce electricity on cloudy days, but not as much as on a sunny day. Source

According to the EPA, geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption—and corresponding emiss—up to 44% compared to air-source heat pumps and up to 72% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment. Source