Should Solar Hot Water Be Mandatory?

Back in March, Hawaii became the first state to require solar hot water systems on every new home. A similar bill was passed in Australia.

Although Americans have traditionally resisted such top-down efforts to curb their energy usage, the fantasy of a green-minded public voluntarily moving to alternative energy systems is wearing thin. Energy usage in the home is actually increasing, not decreasing, due in part to instant-on devices, larger homes and increasing reliance on air conditioners.

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But requiring mandatory solar hot water is not as draconian as it sounds. Newer systems are more durable and more affordable, with relatively fast payoffs--particularly in southern climates.

Solar installers are trying to spread the word. For example, a NC company, Cape Fear Solar Systems, argues that "there is no reason to build a new home without a solar water heating system installed. The after tax cost of installing a solar water heater, together with above average ROI figures resulting from 20-30% reductions in energy costs, justify the installation of solar thermal systems in existing homes. As every new house has some sort of water heating system expense, this further offsets the overall installation cost of a solar water heater, which makes this alternative energy solution even more attractive."

So far, the Hawaii example hasn't manifested similar solar hot water requirements in other states, but it has certainly spurred animated editorials and blog discussions. It seems like a no brainer for states such as Arizona, Nevada, and Texas.