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I need to wait longer before I hit Send. Sounds like the additional heat transferred by having the solar tank cooler will exceed the energy used by having the electric heater heat the last 5 degrees. With just 2 frugal users of hot water in the house I doubt if we will use the full capacity of the system. Would it make sense to tap into it for fall and spring radiant floor heating?

-----Original Message-----
From: Vermont Skiing Discussion and Snow Reports [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Goodrich, Chris
Sent: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 9:57 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SKIVT-L] OT Solar Hot water

Thanks Dana,
I was hoping you would weigh in on this. I think for now I will do nothing but feed the solar into my 80 gal. electric. I expect that after monitoring usage for a few months I will remove the off-peak meter. Perhaps in the future they will figure out the proper way to add a heating element to the solar storage so I can get rid of the second tank. If not, I will just replace the 80 gal. with a 30-40 gal. when it dies.

One question though: Why would you set the mixing valve on the solar slightly lower than the thermostat on the electric tank? My thought was to set it the same or slightly higher so that the electric would only come on when needed.
Chris

-----Original Message-----
From: Vermont Skiing Discussion and Snow Reports [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dana Dorsett
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2011 6:48 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SKIVT-L] OT Solar Hot water

The problem with ELECTRIC tankless plumbed in series as backup in coolwater country is flow- you don't get even 1 shower's worth of flow out of it if your solar tank ever drops much below 50F (which it might.) And the upfront cost of upgrading your electric service for the dedicated 100-150amp 240V service for big 'un is also quite daunting.  To take 50F water up to 110F tub-filling temp at 5 gallons per minute takes ~44kilowatts (44,000 watts)or
180+ amps at 240V.  A 20KW tankless still requires a dedicated 100 amp
service, and it would support just one 2.5gpm shower.  A 12KW tankless could hang on a 50 amp/240V service, but wouldn't really keep up if the solar tank drops below ~80F. (Even people in FL with 70F water coming in from the street need more tankless than that.)

The problem with a PROPANE or GAS-fired tankless as backup is that the minimum modulated fire is too high- it can't tolerate higher temp incoming water without short-cycling itself into low efficiency and early demise, some will spit out error codes and lock out until you reset them when used in this mode. They REALLY suck in this applicaion- don't go there- you pay a heluva lot up front for a big PITA later. (And at current propane prices at the as-used efficiency you'd actually get out of it you'd be better off using electricity.)

The problem with using either of them plumbed as mini-boilers to maintain a min-temp on the solar tank is lower collector efficiency due to higher collector temps, resulting in a lower solar fraction.

The cheaper/better solution in most cases is to plumb a dumb electric tank heater in series with the output of the solar store, and set T-stat on the electric tank to 120-125F, but put a thermostatic mixing valve on the output set to 115F or whatever works for you. The standby on an electric tank is quite modest, and can be made even lower with a tanky-blanky and using 5/8"-wall or thicker closed cell pipe insulation on all of the plumbing between the solar tank and the electric tank, as well as all of the hot water distribution plumbing, and even the temperature/pressure valve & overflow.  As-shipped a decent electric tank has about a 50-60watt standby loss @ 125F storage temp, or about 35-45 kwh/month.  With near-tank pipe insulation you can cut that by about a third, and with a retro-wrap on the tank itself it's possible to bring that into the 20s or lower, and that's only when you're feeding it with water colder than setpoint. When the temp out of the solar tank is above the tank setting MOST of the time you don't even pay the standby losses in electricity, taking only a low single-digit percentage loss in solar fraction, a far lower hit than the hit in collection efficiency you take if you maintain the solar tank at 120-125F.

The standby losses of gas/propane tank heaters is quite high and much harder to reduce in comparison to electric tanks (due to convection in the center-flue heat exchangers) and would be a lousy choice.

If your heating system is hydronic (pumped hot water, baseboards/radiators/radiant-floor etc.) there's some argument for using an indirect-fired tank running off the boiler plumbed in series with the solar-store.  The mass of the indirect keeps the boiler from short-cycling, and efficiency will still be pretty decent. But even condening propane boilers might be more expensive to operate than resistance electricty, depending on your electric rates and cost per gallon.

dana


-----Original Message-----
From: Vermont Skiing Discussion and Snow Reports [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Goodrich, Chris
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2011 10:00 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SKIVT-L] OT Solar Hot water


Anyone have experience with tankless water heaters? I am having a solar hot water system installed and my 80 gallon off-peak electric heater is probably a little overkill for backup. The 25 cent per day meter charge will eat up any savings that I gain from off-peak since most of my energy will now come from the sun. I also have a plan to re-use the old tank as heat storage for the wood boiler. So I was thinking that an electric tankless heater would be the simplest and most efficient backup system.
Chris

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