A new kind of residential solar hot water system is on the way, and it does away with all of that extra plumbing required when installing a conventional solar water heater.
The Liberty Box, from EDS USA, uses the electricity generated from several photovoltaic solar panels to heat a second heater element in an existing water heater, instead of heating the water in secondary thermal collectors. The system is said to be able to provide 100% of the hot water needs of a family of four in the summer time, and 75% of the water heating demand for the winter time, with no batteries needed, no chance of pipes freezing or leaking, and no moving pieces (such as pumps) vulnerable to breakage or failure.
The complete solar hot water system could cost as much as $4000 (or as low as $1000 for just the Liberty Box without the solar panels), but could be a possible entry point for homeowners looking to invest in residential solar and hot water for their house. The device qualifies for a 30% Federal Tax Credit, and possibly other state and local incentives for renewable energy, which might make the price just a little more affordable.
This short video, while short on actual details of the system, is a brief intro to the benefits of the Liberty Box, but it is a little over-the-top:
Find out more about Liberty Box at their website.