Best Green Building Products: Sun Bandit, A Plug-N- Play Solar PV Powered Hot Water Heater
The Sun Bandit from Colorado-based Next Generation Energy is a hot water tank system that comes with its own plug n play solar PV panels. The PV panels can be connected directly to the tank and power electric elements which heat the water. The PV panels have micro-inverters enabling the DC electricity generated from the PV panels to be converted directly to A/C electricity to power the water tank.
What's great about plug-n-play solar and using PV panels with micro inverters which connect directly to appliances is you do not have to first feed the DC electricity generated by the PV to the grid via a large, costly inverter which is the typical scenario for PV installations. Plug-n-play PV enables you to be be off grid totally if that is your choice. And, if you want to build really far from power lines where grid connection is too costly, the Sun Bandit will give you warm water no matter how far you are from the grid.
If you are worried about not having hot water at night when the PV does not generate power, the Sun Bandit can also be heated with electric from the grid. Or, you can choose a Sun Bandit system that also has the ability to heat the water in the tank with propane or natural gas.
The Sun Bandit web site states that their systems can deliver hot water even when the grid goes down. But, it does not really explain clearly that for your well pump to work when the grid goes down you will need a back up energy storage system to make sure water can still be pumped into your house and into the water heater. Sure, if power goes out, the Sun Bandit will give you the amount of hot water in the tank after the power fails. But, after that one tank of hot water, you are out of luck unless you have a battery back up for the well pump or other means to pump water onec the grid goes down.
With ever increasing efficiency of solar PV and super efficient water heaters such as those with air to air heat pump technology, it's easier and easier to heat hot water and provide all the energy you need just with solar power. I was really psyched to see the Sun Bandit system because I've never been a huge fan of solar thermal heating systems, at least for residential purposes. Solar Thermal systems require complicated piping throughout the house, are harder to retro-fit into existing plumbing and designs, have more moving parts and require regular maintenance and repairs.
Sun Bandit reported in Solar Power World "that conventional solar thermal hot-water heating systems for a home, depending on its size, could cost $12,000. The SunBandit is expected to cost about $3,000 for a family of two, a price that may be reduced with rebates, incentives and other programs.."
Stay tuned because I have calls into a Sun Bandit distributor to confirm prices and also see what rebates and incentives might apply in New York.