Solar Water Heater May Be Perfect Fit For The Gulf Coast

Ralph and Virdie Hansen have been using solar power so long they have a hard time remembering just when they started.

"That was during president Carter's administration, whatever year that was," says Ralph.

Despite it's futuristic appearance this is actually a fairly simple solar water heater, that was working just fine until Katrina. But Hansen wasn't going to let mother nature rob him of nature's cheap and plentiful energy source.

"Everything on top of the roof was replaced," says Hansen. And down here on the bottom there was some controls that had to be replaced."

To get his system up and working again, Hansen contacted Mark Friedline of Gulf Coast Solar Incorporated, who says this concept is even older than the Hansen's suspect.

"I have friends, they used this type of thing in Miami in the 1930's," says Friedline. "Everybody had a solar hot water heater in their house."

With so many people now exploring solar power as an energy source, Friedline says he's surprised so many people overlook the sun as a way to heat their water.

"There's a need for solar electric generation. It's very space age. But for most people, seeing that 25 to 30 percent of your home energy bills is for heating your water it makes sense to use the simplest technology where it's going to work."

Friedline says with a 30 percent federal tax rebate and the savings in electricity, the 5 to 7 thousand dollar units pay for themselves in about 5 years. He calls the Hansens pioneers.

"He way ahead of his time," says Friedline.

And he says the sunny south can lead the charge in the race toward affordable alternative energy.

"Go for it," says Hansen.