Solar Hot Water Heating Could Cut Washington’s Global Warming Pollution by as much as Taking 170,000 Cars Off the Road

Media Contacts
Dan Kohler

Environment Washington

Seattle, WA − Washington could reduce pollution and dependence on fossil fuels through the deployment of off the shelf, cost-effective solar hot water technology, according to a new report by Environment Washington.  

By taking advantage of this cost effective technology to harness solar energy to produce hot water for homes and businesses, Washington could reduce global warming pollution by the equivalent of taking 170,000 cars off the road.

 “By tapping the heat of the sun we can reduce the fossil fuels we use for our heating and hot water needs while putting people to work in our communities.  We have long had the technology and the know-how to harness the free heat of the sun to get hot water, and more than ever we have a workforce that is ready to install these affordable solar panels on roofs across the state,” said Environment Washington Field Associate Kristina Dumas.

“Solar hot water is one of the most affordable and cost effective ways to go solar, and not to mention it has been a mature industry well before the now recent mass adaptation of solar electricity,” said Howard Lamb, Founder & Principle Engineer at Sunergy Systems, a Seattle based solar design and installation firm. Lamb went on to say, “Solar electricity has been getting all the media attention of late, so many are neglecting to consider solar hot water as an option. It has a much lower cost of entry and requires only a third of the roof space compared to a solar electric system plus it is much more tolerant of shading issues.”

Solar water heating has the potential to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels and curb pollution that causes global warming and respiratory problems. Solar water heating delivers a variety of benefits to the economy as well:

  • Solar water heating could reduce energy bills by $9.9 billion annually, saving residential customers 3.2 percent and businesses 1.6 percent of their current energy expenditures.
  • Solar water heating could reduce Americans energy bills by $9.9 billion annually.  By eliminating the barriers to solar hot water, policy makers can help provide homeowners and businesses long-term savings and protect them from risks of wild swings in energy prices.  Solar water heating increases America’s energy security, reduces the environmental and public health costs of fossil fuel-related pollution, and creates jobs. Europe’s solar thermal industry, for example, employs 40,000 people and brings in $4.1 billion in annual sales.


The report, Smart, Clean, and Ready to Go: How Solar Hot Water Can Reduce Pollution and Dependence on Fossil Fuels, based primarily on a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, provides a conservative estimate of America’s potential to use residential and commercial solar water heating, and the savings in fossil fuel, electricity, and global warming pollution if that potential is fully realized.

The results of the report would come from only the smallest investments in solar hot water heating, but Environment Washington called on state and federal officials to commit to aggressive steps to encourage the installation of solar water heaters on homes and businesses and to promote other solar water heating technologies that can make an even bigger dent in pollution and our consumption of fossil fuels. Solar hot water is particularly cost effective for large institutions that use a lot of hot water, such as hotels and large laundry operations.  
“There are already thousands of homes and businesses saving energy and money by harnessing the sun for hot water,” continued Dumas. “These panels last for decades, so investing in them now builds a strong foundation for the future of our environment and our economy.”

Many here locally have already taken advantage of the benefits that solar hot water offers. Sunergy Systems installed a solar hot water system for Central Physical Therapy’s office building in Capitol Hill. “Environmental concerns were a primary driver for us during the design and construction of our office addition, and solar hot water was at the top of our list as a feasible, cost-effective option,” said Deb Schaack, Central Physical Therapy’s Business Manager, “Actually, it was a ‘no-brainer’”. Schaack explained that even on cloudy winter days, the tubes do a good job of raising the incoming water temperature so that their existing gas hot water heather doesn’t have to work as hard.

“That’s the best part about using the sun to heat your water,” concluded Dumas. “With a small investment up-front, you can reduce your global warming pollution and enjoy lower energy bills year after year.”


Environment Washington is a state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open space.