HAVING LOST ITS raison d’être, the gas-fueled water heater sits silent out back.
Even its pilot light has gone dark.
After four-plus years of wanting to go green (well, save cash, actually), we have a solar water heater that really works. Our first solar heater, some readers may recall, sat on the roof for about four years doing pretty much squat, occasionally squirting some tepid H2O.
But since that first set of panels was only connected to the gas heater — the theory being that it reduces the gas used to heat water — it did not have any practical effect on us personally.
We still enjoyed hot showers.
But I knew the solar panels were doing little because I’d climb the circular stairway to the roof now and then to open a valve to find tepid water coming out most every time.
That first heater, manufactured by Rotoplas, one of the biggest names in Mexican plumbing, had a 10-year warranty. Finally, I got off my lazy keister and returned to the hardware store where the Rotoplas had been purchased. I expected one of two responses:
1. Warranty? Ha!
2. Okay, but the warranty will be pro-rated. You’ll get 60 percent of your cash back.
Option No. 1 is common down here.
Imagine my shock when Rotoplas picked up the old heater and returned 100 percent of the purchase price, 10,000 pesos, about 665 American dollars these days. I used that money to buy another solar heater, a different brand, Solemex. Never heard of it. The Solemex cost 6,000 pesos, about 400 dollars, but I paid about 1,000 pesos to have it installed.
The Solemex did not work either.
The water it produced was blazing hot. It just did not deliver the water to the faucets in the Hacienda. Oh, it sputtered out some hot water now and then. On rare occasion, it even worked well. Sometimes no water at all came out of the showerhead. Nada.
You might imagine my irritation.
We even installed an inline pressure pump. The poor pressure remained the same.
But, to make a short story even shorter, the problem was not the solar heater. It was that the plumber who installed it was clueless. After returning twice, he finally figured it out, and now it works like gangbusters. We are hot and green!
The Solemex is connected directly into the house, not to the gas water heater.
A friend down the highway has installed a massive array of solar panels on his roof to generate electricity. He does not do solar water, but his electricity bill has mostly disappeared.
Maybe one day I’ll go green with electricity too. I feel like a hippie tree-hugger.