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Tapping Solar for Hot Water and Cheaper Bills for Puerto Rico

November 3, 2010 - 10:00am

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In Puerto Rico, solar water heaters have been popular for decades. But even with energy savings, not everyone can afford one.

Through a new Recovery Act-funded program for the island, more families are showering with water heated by the sun.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s new Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in Puerto Rico has made it a priority to install the systems in homes of income-eligible residents, as part of its weatherization assistance services. The Puerto Rico Energy Affairs Administration (PREAA), which coordinates the weatherization efforts on the island, received $65 million in Recovery Act funds. 

Since January, a total of about 1,200 solar water heaters have been installed in residents’ homes.

About 100 people were hired as energy auditors and monitors by PREAA.  And local contractors around the island are being hired and trained by the PREAA to perform the weatherization assistance work.

Altogether, about 150 new jobs were created under the new weatherization program for the U.S. territory.

Retired and saving through solar

Angel Rivera Berrios, a retired police officer living in San Juan is one of them.
He and his wife, a retired school teacher, live in a one story, concrete house. They received two new A/C units, CFLs, several  health and safety upgrades mostly for faulty electrical wiring—and an 80-gallon solar water heater.

“We had a high-consumption electric heater,” Berrios says. “But this [solar water heater] is more efficient.”

Other than Hawaii, Puerto Rico installed the most square feet of solar water heaters than anywhere in the U.S. in the first half of 2010 PDF, beating out California and the even the Sunshine State, Florida.

The couple now saves about $25 a month on their electric bill, according to Berrios, because of all the upgrades.

Families who receive weatherization services can reduce their utility bills by an average of $400 per year, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Berrios will be saving an estimated 2,500 kW of energy because of his upgrades and about $300 a dollar a year on his bills.

“We use to pay $125,” he says. “But that payment was high for us since we are two seniors.”

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