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Take showers heated by the sun

Solar water heaters are coming

Rheem water heater

No, you don't see news from Rheem, the vacuum and household appliance people, too much on our site. But you may in the future, as the company emerges as one of a growing number of advocates for solar water heaters.

In these systems, water is heated by solar rays directly from a tank on the roof--a common practice in Spain or Israel--or panels on the roof can conduct energy to a basement heater, as in Rheem's products. (See photo of jolly salesman.)

Water heaters in Israel

The basement versions are less obtrusive because the panels fit into the roofline of a house. The roof-stationed Israeli water heaters, by contrast, give the home a sort of "Petticoat Junction" meets "Mad Max" ambience. (See other grainy photo).

Solar water heaters are fairly efficient and were used in Berkeley and Florida during the 1920s. "There is a lot more thermal energy in sunlight than electricity," said Chris Beekhuis from Fat Spaniel Technologies, an energy efficiency company which is helping set up a solar laundromat in Canada. "In Los Angeles, all hot water came from (solar) thermal heaters until the 1920s" before the utility companies switched them to electric.

(Photos: Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks)