The Hot Water Channel

Most folks call it a "satellite dish." Engineers call it an antenna, consisting of a mount, feedhorn and reflector. The reflector concentrates radio frequency signals from an orbiting spacecraft to give you TV or a two-way data connection. We’ve blogged about people using old "dishes" as solar reflectors, mostly for fun or cooking out in the field.


Somebody is now taking that concept seriously — and adding true satellite TV reception. One of the finalists at last year’s Clean Tech Open, the Transoptic Solar Water Heater has arrived, getting the attention of Fast Company, via Green Tech Media:

Want your satellite TV dish to pull a double-duty? You can turn it into a solar-thermal device to heat water and cool your home.

That’s the pitch from Transoptic, which would place a layer of little hexagonal mirrors resembling a honeycomb or a chrome-coated plastic reflector onto the dish, said Behzad Imani, CEO of the San Mateo, Calif., company. The entire system comes with an optical receiver, PVC tube and an evacuated tube (see a YouTube video that shows how you can build one yourself).

The company wouldn’t retrofit an existing dish but instead provide a new one that can receive TV signals and concentrate the sunlight and direct it to an optical collector for heating the water, Imani said. 

A 2-square-meter dish could generate roughly 82 Therms of energy per year, the company said. A standard water heater requires about 58 Therms per year. Each dish would cost about $300, and installation would cost roughly $300 to $400, Imani said.

Transoptic doesn’t want to be in the business of selling the system directly to consumers and installing them. Instead, it wants to sell to home developers, roofers and distributors.

Imani said he has lined up a track home builder as a customer but declined to disclose the name. To fulfill the order, however, it would need to raise $250,000 initially to get started on manufacturing, he said. Imani said he would be looking for a larger amount if the credit crunch hasn’t made fund-raising so difficult. The idea is to begin a small-scale production and then use the revenues to expand manufacturing.

When it comes to harnessing the power of the sum, solar water and pool heaters far outnumbers solar panels in the United States. Solar heaters are cheaper and you also could get rebates and claim tax incentives for installing them.

Great idea. Hope they get financing soon.