An introduction to Solar Hot Water Heaters

A large portion of a home’s energy use can be attributed to heating water for all the various domestic uses; showers, washing dishes, and laundry. Typical electric hot water heaters can be expensive to run. Gas powered hot water heaters cost a bit less, but they’re still not as efficient as other means which are available in today’s world. Solar hot water heaters are a good example of how solar power is one of the best renewable energy sources available and here we examine their advantages.

Solar Hot Water Heaters

Solar hot water heaters normally operate alongside of conventional ones, since weather can affect their efficiency. There are a lot of advantages to owning a solar powered water heating system. However, there are also some disadvantages.

The question is, would it be logical to install a solar powered hot water heater on your home? The objective of this article is to shed a little light on this subject. Hopefully after finished, you will have the knowledge necessary to make a sound decision.

How it Works

First of all, it’s important to note that there are two types of solar hot water heaters – passive and active. The basic set-up is a tank to hold the water, a solar collector, and a series of tubes that allow for water flow. Now let’s take a closer look at the two distinct types of solar hot water heaters.

Passive Systems

Passive solar water heaters use nothing but the forces of nature to heat water. This is definitely the least complicated of the two. Batch hot water heaters are the most basic of all designs. A tank is filled with water and the solar collector heats the water up while inside of the tank. Then gravity takes over and feeds the heated water to the home.

A Thermosiphon hot water heater is another form of passive. In this design, cold water moves through a series of tubes, where it is heated and then send to the storage tank.

Active Systems

Active systems are the opposite of passive – they use electricity to help with their job. This type of solar hot water heaters can be separated into three categories. The first is direct, where water is pumped through solar collectors in order to heat it.

The second is indirect, which the solar collectors heat a fluid instead of the water itself. Then the heated fluid is used to heat the water without mixing with it. Finally we have drainback systems. Drainback systems are almost exactly like indirect, except that it is equipped with a drainback tank.

Benefits of a Solar Hot Water Heaters

First and foremost, solar hot water heaters are a greener option – green as in both environmentally friendly and saving money. In fact, you might see your light bill cut in half. It’s said that using solar powered hot water heating systems can reduce your energy usage by half.

Of course, that number will be entirely dependant on where you live. If you live in a sunny area where days are longer, then you will save more. On the contrary, a place where the days are shorter would save you less money. But the average is a 50% decrease.

That would also mean that you will be responsible for less CO2 emissions. Another added advantage is that installing solar powered systems on your home will increase the value.

Disadvantages of Solar Powered Hot Water Heaters

Of course, there are going to be some disadvantages to using solar power to heat your water. At the top of that list is the high cost of getting it installed.

However, this money will be made back over time so you could look at it like an investment. But how fast you save the money you invested depends on your location. If you live in a sunny place like Arizona or Florida, then the saving would be seen very quickly.

On the other hand, if you live in Alaska, then it might take a while to get your money back.

There are some other disadvantages too. First of all, everything is dependent on your location. Here’s some examples of how your location can affect your decision.

  • Temperature.  Living in a very cold location can make direct models not available since the cold weather can freeze them.
  • Design.  Your home has to be set up efficiently in order to gain the most exposure possible from solar panels.
  • Regulations.  Some places have specific laws concerning a home’s design. An area that’s prone to earthquakes would be a good example of this, as placing a solar hot water heater on the roof would put the home over the weight limit.


A solar hot water heating system can be installed yourself, saving you a lot of money. However, you must carefully do your homework before attempting this task. Also, since it involves roof work, you need to take extra precautions.

Solar power is becoming one of the most sought after renewable power sources. In a world where being green has become the goal of a lot of people, a solar powered hot water heater is a huge step in the right direction.

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