A solar hot water heater is an environmentally friendly method of providing hot water to your entire house. There are a variety of solar powered water heaters on the market that offer features comparable to traditional devices.

Since heating water for your home is a large part of your utility statement, it makes sense to invest in alternative methods. Hot water is always in demand, whether it is for taking showers, washing clothes, or preparing the evening supper.

Did you know that it costs an electric water heater $500 to run per year, assuming you use an average 80 gallons per day?

While electric heaters cost you an arm and a leg to run, they damage the environment by emitting 6,600 pounds of CO2 per year. While gas heaters do a little better, you are only saving $100 over the course of one year. A solar water heater is designed to accomplish one task: heat water.

How Solar Water Heaters Work

The essence of a solar water heater is the solar collector and storage tank. These components are essential for any system. The collector is a glossy box that is insulated and has a dark interior with a series of tubes and connections to increase water flow.

The boxes become glossy because a glass-like glaze is used to maximize heat retention. This box allows the water heater to turn the sun’s beams in to heat. The storage tank holds the water until a device needs it. There are two types of solar water heaters: passive and active.

A solar water heater cannot be used alone due to the nature of solar power. A solar heater is used in combination with a traditional gas or electric hot water heater.

The benefits of solar power are unparallel to that of other energy sources, as it converts the power of the sun into energy while emitting nothing. While sunlight is limited seasonally, solar appliances still suffer from a lack of efficiency. Solar photovoltaic technology turns sunlight into heat easily.


Implementing a solar powered water heating solution can be a tough decision to make, however; rest assured you will pay for your device over a period of time. The main drawback to these devices is the upfront cost, however; it is critical that you view these heaters as an investment.

There are substantial tax breaks and homeowner discounts for going solar. The cost of implementation may drive some consumers away from the technology, as it costs $1,000 to $3,000 for a solar system to be installed.

If you live in an area that is prone to freezing temperatures, you may not be able to purchase a direct heater model. Additionally, the heater must be able to be installed and mounted in a sunny location. Make sure your home is properly structured for such a device before considering implementation.

If your water is hard, a solar water heater may not work for you due to the fact that hard water corrodes circulation systems. Since some of the solar systems require electricity, you will not have hot water during a power outage. Additionally, solar heaters cannot be mounted on roofs in earthquake prone states.

Models and Variations

There are two types of passive systems: batch and Thermosiphon. A batch solar heater is the most basic and perhaps easiest to recreate.

The water tank is built inside the solar collector and once the water becomes hot, osmosis causes it to rise to the top. Once it is at the top it is distributed throughout the home for consumption.

A Thermosiphon solar hot water heater separates the tank from the solar collector. Once the water is heated it is pumped (via electricity) to the storage tank. From the storage area it is transferred throughout the house.

There are two types of active solar water heaters: direct and indirect. In a direct model the hot water is pumped from the collector cell to the storage tank by using electrical pumps and controls. The indirect models utilize a combination of solar and antifreeze.

Instead of heating water, the collector cell heats up antifreeze, which is sealed in separate piping. The antifreeze then heats up the water, and it is transferred to the storage tank for distribution.

Features and Benefits

One of the major benefits of using solar powered water heaters is the ability to save money on your utility bills. Your costs of heating water will be reduced by 50 percent, depending on your climate and geographic location.

If you live in areas that do not receive a lot of sun, your savings will be lower. However, if you live in locations such as Arizona, you will experience substantial savings – up to 90 percent.

A solar hot water heater is the greenest way to provide heated water throughout your home. While these devices use some electricity, you could see up to a 50 percent reduction in the amount of CO2 you emit per year.

You can reduce your overall carbon footprint by 50 percent if you utilize other solar devices in your home. Additionally, you are conserving non-renewable fuel sources and allowing for the research and development of new technology.

Adding a solar powered water heater to your dwelling will increase the overall value of your establishment. It is possible to pay for your device in full by the time you sell your house, as solar heaters increase selling prices. While professional installation can be costly, there are a plethora of self-install options available to those with the do-it-yourself mentality.

The Best Solar Hot Water Heater

When considering buying a solar water heater, make sure you select a model that is in line with local city ordinances and building codes. Check compatibility by contacting The Solar Ratings and Certification Corporation before making any purchase.

The actual solar heater is less important than the person who installs the device. You should not attempt to install these heaters yourself, as they require strict assembly guidelines. It is best to hire a contractor who has solar certifications and practical experience. Since they will be roof-mounted, ensure your roof is in good working order before installation.

Pros and Cons of a Solar Water Heater


  • Savings: You will notice a substantial savings on your electrical bill.
  • Environment: Harnessing the power of the sun means you will be emitting less CO2 into the atmosphere.


  • Cost: The up-front installation and implementation costs can add up quickly since solar powered hot water heaters must be professionally installed.
  • Reliability: Solar power is not a 100 percent reliable form of renewable energy.

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