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Install a solar thermal water heater

By Recyclebank |
A solar thermal water heater that uses the sun's warmth to cook up warm water naturally uses much less energy than an electric boiler.
Solar thermal water heaters use the sun's radiation to heat water and are composed of thermal collectors, a storage tank, and a circulation loop. They can be used alone or in conjunction with a backup conventional water heating system.

How to install a solar thermal water heater

Solar water heaters utilize a solar collector, which absorbs the thermal energy of the sun's rays and transfers the heat to the water in the storage tank. There are several different types of solar water heaters. These include:

Active solar water heaters

Active solar hot water systems use solar panels outside the building to heat water or an antifreeze fluid such as glycol, which is then circulated through a heat exchanger made of copper or steel that transfers the heat to the water. The heated water is stored in an insulated water tank until it is used.

Direct (open-loop) systems

Active direct open-loop systems circulate water through a solar collector, which then transfers the collected heat to the storage tank.

Indirect (closed-loop) systems

Active closed-loop systems circulate a fluid other than water, such as antifreeze, through the collector, and are more popular in climates prone to colder weather.

Passive solar water heaters

Unlike active solar water heaters, which use a circulating pumps and temperature controls, passive solar water heaters do not have any moving parts. They are typically less expensive and may last longer than active systems, but may also be less efficient.

Installing your own solar thermal water heater can be somewhat technical, but if you love a good DIY challenge, check out these links for some guidance:

Find it! Solar water heaters

Before you buy

Solar water heaters can be quite pricey to install, costing upwards of $3,000 depending on the system type and the difficulty of installation. Solar water heaters work best in mild climates with lots of direct sunlight. In addition, installing a solar thermal water heater may require a permit to comply with local building codes, zoning ordinances, and subdivision covenants.

Solar thermal water heaters help you go green because…

  • Solar thermal water heaters use the sun, not fuel, to heat your water, lowering your greenhouse gas emissions — while cutting your energy bills.
Installing a solar thermal water heater can save up to five times the energy used by an electric boiler, because boilers draw electricity from utility sources like coal, where a significant portion of the energy is lost to heat.[1] They offer the largest energy savings using a renewable energy source — up to $2,200 over the course of the equipment's lifetime.[2] While how much money you will save depends on a variety of factors, such as the amount of hot water used and the geographic location, installing a solar water heater should lower your water heating bills by as much as 50 to 80 percent.[3]

Tax incentives

In the US, installing a solar thermal water heater may qualify you for tax incentives at the federal, state, or local levels. For detailed information, see these resources:

External links


  1. Greenpeace International - Your energy savings
  2. ENERGY STAR - High Efficiency Water Heaters
  3. US Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: The Economics of a Solar Water Heater
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