Solar water heaters — also called solar domestic hot water systems — can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home. They can be used in any climate, and the fuel they use — sunshine — is free.
How They Work Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have circulating pumps and controls, and passive, which don’t.
Active Solar Water Heating Systems
There are two types of active solar water heating systems:
Passive solar water heating systems are typically less expensive than active systems, but they’re usually not as efficient. However, passive systems can be more reliable and may last longer. There are two basic types of passive systems:
Three types of solar collectors are used for residential applications:
Installing and Maintaining the SystemThe proper installation of solar water heaters depends on many factors. These factors include solar resource, climate, local building code requirements, and safety issues; therefore, it’s best to have a qualified solar thermal systems contractor install your system.
After installation, properly maintaining your system will keep it running smoothly. Passive systems don’t require much maintenance. For active systems, discuss the maintenance requirements with your system provider, and consult the system’s owner’s manual. Plumbing and other conventional water heating components require the same maintenance as conventional systems. Glazing may need to be cleaned in dry climates where rainwater doesn’t provide a natural rinse.
Regular maintenance on simple systems can be as infrequent as every 3–5 years, preferably by a solar contractor. Systems with electrical components usually require a replacement part or two after 10 years. Learn more about solar water heating system maintenance and repair.
When screening potential contractors for installation and/or maintenance, ask the following questions: