How Does a Solar Water Heater Work?

How Does a Solar Water Heater Work?

Solar water heating systems use solar thermal power to heat water and power your home.

Believe it or not, this clean, renewable energy source can be the most eco-friendly and cost-effective way to power your home.

Solar water heaters come in a variety of types, and each of them functions differently.

Depending on your preference, you can find a solar water energy source that can provide you with the most effective and efficient water heating source.

Investing in a solar water heater is a long-term way to reduce your water heating bill by up to 80% per year, which translates to incredible savings!

If you have the option to install a solar water heater, this can be a great opportunity.

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What is Solar Heating?

Solar heat is a type of renewable energy. It uses several passive solar heating methods to convert to thermal heat and power various resources, including a solar water heater!

For a long time, this has been considered an expensive alternative to typical energy, but that is only because the initial investment cost is high.

Eventually, the cost of your solar electricity pays for itself, which is why solar heating becomes so critical during the cold months.

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What are Solar Water Heaters?

Solar water heaters are a type of water heater that relies on thermal energy to hot water.

Unlike traditional water heaters, they use the sun’s energy to convert cold water into hot water without circulating pumps.

These are often purchased instead of electric pumps and conventional water heaters because of their long-term reliability.

Solar heaters use a solar collector to collect heat and then generate hot water inside an insulated box.

Solar water heaters are installed either to replace your original water heater or supplement a traditional water heater.

There are various solar water heaters to choose from, and they all range in cost, appearance, and effectiveness.

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How Does a Solar Water Heater Work?

Solar water heaters come in several variations, and each of them works differently.

At the end of the day, all solar water heaters use the sun to pre-heat their water before entering their water tank or storage tanks.

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Passive Solar Hot Water Systems

Some solar water heaters do not release heat immediately and will hold the heat in, which creates solar radiation, which heats the water.

Passive systems are not as efficient as active systems but are typically inexpensive in comparison.

Passive systems are a good option for warm places because they rely on warm air to heat their water.

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Heating Water with an Integral Collector Storage System

The integral collector storage system is one key passive system that works as one central chamber for both circulation pumps and as a water storage tank.

These passive solar water heaters hold cold water in an insulated tank while the heat energy from the hot weather creates natural convection.

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Active Solar Hot Water Systems

These are the most commonly recognized type of solar hot water systems.

They typically utilize flat plate collectors or other solar collectors placed on the top of your roof to collect thermal energy and then pre-heat your water without needing a circulation system.

There are multiple types of active solar water heaters, and they are all made for direct use in the household.

Whether they are direct or indirect circulation systems, an active solar water heater is readily available.

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Heating Water Using an Evacuated Tube Collector

Evacuated tubes are parallel tubes that are used to collect sunlight.

They are comprised of glass or metal tube rows with individual evacuated tube collectors which collect the solar thermal energy.

  • Rows of transparent glass tubes (evacuated tubes) collect sunlight.
  • Thermal energy travels through the glass tubes and to the copper tubes inside.
  • The copper tubes heat up.
  • The water inside the copper tube is heated using convection until it boils and converts to gas.
  • The hot gas exits the evacuated tube collector to storage tanks.
  • The water returns to normal, and the process repeats.
  • The heat exchanger uses thermal energy to transfer heat.
  • The evacuated tube solar collectors repeat the process.

Using evacuated tube solar collectors is a great method for heating liquid; however, the changing weather often makes it unsound.

When it is cloudy or rainy outside, you cannot get your money’s worth, and it isn’t easy to gain enough heat.

Are Solar Water Heating Systems Worth It?

Solar water heaters are a great choice for anyone looking to save money.

In the long run, installing a solar water heater is a fantastic investment, and you will end up making your money back within a few years.

Is A Solar Water Heating System the Best Way to Heat Water?

Solar water is the most environmentally sound way to heat water. However, there are many ways to heat water, some of which are also cost-effective.

Gas heaters are generally more effective than solar water heating systems because gas water heaters are cheap to install and they can easily regulate temperature.

Unfortunately, gas water heaters are not environmentally friendly, and they require avid maintenance, which can be costly in the long run.

A conventional water heater uses a burner to heat and then instantly produce the heated water.

This is a traditional method which most people are used to in their modern homes.

What are the Advantages of Solar Water Heaters?

There are many advantages of solar water heating systems, including the amount of money you will save by using them and how beneficial this energy source is for the environment.

Solar Hot Water Systems are Eco-Friendly

Solar thermal energy is a renewable resource which means there is an endless supply of it!

Additionally, it does not give off greenhouse gas emissions, so installing your solar thermal water system will not leave a major ecological footprint.

Solar electric collectors tend to be installed on pre-existing structures like the roofs of residential and commercial buildings.

This way, your eco-friendly hot water system reduces its environmental impact and makes it one of the most environmentally conscious energy sources.

Solar Water Heaters Are Economically Beneficial

Solar water heaters tend to be an investment that is economically sound in the long run.

Between the tax return rebates and the amount of money that you save per year, installing a solar water heating system is beneficial if you are looking to save money.

Incentives for Installing Solar Heating Systems

Not many people are aware of the incentives offered for installing solar electric systems solar water heating systems like the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which gives you up to a rebate for installing modern solar water heaters in your residential home.

The average price of a solar hot water tank installation comes out to roughly $9,000 before your rebate deduction.

After applying for your rebate and receiving your ITC, you can receive over $3,000 back simply for installing solar water heaters!

These incentives encourage people to invest in a solar water heating system.

It is a direct system, and you can consult with a solar contractor to see if you qualify for a solar-thermal water heating system.

What are the Disadvantages of Solar Water Heaters?

There are a few drawbacks to installing solar water systems.

They are great for the environment; however, there are limitations for where a solar collector can be placed.

There are other disadvantages to buying solar water heaters, too.

Solar Hot Water Heaters Are Geographically Limited

Based on the type of solar power you invest in, you may only install your solar heater in specific locations.

Consider batch collectors and solar panels, which require direct sunlight all day to heat their water.

These money savers are pointless for someone who does not have access to direct sunlight on their property!

The amount of space you have is also limiting.

If you are an apartment owner or a renter, it is almost impossible to find solar-powered options, especially when heating a solar water storage tank!

Cold temperatures can also impact the effectiveness of your solar electricity capabilities.

If you live somewhere that gets below freezing, consider a passive solar water heater to prevent your batch collector from freezing during cold weather.

Solar Hot Water Heaters Are a More Expensive Investment

The initial investment for a solar water heater is initially around $9,000.

This is roughly two-thirds more than you would spend on your regular water heater.

Some people are satisfied with their water heaters and say that they have experienced no issues, which makes them sceptical about investing in a nearly ten thousand dollar solar-powered product that may -or may not- save them money.

Seasonal Changes May Impact Solar Water Heater Efficiency

As the seasons change, the effectiveness of your solar water heater might change.

This is because of the amount of solar thermal energy you get during the year.

When it gets chilly outside, your hot water storage tank can suffer.

To prevent freezing and capture the most solar energy possible, you must have a well-insulated storage tank to withstand cold climates; otherwise, it will be difficult to produce hot water.

Keeping the solar heat contained is crucial. That may call for a larger glass tube, a larger heat exchanger, or more flat plate collectors to capture solar energy and accommodate lower temperatures.

The Breakdown: Why You Should Invest in a Solar Hot Water System

Conserving the environment is more important than ever, but that is not the only reason you should invest in solar hot water systems.

Solar power is a free resource that costs absolutely no money.

When you invest in thermal energy, it is lifelong, and the only thing you will be paying for is maintenance.

The key reasons you should invest in a solar hot water system are that solar-powered hot water system:

  • Can lower your water bill and is a lifelong investment
  • Utilize a naturally renewable resource and is environmentally sound
  • Acts as a conventional backup water heater
  • It is low maintenance and easy to install


Saving money and making a positive environmental impact can be made easily by simply utilizing the sun’s thermal energy.

If you live in an area where installing solar panels or other solar collectors is possible, then investing in a thermal water heater can be an economically sound and environmentally friendly idea.

At first, purchasing your solar energy water heater can be a major investment, but after rebates and tax deductions, you will have made your money back within no time.

In fact, many people say it only takes a few years to see their solar power sources paying them back!

The sun’s energy is a renewable resource that you can depend on to generate heat and provide you with the thermal energy you need, even in cold weather!

Using various solar power methods like solar panels and evacuated tube collectors, you can use your solar tank to heat cold water and provide you with usable hot water.

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