A Quick Guide to Solar Water Heaters

A Quick Guide to Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters are growing in demand as energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly appliances. Our resident expert offers an overview of how they work and which system may be best for you.

The move to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly appliances are becoming more commonplace. There’s a huge focus on saving the planet for generations to come, and finding a way to utilize renewable resources to the best of our ability. One way to help with your environmental impact is to turn to solar water heaters. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar water heaters can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home.

Solar water heaters work by using storage tanks and solar collectors but there are two types of solar water heating systems: active and passive. 

An active solar water heating system has circulating pumps and controls. There are also multiple types of active solar water heating systems. A direct circulation system has pumps that circulate household water through the collectors and into the home. The Department of Energy says that this type of system is better in climates where it rarely freezes. 

There is also a indirect circulation system with pumps that circulate a non-freezing, heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and a heat exchanger. This heats the water that then flows into the home. These types of system sare more popular in climates where there are many days a year with freezing temperatures, like Cincinnati.

The other type of solar water heating system is a passive one. The Department of Energy says that the passive solar water heating system is typically less expensive than an active system and can last longer, but may not always be as efficient.  

There are two types of passive systems, including an integral collector-storage passive system and a thermosyphon system. 

Households with significant daytime and event hot water needs may find that an integral collector-storage passive system works better for them. These systems also work best in areas where the temperature rarely falls below freezing. 

A thermosyphon system allows water to flow through it when warm water rises as cooler water sinks. The collective in this system must be installed below the storage tank so that warm water will rise into the tank. These require more attention to detail during installation, and are more expensive than integral collector-storage passive systems.

When using a solar water heating system, there are more than just the water heaters that are needed. These systems also require a well-insulated storage tank. 

The Department of Energy says that solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collective. In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank.

There are three types of solar collectors that are used in homes: flat-plate collector, integral collector-storage systems, and evacuated-tube solar collectors.

Once you have chosen and installed the solar water heating system you want, it’s important to make sure that it is properly maintained. Passive systems don’t require much maintenance while active systems need more attention. 

Regular maintenance on these systems are needed every 3-5 years and should be looked at by a solar contractor. Systems with electrical components usually require a replacement part or two after 10 years.

Your local plumbing company can help you when determining which solar water heating system works best for your household and residence.

Source: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/water-heating/solar-water-heaters 

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