For some homes, a solar water heater is an affordable method of generating the hot water needed for your family. Once installed, they generate heat for your water by using abundantly free sunshine as its fuel.
These domestic systems use a series of solar collectors and storage tanks to provide a modern hot water experience. You can choose from active systems, which use controls and pumps to circulate the hot water throughout the home, or passive systems, which do not provide this option.
Active systems provide two options as well. You can pump heated water directly from the storage tank to the faucet. You can also have heat-transfer fluids pumped through your home’s collectors, through a heat exchanger, to provide stability within the water temperature.
Here are the pros and cons of solar domestic systems to think about if you’re wanting to install a renewable energy water heater in your home.
Pros of Solar Domestic Systems
- You can lower your monthly electrical bill.
The installation of a solar system comes with a higher capital cost compared to most electric or gas heaters that are installed in many homes. That cost is made up over time, however, as there is no cost to access solar energy. Most solar domestic systems pay for themselves over the lifetime of the unit.
- You might be eligible for tax credits.
There are sometimes tax credits available to homeowners who install renewable energy systems in their home. If these credits are available, then it can help to offset the capital difference of a solar domestic system compared to others. Some of these financial benefits are geographically-based too, which means you might have local incentives to access, which would further reduce your initial liabilities.
- You get the same hot water you love.
Even in freezing climates, solar hot water systems are able to provide a reserve of hot water that can be enjoyed by everyone in the home. Climates that rarely freeze tend to see the most benefits from this type of system. As long as you receive sunshine on a regular basis, you’ll be able to take advantage of this type of system.
- You receive a quiet hot water system.
Solar domestic systems only have a few moving parts that help to distribute hot water throughout your home. Compared to tank-based systems, a solar hot water heater is very quiet. The noise output compared to a tankless system is about equal.
- You can install it without a huge space requirement.
Outside of the size of the storage tank, a solar domestic system can be operated on as few as two solar panels if you opt for that type of equipment. In return, the portion of your utility bill associated with water heating can drop by as much as 80% in the first month this type of system is installed.
Cons of Solar Domestic Systems
- It takes up more space in your home.
The storage tanks involved with a solar domestic system often take up more space than homeowners realize. They are slightly larger than the biggest “standard” tank systems used with electrical or gas hot water heaters, which can be an issue for those with a closet-based connection. The tank of a solar system is much larger than the equipment necessary for one of the best tankless hot water heaters available today as well.
- It costs more to install them.
When you combine the cost of the equipment with the installation cost, a solar domestic system can be $10,000 or more. That’s a big difference for some homeowners, especially since some of the best electric hot water heaters are priced below $1,000. Depending upon the quality and size of the solar system you choose, the installation process could take up to 96 hours to complete as well. That’s a long time to be out of hot water.
- It can generate a lot of heat.
Solar systems rely on sunshine, which means the energy can create higher levels of heat than other hot water heaters generate. The energy is stored within the tank and can reach high enough temperatures that you wouldn’t want to touch the equipment. For some homeowners, that may limit their ability to install a solar domestic system as it could damage the structure of their home.
- It requires more long-term maintenance.
A solar domestic system will last about the same length of time as the best electric or gas models available today. The difference here is that there are more working components to a solar system compared to tankless or tank-based options. More equipment means more things can go wrong with the system. If you’re looking for a low-cost solution, now and in the future, then renewable energy isn’t the right choice at this moment.
- It can offer a reduced performance.
On days that sunshine is not readily available, a solar domestic system may not produce enough hot water for your needs. Even with the large storage potential that some systems offer, a family could run out of hot water in 5 days or less with almost every system. A prolonged cloudy streak could make life uncomfortable. For homeowners in markets that are frequently cloudy, such as Portland and Seattle, thermal systems that rely on energy, not the sunshine itself, are the only viable options for long-term hot water access.
Solar Hot Water Heaters vs Tank-Based vs Tankless: Which Is Better?
It is an admirable desire to upgrade a home to use renewable energy resources. For some homeowners, a solar domestic system is a wise investment that will pay numerous benefits throughout the years. For others, a solar hot water heater would provide less overall access to hot water over time.
Only you can decide which type of water heater is right for you. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, read each hot water heater review, and you’ll be able to make the correct decision.