Why You Should Install a Solar Hot Water System
Solar hot water is not a new concept. In fact, it has been around for over a century now. Over the years, this technology has matured and now provides reliability and convenience. At the same time, it helps reduce our carbon footprint.
Taking a shower, washing clothes or dishes – all these tasks use hot water. Solar water heating is efficient and affordable, which is why it is used throughout the world, including Australia.
How Solar Hot Water Works
Solar is known as an alternative source of energy. Those who are planning or already using solar hot water have one goal: to cut down their electricity bills. But how does the system work?
A solar hot water system, also known as a solar water heating system, consists of the following:
- Circulation system
- Circulator pump
- Temperature controller
- Storage tank
- Back-up gas or booster
- Solar thermal collectors
Some systems are called indirect because they require an additional heat exchanger and a drain-back reservoir.
With the components listed above, it is much easier to understand how the entire system works.
First, we have the solar thermal collectors. If you are familiar with a solar photovoltaic system, you can liken these thermal collectors to panels. They are installed on the roof and work to capture solar radiation. Once they have enough power, the solar thermal collectors will heat the liquid in the absorber.
A different quality against solar photovoltaic panels is that the thermal collectors do not transform the sun’s energy into electricity. These collectors transfer heat instead. Yes, it is a little bit confusing. An excellent way to understand the process is to think of solar panels as solar modules, which are used to create electricity. On the other hand, these solar collectors will move energy through the system’s other components.
The circulation system will transfer the heated liquid to a designated location. A heat exchanger will be around to hand over the thermal energy acquired from the liquid in the collector. This heated fluid will be transferred to household water, which is in the storage tank. This tank is heavily insulated so that no heat loss will take place.
In an indirect solar water heating system, the drain-back reservoir is installed indoors. It works as storage for the heat-transfer liquid if ever the circulator pump does not function. Therefore, it serves as a failsafe in preventing overheating, particularly in the summer. It also protects the liquid from freezing in the winter.
Sometimes, the sun may not shine as bright. Solar water heaters today have a solution for overcast. Using an electric booster or back-up gas will heat the water.
Direct vs Indirect Solar Water Heating Systems
We have mentioned indirect solar water heaters, which may make you wonder what it is about. Perhaps you also ask if there is a direct solar water heater. The answer is yes. Direct and indirect solar water heaters are two classifications of these systems, apart from many others.
A basic method of differentiating solar heaters involves what they heat in the solar collector. When a system is called “direct,” the main purpose is to circulate water from the tank to the solar collectors. Then, it will repeat the process. This system is also known as an open-loop system.
Meanwhile, if the solar water heater is called “indirect,” it uses a heat exchanger, which works to separate water from the fluid of the heat-transfer system. Most of the time, it is antifreeze that moves around the collectors. The coolant also works with the piping system of the heater. Indirect solar is also known as a closed-loop solar water heating system.
Both classifications have their advantages and limitations. However, they are incredibly useful in heating water for your home or business. Direct solar water heaters are more affordable and require less maintenance than indirect ones. However, indirect systems can operate no matter what the weather may be, thanks to the heat-transfer fluid.
Active vs Passive Solar Water Heaters
Another classification of a solar water heating system is whether or not it is passive or active.
Upon the installation of the hot water system, antifreeze is transported throughout the entire system. The controller pump is in charge of this task. However, some types of equipment rely on gravity only. If the system uses a controller pump, it is an active solar hot water installation. Meanwhile, if the system depends on gravity to move the water around, it is passive.
It does seem like passive systems are much easier to understand and install. However, many installers believe that active systems are more efficient. Passive systems are often less expensive than active ones, but they usually require their tanks installed higher than the collectors. It can become an issue since you may have to install the tank up on your roof, causing a lot of stress on it because of the weight.
Several solar hot water systems in Australia are active. They have a controller that moves water or antifreeze around the equipment.
Why Solar Hot Water is Beneficial for Your Home and Business
Installing solar hot water systems has many benefits for the household, business, and even the environment. It is why many Australians are now shifting from gas or electric sources to solar water heaters. Here are the top reasons why:
- The system gets energy from the sun. Since the power of the sun is free, heating water has never been this cheap!
- With the rising energy costs, it makes sense for Australians to look for means to protect themselves from payment-related stress. It is time to free yourself from paying more than you should for electricity bills.
- You can access hot water anytime you want. The heated liquid is reliable since you know where it came from. It gives you the peace of mind you need for your family’s hot water requirements.
- Indeed, solar water heaters are not exactly the cheapest thing that you can buy out there. However, you can offset the cost of your investment by taking advantage of government rebates.
- Since solar is a renewable source of energy, you get to reduce the carbon footprint of your home or business.
- Now is your chance to increase the value of your property. If ever you plan to sell your home in the future, you can price it a little higher than the suggestions because of the solar water heater. The same thing applies if you run a business.
A huge benefit of solar hot water is that they can give you as much as 90% savings, especially if you heat water often. Solar water heaters do not use electricity – or even gas. Instead, they turn to solar energy, which comes from the sun to power up the whole system.
Depending on where you live, you can save as much as 90% on water heating while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. Believe it or not, water heating is one of the biggest reasons why greenhouse gas emissions in a standard Australian home are high. According to statistics, using hot water can already result in 21% of the energy used while promoting the production of greenhouse gases by up to 23%.
The most significant contributors are electric water heaters. Yes, they are useful and efficient. They are also easy to use and more affordable than a solar water heater. However, using them every day harms the planet. Think about it: if 50% of Australian homes utilise electric water heaters, they already contribute more than 80% of greenhouse emissions.
Australians typically turn to natural gas (48%) when heating water. About 45% use electricity, while three per cent use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Solar Hot Water Buying Guide
By now, you are probably convinced that you should install a solar hot water system. However, it can get quite complicated, especially with the numerous selections on the market today. Before you decide, you should consider various factors first, including the price and type.
- How much is a solar hot water system?
The final price of the system, as well as the installation, depends on the size of your house. Your water consumption and roof will also affect the cost. Also, you need to make sure that the installer is qualified for the job. The cost of the service can vary. Never trust incompetent installers that offer bargain-basement prices.
Although tempting, you will end up with an incorrectly installed system. Worse, the service is not insured, so if things go wrong, you cannot get your money back.
- Which is better for you: direct or indirect, passive or active?
Another question you may want to be answered before buying a system is to determine which type of solar water heater is more efficient for your home or business. Direct (and active) systems are best for those who live in a house with many household members. If you are in an area with a warm climate, go for this a direct system.
If you mainly use hot water in the morning because of showers and cooking, you can opt for an active heater that has a drain-back system. It is especially useful if hot water use tapers off in the middle of the day. With the active solar water heater and the drain-back system, you can make sure that water remains warm even at the end of the day.
Passive systems are best for people who live in a place that has hot weather all around the year. If you want to save money on maintenance and you do not regularly use hot water, go for this type of system.
For homes in a moderate climate, a good option is a thermosiphon system. It is also useful if you do not have a large budget. With this system, you can mount the tank higher than the solar collectors.
Finally, if you are in a cold area, it is better to go for an indirect system. Its heat-transfer liquid lets you operate, whether it is cold or hot outside.
- Which type of collector is more efficient?
Solar thermal collector panels can either be evacuated tube or flat plate. The choice between these two will depend on your preference. However, you should also consider the climate of your location. If you are in a cooler area, especially in the winter, you can opt for evacuated tubes. Meanwhile, if your place is warmer than the rest of Australia, both these types of collector will function well.
If you do go for evacuated tubes, make sure that the pipes can be replaced without problems. They can break, and the last thing you want is an irreplaceable one. Several collectors these days have tubes that can easily be removed. You typically do not need to drain the collector, which reduces the negative effect on the system’s operation.
- What type of warranty should you go for?
Product warranties vary from one manufacturer to another. Before buying, scrutinise the system properly. Most reputable brands have a warranty of at least five to 10 years. This guarantee should cover the tanks and often, the collector panels as well. The related valve work has a shorter warranty, which is typically up to 12 months only.
However, extended warranties do not mean you have the best product out there. You still have to read the terms and conditions to make sure there is enough coverage. Labour should be inspected as well, especially because most warranties are cancelled based on installation. If an unlicensed person installed the system, the warranty is automatically void.
- How do you find a reliable supplier and installer?
You should always get a quote first to know how much you would possibly spend on the hot water system that uses solar. Suppliers will inspect your home, which can take 30 minutes. You will also need to answer a few questions regarding the number of people in the house and the use of hot water.
Transparency is key, and it is what EasySolar offers. Our professionals will work with you so that you get the best deal. Contact us now for a quote!