About Solar Water Heaters

Explore solar water heaters. How are they energy efficient? How much do they cost? How much will they save in utility costs? And how do they work?


The Need
Heating water for dishwashing and bathing, not to mention laundry, is a major part of your home's energy cost. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), paying to heat water with a conventional water heater is the third-largest energy expense in your home.

The Solution
The most energy-efficient way to heat water is with the sun. More than 1.5 million homes and businesses in the United States have invested in solar water-heating systems, and surveys cited by the DOE indicate that more than 94 percent of these customers consider the systems a good investment.

The Cost
An active, flat-plate solar collector system will cost approximately $2,500-$3,500 installed and produce about 80-100 gallons of hot water per day.

Solar water-heating systems typically have two main parts: a solar collector and a storage tank. The sun heats water or a heat-transfer fluid that flows through pipes in the collector and then to a tank.

  • Direct circulation systems pump water through the collectors and then store it in a tank.
  • Indirect systems pump heat-transfer fluid through the collectors, and then transfer the heat through a heat exchanger. In colder climates, a drainback system keeps water from freezing in outdoor pipes.

Your water-heating bills should drop 50-80 percent if you install a solar water heater. And, of course, you'll be shielded from future price increases in the cost of fuel.

Consider installing a solar water heater when you get a new mortgage or refinance your home. It's a good time to make the investment without needing a lot of cash up front.

For more information, visit the DOE Web site: www.eere.energy.gov/consumer.

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