Solar Power Hot Water Heater Systems - Which Solar Water Heater is Right For You?



A solar power hot water heater is one of the easiest and immediately rewarding steps you can take in the solar energy home process. Day one results of 17% to 30% electric bill savings are typically seen in a common system, and the setup is easy for any contractor, and most every Do It Yourselfer (DIYer).

And the benefits are environmentally positive, and financially attractive. It takes approximately eleven 55 gallon drums of fossil fuel oil to heat the water needed by a typical family of four. That is carbon emitting, coal burning, sludge producing, expensive, and solar energy is free, clean and limitless. As you can see, adding a solar water heater to your home pays off in many ways.

But when you decide to add this simple yet powerful solar energy producing machine to your home, you need to understand the three different types of recommended solar water heaters and their properties before you can make the right choice for you and your family. And just as important, there are two systems you shouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

Integral Collector System (ICS)

This is the least expensive solar power hot water heater, and also the easiest to understand and install. It is great for milder climates, and can be susceptible to freeze damage. Natural flow and physics is used, and when a faucet is opened, hot water flows. If you have collected enough hot water, your electric water heater never turns on. But since this requires storing many gallons of water, a drain system is required for winter. This is a simple automated or manual device you operate from inside your home, and keeps the ICS solar power water heater trouble free and operating properly.

Drainback Systems

A drainback solar power hot water heater system drain out when there is no sunshine and when temperatures drop. This keeps your pipes clear from freeze damage. It is more involved than a standard ICS system, and about 50% more expensive, but better suited for cold weather use. If you also time your use during high sunlight periods, you drastically reduce your electric water heater use, and shoot your savings off the chart.

Closed Loop Antifreeze Systems

As you probably noticed by the name, this solar heater system is needed where extreme temperatures rule. This is the most widely sold solar power hot water heater system in the world, extremely reliable, and runs headache-free for years. It is just about 100% damage-immune, and is very popular because of this. Two to Avoid - Open Loop Flooded System and Recirculation System

The open loop flooded system is a lot like an ICS, but clog and freeze frequently, and should be avoided, regardless of the attractive price. Recirculation solar power hot water heater systems move water frequently, and when water moves it cools. You end up reheating water frequently, and your cost goes up, and efficiency down. Avoid it at all costs.

As you can see, knowing your environmental concerns is paramount to getting the right solar power heater for your home. How much freezing temperatures you have should be your first appraisal. In New York or Montana, a more expensive Closed Loop Antifreeze System will be in order. And in sunny Jacksonville, Florida where I make my home, the less expensive ICS solar water heater will probably work just fine.

And if you have the opportunity, check out the unit a friend or neighbor has, and buy all-in-one kits if at all possible. This will allow you to maximize your solar understanding and savings, and minimize your labor when you add a solar power hot water heater to your home.


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