Installing Solar Power Water Heaters In Mild Climates



Installing solar power water heaters in mild weather climates means choosing the solar hot water heater best-suited for the natural effects that mother nature will have on it. You have to pick the right one for your mild geothermal footprint. If that sounds technical, all you need to know is this - Integral Collector Systems (ICS) are made with mild weather extremes in mind.

Watch this short animation, less than 2 minutes, (although his voice may put you to sleep) of a solar water heater suited for warm weather climates.

The least expensive and easiest to install, ICS solar water heaters have no pump, and use a passive supply system. Hot water is held in a collector tank, and water is not constantly flowing. This means that freezing temperatures are very risky for an ICS water heater, and why it is best suited for more temperate climes.

On a sunny day, water in ICS solar power water heaters heats up. The insulating material used does not let heat escape as quickly as it is stored. Thanks to a fancy term called "thermosiphon effect", the hotter water in the collector moves upwards, towards the copper supply lines that supply your water heater's tank. When you turn a faucet for hot water, you get this heated water, and your electricity is not used to heat any water. Obviously, the larger the collector tank, the more hot water that is available.

Because of their size and role, the collectors are a significant part of ICS solar power water heaters. These large insulated, copper pipes make up a network that lies below a glazed cover. Their angled mounting allows for water flow, and each pipe can hold as much as 10 gallons of water.

A typical ICS water collector for a solar hot water heater is about 3 feet by 8 feet and stores 30 gallons of water. A full 22,000 BTUs of heat are absorbed in a single day by one collector in North America. Expect to pay about $1,500 for this sized collector, and add another $700 for pipes and installation. A 4 feet by 8 feet collector is only two hundred dollars more, and holds 50 gallons of water. If you want to start out with the smaller collector, you can always add another and hook them in parallel, with the second above the first to allow for correct water flow.

If you are Joe Handyman, you may be thinking about doing the install yourself. Be prepared, because a collector for a solar hot water heater can weigh up to 500 pounds, and if you do the work, you are liable for any problems or damages. Purchasing an all-in-one kit and having a licensed contractor install everything is usually the best thing to do.

However, if you mount everything yourself, place the collectors near the edge of your roof above load-bearing beams. And when you mount these collectors as close as possible to your water heater, you can get by with a minimal amount of tubing, trimming your cost. ICS solar power water heaters do have other considerations to keep in mind though.

Make sure you purchase a tempering valve, as this is a critical piece of the solar hot water heater system. Pay extra for a quality valve, because it monitors your collector temperature. When that temperature exceeds safe levels, a tempering valve adds cool water to keep scalding water from entering your house's pipes. When placing the drain valves, run them outside. Just make sure everyone knows no to turn them, they look like a typical outdoor water faucet. There are locking faucets available.

In ICS solar power water heaters, heat can be trouble. The collectors can actually burst when the water temperature reaches boiling. This can be avoided with the installation of temperature monitors, and automatic release bypass valves. They also help when temperatures reach freezing for two days or more, by allowing the water to bypass the solar collector and go straight to your water heater to be heated by electricity.

Solar power water heaters are by no means perfect, but when you realize you can recoup up to 28 per cent of your total electric bill by installing one, they become more attractive. Helping the environment, saving money and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil supplies are all wonderful benefits that the ICS solar hot water heater can provide in milder climates


Back to Solar Power Heater Page
From Solar Power Water Heaters Back to the Home Solar Power Guide Page