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Heating water for household use is usually the second-largest utility expense for homeowners. While solar hot water systems won’t entirely eliminate your bill for household water, over its useful life the system can pay for itself, sometimes many times over. Depending on the climate where you live, a solar thermal system can replace between one-third and one-half on your annual water heating costs. Many government agencies offer rebates and grants to encourage citizens to install solar hot water systems, which can make them an even more attractive option for homeowners trying to save on their utility bills while reducing their carbon footprint.

One Sydney based hot water specialist has come forward and stated that solar systems can be expensive to run at first, with Government rebates not being pushed as much as 5 years ago. This is a shameful thing for the Government to not encourage clean energy.


How To Plan for Your System

Most systems are installed on the roof, so you’ll have to make a determination about whether your roof is a good place for a solar collector. For a solar collector to be feasible, your roof should get direct sunlight between 10 AM in the morning and 4 PM in the afternoon, and that sunlight should be available year-round. If there are large deciduous trees blocking the sun in the summer, or you’re in a location where your roof is shaded by nearby buildings or natural landscape features, the collector can’t do its work.

The only part of your roof that matters for the purposes of solar hot water systems is the portion that faces south. Northern exposures only get indirect light for most of the day. Your compass position can vary about 15 degrees in either direction. In northern climes, pointing southeast is usually better; in southern locations slightly southwest is preferred.

The condition of your roof is important. Solar hot water systems are fairly heavy because they carry a great deal of water in their enclosed pipes. The roof should be constructed to carry the additional weight, and the shingles or other type of roofing should be in good condition before your solar collectors are installed. If your roof isn’t suitable for an installation, you might be able to place the collector on a sidewall or on the unshaded ground right next to your home to get the correct amount of sun.

There are many different types of solar hot water systems, and they’re offered for sale under many different brand names. It’s possible to narrow down the range of choices before you go shopping for a contractor to install your solar hot water system.


How Solar Hot Water Systems Work

Solar hot water systems are all made up of a collector that heats water using the sun’s rays, and then transports it to some form of storage device. A very common type of solar system heats swimming pool water. In this setup, the swimming pool itself is the storage device. If you’re heating water for household uses like laundry, showers, and handwashing, you’ll have a storage tank that will have a backup heating system installed. Because you can’t count on hot water to be produced on demand, the back up heater makes up the difference between the temperature of the water after it has passed through the rooftop collector and the desired temperature.

Another common difference between one solar hot water system and another is whether it is passive or active. An active system uses pumps to circulate the water to the collector and back again to the storage device; a passive collector uses the natural tendency of heated water to rise, and cold water to sink, in order to set up a circulation loop.

The most common types of solar hot water systems use flat plate collectors. They are weatherproof boxes that contain a dark, sunlight absorbing plate that transfers heat to a series of flow tubes. Another type is called an Integral Collector Storage system, or a batch heater. Passive ICS is one of the simplest types of solar hot water systems, but they’re not suitable for all climates. Almost any type of solar how water system can be used where the temperatures rarely get down to freezing, but in northern climes, great care must be taken to keep pipes from freezing. In the coolest climates, it’s common to have a closed system filled with some form of antifreeze. This is slightly less efficient than heating the household water directly, but still offers many advantages over heating water using electricity or other fuels.

Whatever system you choose, you can expect years of trouble-free and inexpensive service from you solar hot water system. They are among the least complicated and most durable utility systems in your house, and can increase your home’s resale value.