Is solar hot water worth It?

Fast read

Solar hot water systems are a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for Australians. There are two types of systems, flat plate collectors and evacuated tube systems.

They both have advantages and disadvantages. Such as being environmentally friendly, hardly any maintenance, and significant savings on electricity bills. However, they also have high upfront costs, take up roof space, and depend on weather conditions.

They are also vulnerable to big hail storms and take up valuable roof space that PV solar panels could use up. Finally, some people think they look ugly - and a heat pump and PV solar are more modern alternatives. 

Overall, it is a good option for those who have sufficient sunshine in their location and can afford the upfront costs as it can generate significant savings on electricity bills and decrease reliance on the grid.

Is solar hot water actually worth it?

Due to Australia being one of the sunniest places in the world. It does not come as a surprise that more and more Australians are embracing various methods to produce free and cleaner energy. Utilising the sun’s energy to heat water for your home is a cost-effective and environmentally responsible option. In addition to helping the environment, it is a wise strategy to lower electricity costs and reduce your reliance on the grid. The real question now becomes ‘Is solar hot water worth it?’

How solar hot water units work

There are two types of systems in the solar hot water market: Flat plate collectors and evacuated tubes. 

Flat plate hot water collectors utilise copper pipes running through a collector with a glass covering. This collector is usually connected to a water tank. As the sun heats the copper pipes, water runs through these pipes and is heated through thermo-siphoning.

The evacuated tube system comprises two glass tubes moulded together at their top and bottom. A copper pipe runs through the centre of these tubes and eventually connects to a standard manifold which pumps hot water to a tank. These systems have an advantage over flat plates as they can extract heat from the air and do not require as much sunlight.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of solar hot water?

evacuated tube solar hot water collector
Solar hot water collectors rely on the heating of conductive material to provide you with off-grid hot water

Advantage #1 – Environmentally friendly 

Greenhouse gases are released whenever you heat your water. Whether with electricity or gas. You can be pleased knowing that when you use hot water, you use energy that emits no emissions if you install a solar hot water system.

Disadvantage #1 – Upfront Costs

A solar hot water system carries an upfront cost like a solar system. For many households, a high upfront cost is hard to overcome as they usually don’t have cash. However, financing options and some rebates are available to make purchasing this system easier. Nevertheless, some households may still find the upfront cost a turnoff as it can be as much as $4000 to $5000. 

Advantage #2 – Hardly any maintenance and lasts a long time

Just like a solar PV system which requires professional inspections only every 4 to 5 years throughout its lifetime. A solar hot water system has low maintenance requirements. Suppose you are in a frost-prone area. It is recommended that the antifreeze fluid be replaced and an inspection done once every few years. The tank valve might also need to be operated and checked every 4-5 years for proper operation. A well-maintained hot water system – straightforward to achieve, can last up to 20 years.

Disadvantage #2 – Takes up roof space

As the name implies, a solar hot water system solely generates hot water. Hence, a PV solar system gets installed to power home appliances, including the production of hot water for various purposes. However, this limitation disadvantages solar hot water due to the restricted space on most residential roofs. Therefore, installing a solar hot water system can decrease your ability to have a sufficiently large solar PV system.

Advantage #3 – Significant savings on your electricity bill

Like a solar system, a solar hot water system can generate significant savings on your electricity bill. Whatever you currently heat your water with, whether electricity or another type of fuel, solar hot water systems will provide you with free hot water each day, which adds up over time. Furthermore, the payback period has decreased with current solar hot water technology, which means even more savings. 

Disadvantage #3 – Depends on the weather 

Just like a solar system, the benefits of a solar hot water system will depend on your location and local climate. If you are located in an area that does not achieve high levels of sunshine, there may be other options. Solar hot water systems still have a backup heater, so you can still have a warm shower during an overcast day. However, it would be best to consider whether you would make the most out of it in your current location. 

solar hot water heater
Solar hot water heaters are only beneficial in more sunny regions

So is solar hot water worth it? 

A solar hot water system can be a good idea if you want to heat your home’s water supply with free energy from the sun and can afford the upfront costs. This is because they allow for significant energy bill savings and environmental benefits. However, in roofs with necessary shading or snowy weather, ensure an installer thoroughly inspects to understand how beneficial it would be.

Finally, if you have limited roof space and are deciding between a solar photovoltaic system and a solar hot water system, consider going with a solar PV system as it will be able to provide clean electricity, a more critical and expensive resource in today’s day and age. 

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