Solar Hot Water FAQs

Solar Hot Water FAQs

1.  How does a solar water heater work?

A solar water heater uses solar collectors installed on your roof to absorb the sun’s energy which is used to heat the hot water for your home. Solar water heaters require a large well-insulated storage tank.  This storage tank has an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the solar collector on your roof. A small pump circulates the water through the collector when solar energy is available.  A solar water heater consists of four major components:

  • The solar collector, usually located on the roof, collects the sun’s energy and then heats the water as it passes through the collector.
  • A specially designed solar storage tank, usually 80 gallons, which is highly insulated making it a giant thermos bottle with two extra nipples for the solar loop.
  • The solar circulating pump to circulate the water from the tank through the collector where it is heated and back to the tank.
  • A solar controller which compares the temperature of the solar collector and the bottom of the solar tank. If there is enough heat in the collector, it turns the circulating pump on.
  • The solar controller checks the temperatures, decides when to turn on the pump which then takes the cold water through the collector where it is heated and then returned to the tank. It’s that simple

2. What happens if it’s cloudy or raining?

If you run out of solar heated water or the water is not hot enough, your solar storage tank has a single quick recovery electric element located near the top of the tank. If it’s cloudy or raining and you run out of hot water, this element will heat the top twenty gallons of water to the desired temperature. On a cloudy day when the solar heated water is not hot enough, perhaps one hundred degrees, the upper element works like a hybrid heater and boosts the top twenty gallons to the desired temperature. So when you run out of hot water the backup electric heating element kicks in. It’s only heating the top twenty gallons not the entire tank. When the sun returns there is cold water for collector to heat.

3. Why can’t I use my existing water heater?

Your existing tank is generally too small, only has a cold water inlet and a hot water outlet, two electric heating elements, and is very poorly insulated. A solar storage tank has two extra connections to take the cold water to the solar collector and a second to bring the solar heated water back to the tank. A solar tank is extremely well insulated so the water is still hot in the morning. It has a single quick recovery heating element near the top of the tank which acts as a backup heater.

4. How well does a solar water heater work in the winter?

Yes, it does work in the winter.  A solar water heater supplies you with a percentage of your hot water consumption rather than all of your hot water needs. This is why the systems are so effective. The solar system works all year. It supplies you with some hot water even on cloudy days and the winter months providing some free energy and preheating the water. This reduces the amount of electricity and money you need from your backup element.

5. How much do I save?

It depends upon the size of the system ,the needs of your family, and the way you currently heat your water. The average annual cost for water heating can be over a third of your household’s entire annual electric bill. In those homes with large families, it can be half. In an average home, a person uses between fifteen and twenty-five gallons of hot water a day, which can cost $15.00 to $25.00 per person every month. A family of four often spends $800 to $1200 a year, just for heating their water. Also electric bills are structured to charge for electricity at escalating rates or “tiers”. The more you use the higher the price. A solar system reduces your monthly consumption which means the savings are coming from the most expensive tier resulting in a much lower electric bill.

6. What is the payback for a solar water heater?

After the Federal 30% tax credit and Florida Power & Light’s $1,000 cash rebate, this often amounts to half the cost of system and the payback is three to five years. The real question is, what’s the payback on your electric water heater? It may be more useful to think of solar as an investment that yields an annual return, much as a bank savings account provides interest. A solar water heater will generate savings that can equal a bank account generating a twenty percent (20%) annual return, and the savings are not taxed as income..

7. Does a solar water heater require maintenance?

Solar water heaters require very little maintenance if any. It is recommended that you should have your system inspected by an experienced solar technician every three years.

8. How long will a solar water heater last?

Solar water heaters are designed to last for twenty to thirty years. Many solar systems installed in the 1980’s are still operating today.

9. How much does a solar water heater cost?

The cost may vary from $4,000 to $7,000. The price depends largely upon the following variables:

  • Size of the family to be served (and therefore the amount of heat required)
  • Size and, type of solar system
  • Orientation of panels

That’s before you include the tax credit and rebate which often reduce the cost by half.

10. Will prices come down with improving technology?

The largest expense of a solar system is the solar collector which is low technology. A solar collector is made out of materials (copper, aluminum, insulation, and glass) and labor. Which do you expect to come down materials or labor?

We will install and service your solar hot water heater in Sarasota, Venice, Nokomis, Osprey, North Port, Englewood, Parrish, Palmetto, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch,  and Manatee County.




Roark Solar

He fixed up the solar hot water and the solar for the pool. We had a local company install solar heating for our pool, then the following year we had solar panels installed to heat the water.  This job did not go well so we inquired with this company to find out what they did wrong.

Roark Solar is a BBB Accredited Solar Energy System Designer in Sarasota, FL