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Schematic of a solar water heater hookup (C) InspectAPedia.com - Lennox IndustriesGuide to the Basics of Solar Hot Water Heating Systems

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Solar water heaters: this article explains the basic components of solar hot water heating systems used to heat water for washing and bathing. Solar water heaters use renewable energy - sunlight - collected in outdoor rooftop or ground-mounted solar collectors to heat water which is circulated by a pump between a hot water storage tank and the panels.



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How to Hook Up & Use Solar Water Heating Systems to Provide Domestic Hot Water

Closeup of a solar water heater collector unit (C) Daniel Friedman

Sketch of the hookup schematic for solar hot water heating shown at page top was provided courtesy of Lennox Industries.

Solar water heaters use renewable energy - sunlight - collected in outdoor rooftop or ground-mounted solar collectors to heat water which is circulated by a pump between a hot water storage tank and the panels.

The upper end of a simple solar water heater collector is shown in our photo at left. Look closely and behind the corrugated plastic surface, at the top you can see the horizontal black tubing that moves water through the top end of this collector.

Solar water heaters have been in use for decades, with popular use at remote cottages or off-the-grid buildings and are likely to see increasing use in much of the world as energy costs continue to climb.

What are the Components of a Solar Hot Water Heating System?

Solar hot water heater schematic - US DOE Solar hot water heater schematic - US DOE

The schematic at above left (U.S. Department of Energy) explains a typical active, closed loop solar water heater hookup and shows the basic parts of a solar hot water system. The schematic at above right (U.S. DOE) explains a typical passive-batch solar water heating system, showing the batch collector containing a volume of hot water and located separately from a backup solar water storage or water heater tank.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Here are the key parts of solar hot water heating systems:

Our solar water heater photographs below show a convection-type solar water heater widely distributed in Mexico. The white water tank and the bank of solar heating tubes are initially filled with cold water.

As the sun heats water in the parallel heater tubes, warmed water rises by convection in the tubes and enters the storage tank while cooler water from the tank falls into the tubes for further heating. Heated water is drawn from a fitting at tank top while incoming cool water is fed into the tank bottom.

This system heats water and stores it in the reservoir tank using only natural convection with no pump required. Our second photo (below right) shows one of these systems installed.

Solar water heater (C) Daniel Friedman Solar water heater installed (C) Daniel Friedman

Solar hot water rooftop tubing system (C) Daniel Friedman Pearson Murphy

Photo of solar water heater components (C) Daniel Friedman

Solar water heater schematicAs energy costs continue to increase the payback-time for the cost of solar panels and piping installation for solar hot water systems will continue to improve. The solar water heater system sketch is courtesy of Accu-Spect.

Especially in areas that receive adequate sunlight we should expect to see an increase in popularity of these systems.

A Comparison of Alternative Hot Water Heaters & Sources

This article series describes the characteristics of these water heating methods:

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