Solar Water Heaters: Types Of Systems And Collectors

Installing a solar water heater for your home is a way to save some money long term, while at the same time becoming more energy independent and helping the environment. A solar water heater uses the suns energy to warm water, so you need to use less electricity to get hot water. A solar water heater can supply 50-90% of your water heating needs, cutting your annual energy costs by 10-20%.

For more information on the costs of installing solar panels, click here.


Solar water heaters generally run on one of two systems: active and passive.

Active systems use pumps to move the water through the system, and as such require extra power to run them. They’re also more expensive. On the plus side though, they’re generally more efficient, and allow for greater design flexibility.

Passive systems don’t use pumps, but instead use natural convection currents to move the water. The solar collector is found at the lowest point of the current. Water is heated, and naturally moves upward, towards the water tanks. It enters the water rank, pushing the cold water at the bottom of the tank down and towards the solar collector, where the process begins again.


Solar collectors generally come in 3 forms: batch collectors, flat plate collectors and evacuated tube collectors.

Batch collectors are the cheapest and least efficient form of collector. The water tank essentially doubles as the collector, found outside and warming the water as it waits to be used. It’s usually found within an insulated box to maximize heat absorption.

Flat plate collectors are a series of copper tubes found within a box with a transparent top and dark bottom (to absorb solar energy and keep it in). Water moves through the tubes and is heated.

Evacuated tubes are the Cadillac of solar collectors- the most expensive, but by far the highest quality. They maximize the surface area receiving sunlight, making them the most efficient at heating water. They’re essentially a series of tubes within tubes, the outer layer for energy absorption and the inner layer for carrying the water to be heated.

Good luck and stay prepared!

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