Solar Water Heaters: Pros, Cons, and Costs

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Solar Water Heaters - Pros - Cons and Costs

Solar water heaters are becoming a popular choice for people looking to reduce their utility bills as well as their dependence on existing energy grids. They also help us reduce our carbon footprint. So it’s a wise decision to opt for a solar water heater system. 

But, before making that decision, it’s a good idea to know everything about them to make an informed decision.

Solar Water Heater Pros & Cons

Solar water heaters offer the following advantages and disadvantages: 

Solar Water Heater ProsSolar Water Heater Cons
Free energyNeeds maintenance
Environmentally friendlyRequires appropriately-sized storage tank to avoid overheating
Takes up less space than traditional water heatersInitial investment in equipment is expensive
Energy independenceDependent on weather and sunlight
Reduced utility billsHeating only available during the day

Solar water heaters can be costly to set up but can help reduce utility bills over time. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of a solar water heater system. 

Advantages of Solar Water Heaters

  • Free energy
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Takes up less space than traditional water heaters
  • Energy independence
  • Reduced utility bills

There are several major benefits to adding a solar water heater to your home heating system. Here are just a few of them. 

Solar Water Heaters Provide Free Energy

No, the heat from solar water heaters isn’t completely free. You still have to pay to invest in the initial equipment and in some periodic maintenance over the years. 

However, once the solar water heater is purchased and installed, the energy that powers the heater is provided naturally by the sun each day. 

Even at night, when the solar water heater can’t generate new energy, it can still store the heat generated during the day to heat water for use after dark. 

While conventional heating costs only continue to go up due to inflation and fossil fuel supply problems, solar heating technology continues to get cheaper and cheaper. 

Solar Water Heaters Are Environmentally Friendly

Using green technologies like solar water heaters at the individual level helps reduce society’s overall dependence on fossil fuels. 

As a finite resource, fossil fuel dependence is a threat to geopolitical stability and economic security. Fossil-fuel related pollution is responsible for the following environmental damage: 

  • Lower sea levels
  • Carbon-based emissions that can cause acid rain

Solar water heaters produce less pollution when they’re created and operated than traditional water heater systems. 

Solar water heater systems can be integrated into a larger green energy system in your home to reduce your carbon-based emissions as much as possible. 

Solar Water Heaters Take Up Less Space

Compared to full solar systems, a solar home system designed just for heating a water heater needs much less roof space to operate. 

Solar water heater panel arrays take up 15–45 square feet of roof space, depending on the size of the system you’re implementing.

For a full solar panel household array, you’ll need up to 300 square feet of roof space. 

Solar water heaters are a smart choice if you’re trying to reduce the amount of space necessary to use solar energy in your home. 

If you’re interested in adding more solar energy to your household utilities but don’t want to commit to a full solar system, a solar water heater is a smart compromise. 

Solar Water Heaters Increase Energy Independence

Solar water heaters are useful for off-grid building projects such as hunting cabins and homes in remote areas since they aren’t dependent on an existing power grid. 

Installing a solar water heater and other solar panel energy arrays in your home can make you less vulnerable to power blackouts and other grid failures. 

Solar heating systems also provide financial security in the form of smaller utility bills. Providing some of your own energy at home can make you less vulnerable to rising energy costs. 

Even though solar water heaters are rarely used in standalone systems without a backup conventional water heater for cold or cloudy days, they’re still a good investment in self-reliance.

Solar Water Heaters Reduce Utility Bills

Depending on the time of year, the weather conditions, and the model used, consumers can reduce their overall utility bills by 50-80% after installing a solar water heater. 

While a solar water heater doesn’t lead to free utilities on its own, it’s a step in the right direction for those who are looking to save on their electric bill. 

Another advantage for those swapping over to a solar water heating system is that there are government rebates available to encourage people to invest in green technology. 

The savings earned from a solar hot water heater can also be reinvested back into the household in the form of a larger solar system over time. 

Disadvantages of Solar Water Heaters

  • Need maintenance
  • Require appropriate-sized storage tank to avoid overheating
  • Dependent on weather and sunlight
  • Heating only available during the day
  • Initial investment in equipment is expensive

There may be a lot of advantages to buying a solar water heater, but there are some drawbacks to solar water heaters too. 

Solar Water Heaters Need Maintenance

Solar water heaters have minimal maintenance needs since they last a long time and don’t need a lot of service to stay in good operating order. 

With that said, you will occasionally have to provide maintenance to your solar water heater or solar panel system, such as the following: 

  • Inspection of the system for leaks and corrosion
  • Inspecting for tears in the insulation and for loose wiring
  • Flushing the tank annually to remove dust and algae
  • Descaling of mineral deposits due to hard water

Maintenance service for a solar system will cost you money, and it’s not a service that’s easy to provide as a layman. 

For example, descaling mineral deposits is a complicated job that is best left to a professional during your annual water heater service. 

You’ll also have to provide this service on top of maintaining your conventional water heater, since most solar water heaters can’t operate as an efficient standalone system.

Solar Water Heaters Need Appropriate Storage

Another disadvantage of using a solar water heater is that you’ll need an appropriately sized tank for storing hot water if you want to keep your stored hot water hot and avoid a fire. 

If you don’t have a big enough storage tank for your solar water heater, this can put your system at risk of overheating. 

Another disadvantage of using a water storage tank that is too small for your solar water heater is that smaller water tanks are more vulnerable to freezing. 

Solar Water Heaters Depend on Sunlight

Unlike conventional water heaters, solar water heaters are dependent on direct sunlight to power them. On sunny days, this system works efficiently. 

However, on cloudy days, solar water heaters will only be able to work at a reduced capacity. Cold weather can also negatively impact your ability to store hot water overnight. 

Solar panel arrays are particularly efficient in climates that receive a lot of clear days and hot weather. 

In the summer, a solar water heater in these conditions may be able to provide most or all of your hot water needs. In the winter or in cloudy climates, you might find it much less useful.

Solar Water Heaters Can Only Heat During the Day

Another drawback of solar water heaters is that after the sun goes down, they can’t generate any energy at all. 

While most solar water heaters use insulated hot water storage tanks that can provide heated water after dark, their efficiency at night is nowhere near the efficiency of a conventional system.

Can Solar Water Heaters Produce Hot Water at Night? 

Even though a drawback of solar water heaters is that they can’t generate energy at night, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get hot water at night if you have a solar water heater system. 

Since most solar water heater systems aren’t designed to work on their own, you should be able to get hot water at night regardless if you have enough stored in the solar system. 

In cases where there isn’t enough hot water in the system after dark, your conventional water heater can provide hot water to pick up the slack. 

Solar Water Heaters Are an Expensive Investment

The number one deterrent to most people getting a solar water heater is the cost of the initial investment. 

Solar water heaters can easily run three or four times the cost of a conventional water heater system. 

The high prices associated with solar water heater equipment and installation can put many people off investing in one for their home. 

The Cost of Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters are significantly more expensive to purchase and install than conventional water heaters to purchase and install. (Source: Angi)

  • Traditional water heaters cost between $800 and $1,200
  • Solar water heaters cost between $1,600 and $5,400.

The reason that a solar water heater system is more expensive is because it involves the installation of specialized equipment like inverters and solar panels. 

Since solar panel systems aren’t produced in the large numbers that conventional water heaters are, they are more expensive per unit to manufacture and install. 

Despite these costs, it’s important for potential buyers to remember that even though the cost of setting up a solar water heater is higher up front, it leads to reduced utility bills over time. 

A family of four can save up to $200–300 a year on their utilities with a solar water heater system. (Source: Plumbing Today)

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Run a Solar Water Heater?

A solar panel water heater requires three standard-sized solar panels to operate. This is far less than the number of solar panels needed for a full solar energy system. 

Are Solar Water Heaters Reliable?

Despite the fact that solar water heaters don’t generate heat or power at night, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t reliable sources of energy. 

Solar water heaters can store heat in the form of insulated storage tanks for hot water generated during the day for 24-hour use. 

Solar water heater systems also have a longer lifespan than traditional solar water heaters. 

Because they’re made of high-quality materials and solar panel systems don’t have moving parts, the systems that run solar hot water heaters are not prone to mechanical trouble.

Are Solar Water Heaters Efficient?

In many regards, solar water heater systems can be seen as an efficient system because,

  • Solar water heaters reduce utility bills for the household 50-80%
  • Solar water heaters can provide hot water twenty-four hours a day
  • Solar water heaters provide a backup unit for a conventional system in case of failure

Despite these efficiencies, there are some things that make solar water heaters less efficient than conventional water heaters. 

By design, solar water heaters can’t generate as much hot water in the winter, and they aren’t as efficient in cloudy or cold climates. 

As a result of this, solar water heaters are not designed to completely replace conventional water heaters in most household systems. 

Since most solar water heaters can’t operate a household’s utilities alone, this lowers their efficiency significantly. 

Are Solar Water Heaters Worth the Cost? 

Overall, solar water heater systems are a good investment for those who can afford their initial setup price. Along with reducing your utility bill significantly over time, solar water heaters are a good way to invest in environmental health and energy independence for future generations. 

Are Solar Water Heaters Safe?

Like most solar power arrays, solar water systems are considered safe for household use as long as they’re installed and maintained by certified technicians. Solar water heaters require minimal maintenance to prevent neglect-related safety issues like overheating and freezing.

The biggest risk associated with solar water heaters is the risk of falling while servicing the solar panels located on the roof.
Because of this risk, it’s recommended that you bring in a professional to service your solar panels and solar water heater whenever possible.

How Long Do Solar Water Heaters Last?

Solar hot water heaters last up to twenty years with proper maintenance and service. This is far longer than conventional water heaters, which tend to last between six and thirteen years. To get the most service life out of a solar water heater, it’s vital to have the system serviced regularly.

Taking preventative measures like cleaning the heater and painting the heater to fight off corrosion can help keep your solar water heater system working for decades to come. 

Is Solar Heated Water Good for Health?

Water heated by the sun doesn’t have any special medicinal effects. However, it should be noted that solar water heater water is not considered a drinkable form of water due to the threat of leaching chemical residues in the water heater system. 

Do Solar Water Heaters Cause Pollution?

Solar water heaters are considered a form of green energy. However, the production and transport of solar panels and solar water heater equipment still contribute to carbon-based emissions and other pollutants in the environment. 

I hope, you enjoyed learning about Solar Water Heater Costs, Pros & Cons. Do let us what you think in the comments section below.


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