Solar energy can be harnessed for more than just electricity these days. New advancements in solar technology have led to the development of solar powered water heaters that can help homeowners save thousands in water heating expenditures over the heater’s lifetime. This makes them a worthwhile addition to any home.

Homeowners can also save hundreds in annual operating costs by switching to a solar water heater. Where the normal annual operating cost of a traditional water heater can be well over $500, a solar water heater only costs $50 per year on average.1 Not only that – solar heaters last twice as long as standard water heaters, boost your equity and provide hot water when blackouts occur.

Different types of solar water heating systems exist, so you will want to weigh the pros and cons of each before installing one in your home.


Solar water heaters utilize solar panels to capture and retain heat from the sun, then use that energy to heat your water. The core components of solar water heaters include the storage tanks and solar collectors (panels).

There are two types of solar water heaters – passive and active.

Active solar water systems take two forms:

  • Direct circulation systems

    – The system’s pumps circulate water through the collectors and throughout the home’s pipes. This is a great system for

    • Integral collector-storage passive systems

      – This system is optimal for climates where the temperature rarely falls below freezing. They work best in households where hot water usage is heavy during the daytime and evening.

    • Thermosyphon systems

      – This system involves the installation of a special collector on your home’s roof. The physics of gravity and thermodynamics combined with ingenious engineering enables the water in the roof tank to be heated and pushed down into the storage tank for use while cold water is cycled back up to the roof tank for heating. The roof tanks can be heavy, so they are only suitable for sturdy roofs and are generally more expensive than integral collectors.

    Before you invest in a solar water heating system, it’s best to take a few preliminary steps:

    • Research how much sunlight your location receives on average

    • Determine how big your system should be

    • Examine and read up on local codes, zoning, covenants and state regulations

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    warm or mild climates.

  • Indirect circulation systems

    – The system’s pumps circulate a special non-freezing, heat-transferring fluid through collectors and into a heat exchanger. This process heats the water before it enters the home’s pipes, making it a popular option in climates where pipes easily freeze in the winter.

    Passive solar water systems are more reliable, last longer and are less expensive than active systems, but don’t work as efficiently as active systems. Passive systems come in two types: