Okay. We’re pretty sure we know what you’re thinking:
It might be good for the environment and all, but is solar really worth it?
It’s a fair question. Of course, when making any significant investment, any reasonable person would want to make sure it’s a good one with a high likelihood of solid ROI.
The long and the short of it is this: is solar hot water really worth the initial upfront investment, and will it really help you cut down on your power bills in the long run?
For most homes (dependent, of course, of your individual circumstances), the answer is a big yes and yes. A well-designed, well-chosen and well-specified solar hot water system (or even a heat pump hot water system – you can read more about Why is Heat Pump Hot Water Worth It?) might cost more to begin with, but for most of us, they’ll be much cheaper to run than your standard electric or gas system.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the variety of factors supporting the idea that solar hot water is the hot water system to aim for – that is, if you’re after a system that’s:
- Of a higher quality
- More reliable and efficient
We’ll walk you through:
- What solar hot water is
- The major benefits of a solar hot water system
- The types of solar hot water systems that exist
- An overall, objective assessment of whether or not solar hot water is “worth it” and why
Ready? Let’s get started.
What is solar hot water?
A solar hot water system is any system that allows water to be heated using the power of sunlight via a solar thermal collector (like solar panels).
There are several types of solar thermal collectors, including:
- Flat plate solar collectors
- Evacuated tube solar collectors
- Asphalt solar collectors
- Concrete solar collectors
- Pitched roof solar collectors
- PVT or PhotoVoltaic Solar Thermal collectors
Generally, the collectors are mounted on the roof, wall or even on the ground, as is appropriate to the general context, layout and available space on the property in question.
Unsure (but curious) about where your collectors might go? Just give our friendly team a call today on 1300 766 940 for your obligation-free consultation. We’d love to chat!
What are the benefits of solar hot water?
The major benefits of choosing to install a solar hot water system include:
- Lower impact on the environment
- Greater efficiency than a conventional electric or gas hot water system
- Saving money on your electricity bills
However, like any form of technology, to form a well-rounded opinion and make a strongly informed decision we should also consider the potential disadvantages – including these two:
- Higher initial costs for the system/installation
- Longer ROI
Keep in mind that with the significant reduction in the cost of solar over the last 10 or so years (including the availability of impressive government rebates and incentives), solar technology is becoming more cost-effective and cost-feasible each and every day.
How does a solar hot water system work?
At its most basic level, a solar hot water system works by heating stored water using the sun’s energy.
The solar panels/collectors on your roof collect energy from the sun’s rays to heat water which flows to a storage tank, ready for you to use in your home. As with any form of solar technology, there are various types and configurations of solar water heaters available for purchase and installation.
What options do I have when installing a solar hot water system?
In general, there are two broad types of solar hot water systems available:
- Close-coupled systems
- Pumped systems
Close-coupled systems have their respective solar collectors installed on the roof and include a horizontally-mounted storage cylinder. While the sun is shining and ample solar energy is available, the water is heated as it passes through the collectors themselves.
Impressively, the system can heat water directly or indirectly. These systems also come with booster functionality: this is made available when either an electric or gas booster within the system is used as a back-up when there’s not enough solar energy to fully heat the water.
With pumped systems, the solar hot water system/unit includes – you guessed it – the standard solar collectors (or panels) mounted on the roof to absorb the solar energy that runs the system.
If you choose a pump system, your hot water storage cylinder will be located on the ground, much like a conventional hot water system, or the standard gas/electric legacy hot water systems traditionally installed in Victorian homes. Here, a pump circulates water from the cylinder to the collectors and back for the purpose of heating.
Note, importantly, that these pumps tend to use a very small amount of electricity.
Pumped systems can be a fantastic and highly appropriate choice when the roof structure isn’t strong enough to support the full weight of a larger, close-coupled system and storage cylinder.
And yet, by far the most efficient of all hot water systems that fall under the border solar banner is a heat pump hot water system.
While the initial cost of a heat pump is usually within the range of $2,000-$5,500, a heat pump does – over its lifetime – save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in bills as compared to conventional gas or electric systems.
Want to know more about heat pump hot water? Check out our Learning Centre.
So – is solar hot water worth it?
When compared with traditional electric hot water systems (the most common kind installed in Victorian homes), solar hot water systems consume around 60-80% less energy. While your initial investment may be higher, your ROI – over time – is likely to be much greater than it would be with a conventional system.
Ready to replace your hot water system, or learn some more about the options available to you? We’re here to help! Visit our Learning Centre now or call our friendly team today on 1300 766 940 for your obligation-free consultation.
We can’t wait to meet you.