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    How does a solar hot water system work?

    We answer your most frequently asked questions

    Hannah | Oneflare

    Solar hot water systems are environmentally friendly and reduce home energy costs.  These systems use the heat of the sun to warm your water, but the exact mechanisms vary.

    Roof-mounted systems place large solar collectors on the roof, usually facing north, also known as a themosiphon system. Water held within the collectors is heated and then collected in a tank that can be installed on the roof or at ground level. Hot water rises to the top of the tank where the outlet valve waits. As water cools, it drifts to the bottom of the tank and is recycled through the collector to be warmed again. These types of systems will need to be installed by a professional who can check your roof to make sure it’s reinforced enough to carry the load.

    Split systems use solar collectors on the roof and a tank on the ground. A pump moves water between the two locations. In this system, only the panels are installed on the roof, but the actual tank is mounted on the ground. Since the system is separated in this way, it’s unable to circulate the water adequately, so you will need to purchase an electric pump.

    Both systems heat water using the suns rays.

    When selecting a solar hot water system, consider your water usage in the kitchen and bathroom / Source: Buildtech homes

    Why use solar hot water systems?

    Solar hot water is more energy efficient than electric heating options. It uses fewer fossil fuels and has a lower carbon footprint. Some even come with solar cells to power the pumps so that these units are carbon-neutral in operation. However, many are made of materials that are anything but carbon neutral, so examine all claims objectively. In addition, the use of free solar energy makes a big dent in monthly energy bills, so most systems pay for themselves fairly rapidly.

    Will shade impact my system?

    A solar hot water system should be placed in full sun during the day. If you don’t have a shade-free location large enough for an appropriately sized solar collector, solar hot water heating may not be the answer for you. Most systems use a booster with gas or electric capabilities to help your system work at night or on cloudy days. If you do choose to go solar, your booster will simply power on more often.

    How often will I run out of hot water?

    The same booster that helps your system work in cloudy or shady conditions protects you from the nuisance of running out of hot water. Most boosters can be turned on manually, which means you’ll have to wait for your hot water. Others are set to turn on any time the water drops below a certain temperature. The latter option gives you less control over your bills but provides added convenience.

    How to select the right size for the system

    Make sure you get the size you need for your house. Consider how much water you use every day, keeping in mind that the typical person uses about 50 litres each day. If you think you use more than the average, whether for showers or washing clothes, look for a system that holds at least 300 litres in the tank. If you live alone or use less water than most people, a smaller tank may be adequate and more affordable.

    Installing your hot water system

    Once you purchase one that is the right size, the next step is to put it in the right location. Generally, a technician will help you with this process. The goal is to ensure that you are getting as much exposure to the sun as possible. North facing parts of your home’s roof tend to be the best. It may be necessary to make changes to this based on the structure of your home’s roof. You do not want anything overhead that will block the sunlight from hitting the solar panels.

    One of the things to consider about your solar hot water system is the insulation you are using. To ensure that you get the most out of this heated water, make sure you do not lose heat. Insulating the storage tank and the pipes leading from it to the taps can help accomplish this. Be sure to choose materials that are acceptable according to the manufacturer.

    Maintaining your solar hot water system

    Once you have it in place, you need to maintain it. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for doing this. Generally, you will need to ensure that the solar panels remain dust free. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when it comes to replacing the sacrificial anode. In most cases, the extent of cleaning these involves nothing more than a soft brush and water to remove debris.

    Solar hot water systems can help reduce home energy bills / Source: Ryza Homes

    Installing in an apartment

    Solar hot water options for apartments

    Though most people living in apartments assume they have to deal with the high cost of traditional water heaters, there are some options to consider. If you live in a building block of units, try installing an individual storage tank, which is connected to a central collector located on the roof. It heats the water that gets sent to each apartment. This commercial system uses a pump to ensure water is circulating continuously. If you live in a villa or townhouse and have some money to spend, consider an individual solar hotel water system, though its important to keep in mind they can be difficult to install.

    Apartment heat pumps

    Some people who live in apartments wont be able to access solar hot water systems in a traditional sense. Thats when you should consider a heat pump, which uses a quarter of the energy of regular electric hot water systems. They take the heat from the surrounding air to heat the water you’ll use in your apartment.

    Getting approval for solar hot water

    Installing a solar hot water heater in an apartment building requires the approval of the corporate body. Hopefully they say yes and you can begin the steps to instal it. But they may find it impractical or too expensive to consider installing solar hot water heaters for all the apartments to use.

    Plan your approach in advance when talking to the body corporate if you believe solar water systems are beneficial. Detail a list of advantages, such as the savings to owners as well as its limited impact on aesthetics. You’ll also want to include information estimating the total cost of installation. The more information you have, the more likely you are of succeeding in your goal.

    Contact local plumbers

    Choose the right installation professional

    Once you have an idea of what you will pay for the process, ask a few questions before you hire an expert to install your solar hot water system. For example, find out if the professional you are considering can help you get any rebates. Rebates can add up to thousands of pounds, so it makes sense to make obtaining them as easy and fast as possible.

    Get price estimates from at least a few companies before you make a decision. Of course, you should also make sure the professional you choose has installed plenty of systems like yours. In addition, find out if he or she provides a warranty on installation in case there is a problem with it in the future. Many experts in this field not only install solar hot water systems but also sell a wide variety of them, so they can help you choose the right one for your home.

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