Here are some photos of home rooftop solar hot water heater systems that produce what is essentially “free hot water” from the sun’s energy.
In many parts of the United States there is ample sunlight for using a home solar hot water heater. New technology such as drainback systems are overcoming the shortcomings that solar hot water heating faced in earlier years. Older systems would often freeze, causing burst pipes in the attic or on the roof. Burst pipes caused wasted water and the units required frequent maintenance. The photos of solar hot water heaters below are of a drain back system. In this type of system water is only pumped to the collector on the roof when it is hot enough to heat water. In addition to this safety measure, only distilled water is used to keep copper pipes free of scale and lasting for decades. The distilled hot water heats the water you use in the home in a heat exchanger, as seen in the lower photo. Solar thermal hot water heaters are a mature technology that has been used around the world for decades. Because of high electricity costs and improvements in design, the technology is catching on in the United States. The U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world in solar installations, as seen in the chart below. China is installing more home and commercial solar panel systems than any other nation in an effort to become energy independent.
This is a photo of a solar hot water heater heat exchange tank and control unit. This integrated unit is only about a foot wide and bout four and and a half feet tall, taking up only a very small amount of space in the closet. The unit sits next to a special hot water tank designed for solar use which can also run off of electricity on cloudy days.
As you can see in these photos of solar hot water heater systems for home use, a complete system is not complicated. There is only the collector on the roof, a heat exchange tank, and what looks like a regular 60 gallon hot water heater. The system seen in these solar hot water heater photos produces about 80% of a family of four’s needs per year. The solar hot water heater photos in this article were taken at the author’s home.
New solar panel installations by country.
A book that I have found very useful in understanding home solar is “Power From The Sun”, which has many good photos of home solar hot water heater and photovoltaic systems and explains how to get started converting your home to solar.