How Does a Solar Hot Water System Work (Infographic)
Solar hot water systems are a popular investment for West Australian households because of the impressive energy savings they deliver. Understanding how solar hot water works can help you figure out if it’s a good move for your home.
Below we answer FAQs about solar hot water, including: ‘How does solar hot water work?’ and ‘Is solar heated water worth it?’.
The information in this article is a general overview. For tailored advice about your situation, we recommend speaking with an expert. If you live in Perth or Mandurah, the friendly team at iBreeze is here to help.
What is a solar hot water heater?
A solar hot water heater uses energy from the sun to heat water that you can use in your home.
Solar hot water is a popular choice in locations like Perth and Mandurah because of our excellent access to the sun’s energy. Relying on solar energy to heat your water is a great way to reduce your electricity bills and your carbon footprint.
In its basic form, a solar hot water system consists of solar panels (collectors) and a storage tank. However, there are many different types of solar water heaters.
It’s important to choose one that’s right for your family’s needs. Factors like your house type, climate, water quality and family size can all influence what system is best for you.
How does a solar hot water system work?
The steps below explain what happens in most solar hot water systems:
1. Cold water flows from the storage tank to the collector
Cold water at the bottom of the water tank flows through pipes to the solar collectors. In split systems, where the tank is positioned on the ground, the water is pumped up to the roof where the collectors are located.
In thermosiphon systems, the tank is located on the roof above the solar collectors. This allows cold water to flow naturally from the tank to the collector since cold water is heavier than hot water.
2. The water absorbs heat in the collector
The upward facing surface of a solar collector is made from materials that are highly effective at absorbing heat from the sun’s rays. The cold water runs through pipes inside the collector and absorbs the sun’s heat.
3. The heated water returns to the storage tank
As the water is heated, it flows out of the collectors and back into the storage tank. In thermosiphon systems, this occurs naturally since hot water is lighter than the new cold water entering the collectors.
4. Hot water rises in the tank, ready for use
Since cold water is heavier than hot water, the hot water rises to the top of the tank ready for use when you turn the hot water tap on.
In the rare case that there isn’t enough solar energy to meet your hot water needs, a gas or electric booster can be used to provide the extra heat needed.
How do heat pumps work?
A heat pump is a type of solar hot water system that doesn’t use solar panels to collect heat from the sun. Instead, the system collects heat from the air. Even on cool and cloudy days there is enough heat in the air to heat your water.
The heat pump works in a similar way to your air conditioner. A fan pulls in air across the evaporator. The evaporator converts a refrigerant liquid into a gas which is then pressurised. This pressurised hot gas in the condenser coils heats the water.
Heat pumps use some electricity to transfer the heat in the air to your water, but this is about 75% less electricity than conventional electric water heaters.
Do solar hot water systems work at night?
In most cases, a solar hot water system will provide you with sufficient hot water during the night time hours.
The heat collected during daylight hours is stored in your water tank, ready for you to use overnight and the next morning. When the water tank is insulated properly, it is very good at maintaining the water temperature.
If you find that you’re running out of hot water overnight, a gas or electric booster can give you that extra bit of hot water you need.
Does solar hot water work in winter?
Yes. Solar hot water systems work in overcast conditions and will continue to supply hot water to your home in winter. In Australia, it’s rare that cloud cover will completely block solar radiation from the sun.
In the rare case that your system fails to deliver hot water, a gas or electric booster system can fill the gaps.
Is solar-heated water worth it?
In Australian climates where there is high access to solar radiation, solar hot water systems are often a good investment.
Solar power is a free, clean and sustainable form of energy. Using it to heat your home’s water will not only reduce your impact on the environment, it will lead to significant savings on your power bill.
In fact, water heating is the second largest area of household energy use (after space heating and cooling), making up around 25% of your home’s energy consumption.
In other words, switching to solar energy for water heating could cut your energy bills down by a quarter. Savings can be even higher if you invest in solar panel installation to power all your home’s electrical needs.
Solar rebates and incentives
In order to encourage Australian homeowners to switch to solar, the Australian Government is offering financial benefits for installing solar water heating.
These financial benefits are available as STCs (small technology certificates) which we apply to your quote. On average, WA homeowners can save around $1,000 on solar hot water heating.
Find out how much you can save by getting in touch with the team at iBreeze!
We’ll give you an accurate and obligation-free quote. Plus our team can answer any questions you have about how a solar hot water system works and what system is best for your needs. Call us today on (08) 9534 9491.
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