Soak Up Some Rays and Save

Shower and sunLooking to reduce your energy costs and your impact on the environment? Solar water heating may be the answer. Harnessing the power of the sun to heat the water in your home is one of the most effective ways to use renewable energy. If you have questions about installing a solar water heater, you're not alone. Here's what other homeowners are asking. 

How do solar water heating systems work? The system includes a solar collector and a storage tank. The water passes through the collector where it's heated by the sun's rays. Active systems use a pump to circulate water while passive systems depend on natural convection or water pressure. In colder climates, the system may include an antifreeze solution and a heat exchanger.

Is my home a good fit for solar water heating? Houses located in sunny climates are most suitable for solar water heating. If your home has unshaded areas and faces south, however, it may be a good candidate for a solar water heating system.

Can a solar water heater provide all of my hot water needs? Solar water heaters typically require a conventional system to act as a backup for cloudy days or periods of high demand. The backup unit is often packaged as part of the solar system installation. Make sure the system is sized to fit your needs. 

Are there special building codes or permit requirements? Many localities have building and zoning codes regarding solar systems and installation usually requires a permit. Contact your local building inspector for more information.

How much can I expect to save? A solar water heater should reduce your water heating costs by 50 to 80 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Your savings depend on the amount of hot water you use, your geographic location and other factors.

How much does a solar water heating system cost? The average reported cost for installing a solar water heater was about $3,200, according to HomeAdvisor. This is far higher than the cost to put in a conventional unit. However, you can make up the extra cost over time through lower energy bills. 

Where can I find a qualified contractor? Solar system installation requires careful site assessment and sizing. Hire a contractor who is familiar with local code requirements and has experience installing solar water heaters. If possible, use a professional certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners

Are there financial incentives for solar water heaters? The federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit provides a tax credit for up to 30 percent of the installation cost. Tax incentives are also available in some states. Search Tax Credits, Rebates and Savings from the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Purchase ENERGY STAR® certified solar water heaters. ENERGY STAR products must meet minimum requirements for efficiency, performance and safety.

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This policy was last revised on December 13, 2017.

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