Several different trends have emerged in the plumbing industry lately. One of the trends is part of a larger overall trend. The larger trend is a push towards more sustainable and more affordable plumbing options. You’ll see this trend manifest as high-efficiency toilets, gravity-fed water systems, and other options that require less fuel and less water. Solar water heaters are part of this trend. There are a few different kinds o f solar water heater that you could have a plumber install.
There are several different types of solar water heaters. They break down into a few categories. There are electric water heaters that run on electricity from solar panels, there are water heaters that use the sun to heat the water, and water heaters that simply pre-heat the water with the sun.
In many instances, a water heater run by a solar panel is the simplest conversion. If you already have the electric water heater, you just need to put a solar panel on the roof where it gets the most sunshine and connect your wiring. You might need an electrician instead of a plumber for this; many plumbers also do electrical, though.
Direct and Indirect Systems
When you talk to a local plumber, you should ask about true solar water heaters. They typically work in a similar manner. Water that comes into your home through the water main on its way to your water heater tank is diverted. The water runs up to the roof where it passes through a series of radiators. These radiators are often called solar collectors because they’re made of absorbent materials that gather the sun’s heat. Water passes through them and heats up as it circulates. The water can then go into a tank, a tankless water heater, or be used directly. This is called a direct solar water heater because the water is heated directly by the sunlight.
An indirect system operates similarly to the direct system but instead of circulating water through the radiators exposed to the sunlight, an indirect system will circulate a non freezing liquid. Essentially, they circulate a coolant similar to what might be in your car’s radiator. That liquid heats up in the sunlight and holds heat better than water. The hot liquid is circulated through a tank full of water to heat up the water.
These systems can be powered or passive. If you want the ultimate energy savings, a passive system will use the heat of the water to move it through the pipes. Ask a local plumber about what might work for you.