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Solar Hot Water Systems


Solar Hot Water Systems are very energy efficient, environmentally friendly & nearly free to run when good weather condition exist

There are a couple of different types of solar hot water heaters, mainly being the roof mounted solar water heater & split solar hot water systems.

Split solar hot water systems are by far the most common in today's market, there is no ugly tank on the roof, it is located at ground level & have the slim line solar panels only on the roof. The water is pushed through the panels via a small pump that uses less power than a clock on oven, a temperature reading is taken at the panels & tank via a bimetallic strip sensors, the power is applied to the pump when there is a difference of more than 6 deg between panels & tank until the tank is heated up to 85-90 deg, this saves overheating of the tank & water being released from the temperature/pressure relief valve form a overheated tank. The solar panels are designed to withstand high temperatures.

Solar Hot Water Systems

Roof mounted solar water heaters have the panels & tank on the roof, not very aesthetically pleasing, but when room is a problem or if you have a existing roof mounted solar & need a changeover becomes the cheapest option, this type of solar water heaters are old technology using thermosyphon to transfer heated water from panels to the tank, hot water naturally rises, water from the panels heat & rise into the tank on one side & the colder water in the tank falls to the lowest point in the solar panels from the opposite side of the tank unfortunately this can waste a lot of water when tank is over heated in summer & hotter days. To install these types if your don't have a existing roof mounted solar hot water heater we will have to engage a building certifier or engineer to report that you roof is structurally sound to carry the 500+kg that these system weigh when they are full of hot water.

Roof Mounted Solar Hot Water Systems Roof Mounted Solar Hot Water Systems

Solar hot water systems are also available in gas & electrical back up to give you hot water when long periods of poor weather may prevent solar gain.

QLD state & Federal Government solar hot water rebates and incentives no longer exist, so solar can be a expensive outlay compared to electric hot water systems, the break even time is approx. 5 years. We sell all our solar hot water systems less the STC's credits (formally known as REC's), this is a rebate that works with a points system on energy efficiency in how many megawatt hour of electricity is saved, in short by us claiming them on your behalf means less initial outlay so you can enjoy the benefits & savings of a Solar Hot Water System straight away

Dux Solar Hot Water Systems

Changing your electric hot water system to a solar cuts your electricity bills by up to 90% (depending on usage) for your hot water heating and helps you do your bit for the environment & future sustainability We recommend the Australian owned & made DUX solar hot water systems & BOSCH solar hot water heaters, a product made by the trusted worldwide name in quality. Both DUX & BOSCH have different sizes & advantages that suit different needs & applications. Sizes range from 250litres up to 400litres.

Bosch Solar Hot Water Systems

We also have easy payment options through Certegy, in most cases there is no upfront costs as we can use your STC rebate as your deposit & from $40 pw over 24 months. You will also still receive the Queensland State & Federal Government Solar Hot Water Rebates back.

Solar Hot Water Systems

What is a solar water heater?

A solar hot water heater uses energy from the sun to trap heat & transfer to the water for your home, with solar panels on your roof collecting the sun's rays and heating the water, which then flows or rises to the storage tank.

A solar hot water system is an effective& efficient way to make use of Australia's abundant sunshine, especially here in Queensland (not so much as of late it seems though).  Depending on your location, the direction your solar panels face, shading from trees etc on your roof and the amount of people and how much hot water you use, a solar hot water heater can provide between 50 and 90 per cent of your hot water needs. Solar water heaters come with electric element or gas boosted ways to provide the rest of your hot water requirements

There are many different types of solar water heaters available in Australia. It is important to select the type that is most suitable to your family size, climate, house type, roof characteristics, water quality, available space and aesthetic preferences, not to mention how long the warranties are and where the product is made, be careful there are a lot of poor quality imported products for China and Israel, it’s never been more important to buy Australian made products, we all know someone who has lost a job in manufacturing because of economic cutbacks and closures in recent years see below for examples-

Rheem, Australian made tanks and panels

AquaMAX, Australian made tanks and panels

Dux, Australian made tanks and Chinese imported panels

Bosch, Tanks and panels are imported from China, Germany and Portugal

Solahart, Australian made tanks and panels

Chromagan, Imported from Israel

Conergy, Australian made tanks and Chinese imported panels

So many “solar hot water experts “that have popped up in recent years when the government rebates where being offered, some of them will have brand names that you may never heard of, in most cases they are just rebadged cheap Chinese imports, best to Google the brand name they are selling, if it’s not backed by a major hot water manufacturer or brand name company, you could be left high and dry should you ever need spare parts or warranty in the future

If a solar hot water heater is right for you, it can save you energy, save you money and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, the hippies will love you

How does it work?

  • Solar hot water systems use a cylinder/tank to store the water that has been heated by the sun during the day
  • Cold water flows from the tank to the solar collector, usually positioned on your roof. In a split solar system like the one shown here, cold water is pumped up to the collector. In a thermosyphon solar system with the storage tank above the collectors mounted on the roof, the cold water flows naturally into the collector because it is heavier than hot water.
  • The solar collector or solar panel  is made of materials that absorb the sun's heat very efficiently usually black powder coated copper . The cold water travels through the collector and the heat in the collector heats up the water, which then returns to the hot water cylinder or storage tank
  • Hot water naturally rises to the top of the tank and colder water is pumped from the bottom of the storage cylinder and returned to the solar collector. When you need hot water in your home, it is taken from the top of the tank where the water is hottest.

solar hot water systems 

Diagram showing how solar hot water systems heat water

Types of solar water heaters

There are many different solar hot water heaters available. It is important to select the hot water system that is most suitable to your family size, climate, house type, roof characteristics, water quality, available space and aesthetic preferences. You will have choice in the selection of solar collector technology, boosting system, tank type and tank positioning.

Solar collector/panel options

The two main types of solar collectors are flat plate panels and evacuated tube systems. Flat plate panels have been used for around 40 years and are commonly installed in Australia. They operate at maximum efficiency when the sun is directly overhead at midday but are less efficient at other times of the day when the sun's rays hit the panels at different angles.

Evacuated tube collectors use an array of glass tubes that insulate in a similar way to a thermos flask where the heat energy is retained in the tube. Evacuated tubes can be more efficient than flat plate panels in some conditions, such as cold climates. The technology was invented in Australia in the late 1980s and the collectors have been fully commercialised in the last decade.

Flat plate solar panels:

  • May require a special anti-freeze fluid for very low temperatures
  • Are generally less expensive than evacuated tube systems
  • Require cleaning to remove any dust, salt spray or sludge

Evacuated tube systems:

  • Make more efficient use of the sun's energy
  • Are lightweight and can be easily installed on the roof
  • Are low maintenance and cleaned by falling rainwater, but can trap leaves between tubes
  • Can withstand very low temperatures without the need for an anti-freeze fluid
  • Are generally more expensive than flat plate panels
  • Individual tubes can be replaced if damaged.

flat plate panel

tubes

 

Storage tank options

Storage tanks are made of different materials such as vitreous enamel (also called mild steel), stainless steel or copper. Your choice of tank material will be dependent on your water quality and whether you are connected to mains water supply or on tank water.

Vitreous enamel or mild steel tanks:

  • Require a sacrificial anode that needs replacing to avoid corrosion, every 5 years is recommended and every 2 years in areas with hard water or rural areas using bore water
  • Have a glass-like enamel coating inside which protects the steel from corrosion
  • May corrode from the outside. The average life for hot water tank that has not had the anodes replaced is approx 10 years
  • Handles the expansion and contraction with the high temperatures a solar hot water panel produces

Stainless steel tanks:

  • Are less prone to corrosion
  • Do not require a sacrificial anode
  • Are low maintenance
  • Are not recommended in areas with poor water quality

Copper tanks:

  • Are very long lasting and resistant to corrosion
  • Are typically used in homes where water is supplied from a gravity feed system in the roof rather than mains water, they are very rare if not nonexistent in the Australian solar hot water market today

Electrical and gas boosted back up

A solar hot water heater can meet most of your household's hot water needs. However on days where hot water usage is higher than usual, or on cloudy, overcast or rainy days, water stored in your tank may need an additional boost to maintain your preferred and usable water temperature.

The booster heating unit will only activate when the water temperature is below the thermostat setting and will automatically turn off when the temperature of the water reaches the thermostat setting. For further control, a manual on/off booster switch can be installed in a convenient location, such as in the kitchen or laundry. Boosters use an alternative source of energy, such as electricity or gas, to heat the water when needed

Consider the option of a manual on/off booster switch so that you can control the level of boosting to your system. This provides the option of switching off the booster in summer or when you are away. Split solar hot water systems are designed to be left on all the time, they physically only heat a portion of the tank should it be required and when put on a electrical off peak tariff is very cost effective

Timers can also be used to ensure that the booster is used as little as possible and the maximum solar contribution is achieved.

Gas-boosting

A gas-boosted solar water heater generates the least greenhouse gas emissions of any low emission water heater. A gas-booster can be installed inside your hot water tank or between the hot water tank and your home. The second option delivers the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, as water is only heated to the desired temperature at the time of use, which reduces heat losses. A gas-booster between the tank and your home also ensures you will never run out of hot water, so is a great option for large families. Of course, gas-boosted solar hot water heaters can only be used in areas with a gas supply (including LPG).

gas booster

Gas-boosted solar hot water system

Electric-boosting

Electric element-boosted solar water heaters use a 1.8kw, 2.4kw or 3.6kw electric element located in the middle of the hot water cylinder, much like a kettle. Electric-boosted heaters generate more greenhouse gas emissions than gas-boosted heaters, unless the electricity used is from a low intensity source (i.e. from a renewable source like solar PV).

electric-boosted solar hot water 

Electric-boosted solar hot water system

Is it right for you?

Solar hot water systems are quiet, use renewable energy from the sun and reduce your energy bill. Whether a solar hot water heater is the best available choice for you depends on your particular circumstances, location and now without any government rebates available your budget

Do you have access to gas?

Whether or not you have access to gas, solar is an energy efficient option for water heating. The most greenhouse friendly option for water heating is a gas boosted solar hot water system. If you do not have access to gas, electric-boosted solar is also an option.

What climate do you live in?

Solar water heaters are suitable for all climates, including colder climates prone to frost and snow. Evacuated tube systems can be used in areas prone to frost and areas where temperatures reach below zero. Some flat plate systems work with a special anti-freeze fluid which guards collectors against freezing or cracking. In some cases, solar water heaters may be more suitable than heat pumps, which work less efficiently at low temperatures.

Where to place your solar collectors?

It is important that solar collectors receive full sunshine during the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky and at its strongest. A solar hot water system will be suitable as long as your collectors won't be shaded by trees or by an adjoining property.

Ideally you will have an area for your collectors that is facing north. If you have an east, west or south facing roof or area you will need to install a frame to angle the collector toward north for maximum exposure to the sun as it moves from east to west. Systems can still provide acceptable performance when not facing north, however performance diminishes as the panels face further south.

It is advisable to check your local council regulations for any restrictions or special requirements for the installation of solar water heaters.

How much hot water do you need and what sized system will you require?

No matter what size your household is or level of water use, a solar water heater can be matched to your requirements by selecting an appropriate tank capacity and number of solar collectors on your roof. See below for the size solar water heater that is best for your home.

Behavioral changes such as showering in the morning instead of at night will help in avoiding the use of the system booster, therefore lowering your hot water costs. Fitting low flow fittings to showers and taps will also minimize the amount of hot water you use.

Cost of installation

As well as considering the purchase cost of your solar hot water system, you will also want to consider the installation cost of the appliance. If your roof requires reinforcement to support the solar panels, it may significantly increase the cost of installation.

It is a good idea to also consider the warranties on the system components. Look for systems with a longer warranty.

Have your system installed by a registered installer, maintain it as required and have it serviced according to the manufacturer's instructions.

If you are installing an electric boosted system ask your installer which electricity tariff you will be connected to, especially if you are currently on an off-peak tariff.

Where can you locate your hot water tank?

You have the option of locating your tank either on your roof, on the ground or in a roof cavity.

Roof mounted tanks are placed horizontally above your collectors. This type of arrangement is called a thermosiphon system. It does not require pumps or controllers and leaves your ground level space free. As roof mounted tanks can be quite heavy (300 to 700 kg) you will need to make sure your roof is strong enough to support this added weight. Roof reinforcing may only be needed for older buildings, and is not usually an issue for new housing. If in doubt contact a structural engineer for an assessment.

roof top system 

Thermosiphon solar water heater

Placing your tank at ground level or in your roof cavity, called a split system, will require a pump for circulating the water to your collectors. The pump will need electricity to power it and will require maintenance. For this type of arrangement, it is best to locate your tank close to where hot water is used the most, such as near your bathroom or kitchen, to maximise efficiency.

 

split system

Split system solar water heater

You can also place your tank in a space inside your house such as in a spare cupboard. However, for inside tank installations, you will need to ensure that there is adequate drainage and an overflow pipe is fitted to avoid flooding. A new Australian standard has been introduced to address the overflow problem for new systems.

What size is best for you?

A solar hot water system can be tailored to your family size by selecting an appropriate tank capacity and number of collectors. The table below gives an indication of the tank capacity and number of collectors for different household sizes. Households that need a lot of hot water, such as those with spas or dishwashers, should select the next largest system size in the range. A dishwasher with a hot water connection should be counted as an extra person.

Number of householders

Capacity (litres)

Collector area (m2)

1-2

160-200

2

3-4

300-370

4

5-6

440

6

Applications

The solar water heaters described here are appropriate for residential water heating in the home. Not all solar hot water heaters are suitable for pool heating. There are specially designed solar water heaters available for use with swimming pools.

Getting the most out of your solar hot water

A number of factors will affect the length of service your water heater will provide. These include water quality, water pressure, temperature and water usage patterns. However there are a range of things you can do to make sure you are getting the most out of your hot water system and to ensure it runs its full length of service, which is usually about 10-12 years.

Maintenance

Be sure to follow the your hot water manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance. If you have a vitreous enamel tank you will need to replace the sacrificial anode every five years. This anode collects any rust that may form in your tank. SunCity Hot Water Plumbing provides a maintenance service for all types & brands of hot water systems Call 1300 728 122 for fast reliable service

Insulation

Every hot water cylinder approved for installation in Australia has to met the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) Insulating the pipes will reduce heat losses and provides corrosion protection. Insulation should be at least 15mm thick, especially if pipes are exposed to the outside environment they will require a UV rating. Insulation is standard with all SunCity Hot Water Plumbings solar hot water instalations

Cleaning your collectors

Ensure the glass on your solar collectors is free of dust, salt spray or any other matter, which may reduce the effectiveness of the solar hot water collectors. You can simply hose down or wash the collector glass with water and a soft brush when the solar collectors are cool. Trim any trees which may shade the solar collectors.

How you can maximize performance?

By angling your collectors to between 15 and 35 degrees you can achieve better winter performance because the sun is lower in the sky in winter. This also helps minimize loss of water through the air bleed valve located on the outlet of the solar panel. The purpose of this valve is to release steam that may build up in your system. This prevents overheating, especially in the summer months when the sun is stronger.

If you have a flat roof you will enhance the performance of your system by installing a frame that will allow you to angle the collectors to at least 10 degrees but preferably between 22 and 35 degrees.

Health and safety

The thermostat on your booster should be set to at least 60deg C to kill any pathogens and avoid the growth of legionella bacteria.

The maximum safe temperature for tap water in order to avoid burns is 50deg C. A temperature valve will ensure that water is delivered at a safe temperature, this is law in Queensland toi have a tempering valve fitted to every hot water system fitted.

 

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