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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

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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 trapheat & transfer to the water for your home, with solar panels on your roofcollecting the sun's rays and heating the water, which then flows or rises tothe storage tank.

A solar hot water system is an effective& efficient wayto 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 yoursolar panels face, shading from trees etc on your roof and the amount of peopleand how much hot water you use, a solar hot water heater can provide between 50and 90 per cent of your hot water needs. Solar water heaters come with electricelement or gas boosted ways to provide the rest of your hot water requirements

There are many different types of solar water heatersavailable in Australia. It is important to select the type that is mostsuitable to your family size, climate, house type, roof characteristics, waterquality, available space and aesthetic preferences, not to mention how long thewarranties are and where the product is made, be careful there are a lot of poorquality imported products for China and Israel, its never been more importantto buy Australian made products, we all know someone who has lost a job inmanufacturing because of economic cutbacks and closures in recent years seebelow for examples-

Rheem, Australianmade tanks and panels

AquaMAX, Australianmade tanks and panels

Dux, Australianmade tanks and Chinese imported panels

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

Solahart, Australianmade tanks and panels

Chromagan, Importedfrom Israel

Conergy, Australianmade tanks and Chinese imported panels

So many solar hot water experts that have popped up in recentyears when the government rebates where being offered, some of them will have brandnames that you may never heard of, in most cases they are just rebadged cheap Chineseimports, best to Google the brand name they are selling, if its not backed bya major hot water manufacturer or brand name company, you could be left highand dry should you ever need spare parts or warranty in the future

If a solar hot water heater is right for you, it can saveyou energy, save you money and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, thehippies 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 yourfamily size, climate, house type, roof characteristics, water quality,available space and aesthetic preferences. You will have choice in theselection of solar collector technology, boosting system, tank type and tankpositioning.

Solar collector/panel options

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

Evacuated tube collectors use an array of glass tubes thatinsulate in a similar way to a thermos flask where the heat energy is retainedin the tube. Evacuated tubes can be more efficient than flat plate panels insome conditions, such as cold climates. The technology was invented inAustralia in the late 1980s and the collectors have been fully commercialisedin 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



Storage tank options

Storage tanks are made of different materials such asvitreous enamel (also called mild steel), stainless steel or copper. Yourchoice of tank material will be dependent on your water quality and whether youare 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'shot water needs. However on days where hot water usage is higher than usual, oron cloudy, overcast or rainy days, water stored in your tank may need anadditional boost to maintain your preferred and usable water temperature.

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

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

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


A gas-boosted solar water heater generates the leastgreenhouse gas emissions of any low emission water heater. A gas-booster can beinstalled inside your hot water tank or between the hot water tank and yourhome. The second option delivers the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, as wateris only heated to the desired temperature at the time of use, which reducesheat losses. A gas-booster between the tank and your home also ensures you willnever 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 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 gasemissions than gas-boosted heaters, unless the electricity used is from a lowintensity 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 fromthe sun and reduce your energy bill. Whether a solar hot water heater is thebest 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 energyefficient option for water heating. The most greenhouse friendly option forwater heating is a gas boosted solar hot water system. If you do not haveaccess to gas, electric-boosted solar is also an option.

What climate do you live in?

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

Where to place your solar collectors?

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

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

It is advisable to check your local council regulations forany restrictions or special requirements for the installation of solar waterheaters.

How much hot water do you need and what sized system willyou 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 anappropriate tank capacity and number of solar collectors on your roof. Seebelow for the size solar water heater that is best for your home.

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

Cost of installation

As well as considering the purchase cost of your solar hotwater system, you will also want to consider the installation cost of theappliance. If your roof requires reinforcement to support the solar panels, itmay significantly increase the cost of installation.

It is a good idea to also consider the warranties on thesystem 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'sinstructions.

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

Where can you locate your hot water tank?

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

Roof mounted tanks are placed horizontally above yourcollectors. This type of arrangement is called a thermosiphon system. It doesnot require pumps or controllers and leaves your ground level space free. Asroof mounted tanks can be quite heavy (300 to 700 kg) you will need to makesure your roof is strong enough to support this added weight. Roof reinforcingmay only be needed for older buildings, and is not usually an issue for newhousing. 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 toyour collectors. The pump will need electricity to power it and will requiremaintenance. For this type of arrangement, it is best to locate your tank closeto where hot water is used the most, such as near your bathroom or kitchen, tomaximise efficiency.


split system

Split system solar water heater

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

What size is best for you?

A solar hot water system can be tailored to your family sizeby selecting an appropriate tank capacity and number of collectors. The tablebelow gives an indication of the tank capacity and number of collectors fordifferent household sizes. Households that need a lot of hot water, such asthose with spas or dishwashers, should select the next largest system size inthe range. A dishwasher with a hot water connection should be counted as anextra person.

Number of householders

Capacity (litres)

Collector area (m2)











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

Getting the most out of your solarhot water

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


Be sure to follow the your hot water manufacturer'srecommendations for maintenance. If you have a vitreous enamel tank you willneed to replace the sacrificial anode every five years. This anode collects anyrust that may form in your tank. SunCity Hot Water Plumbing provides amaintenance service for all types & brands of hot water systems Call 1300728 122 for fast reliable service


Every hot water cylinder approved for installation inAustralia has to met the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) Insulatingthe pipes will reduce heat losses and provides corrosion protection. Insulationshould be at least 15mm thick, especially if pipes are exposed to the outsideenvironment they will require a UV rating. Insulation is standard with allSunCity 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 solarhot water collectors. You can simply hose down or wash the collector glass withwater and a soft brush when the solar collectors are cool. Trim any trees whichmay shade the solar collectors.

How you can maximize performance?

By angling your collectors to between 15 and 35 degrees youcan achieve better winter performance because the sun is lower in the sky inwinter. This also helps minimize loss of water through the air bleed valvelocated on the outlet of the solar panel. The purpose of this valve is torelease 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 ofyour system by installing a frame that will allow you to angle the collectorsto at least 10 degrees but preferably between 22 and 35 degrees.

Health and safety

The thermostat on your booster should be set to at least60deg C to kill any pathogens and avoid the growth of legionella bacteria.

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


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