Traditional v. Solar Water Heaters: A Buyer’s Guide

by | Feb 16, 2015 | Blog | 0 comments

Solar water heaters get their energy from the sun – a free fuel. Many homeowners feel as though any kind of solar or alternative energy system is too expensive and more suitable for commercial establishments. Although it is true that upfront costs are often a lot higher for these systems, the amount you save on energy bills will offset the high initial costs within as little as a couple of years. Solar and other sustainable energy systems are quickly becoming standard solutions for many households.

Boulden Brothers - Solar Water Heaters

Because of the energy and cost-saving benefits of these systems, they will quickly become the mainstream solution to homeowner energy needs. Still, alternative energy sources like wind and solar power are more suited to different geographic locations. What works in Nevada may not work it Minnesota.

The great thing about solar water heaters is that they work well in any climate. All you need is an unshaded area facing south (sometimes west as well). Solar water heaters may be a good investment – they are cost-effective while helping to protect the environment. Still, it is a significant investment and worth researching the options available. Here is a list of things you should check out before purchasing a solar water heater.

If you are unsure about whether or not a solar water heater is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. If by the end of this blog, you are still questioning the decision, pick up the phone and talk to a professional at Boulden Brothers – (302) 368-3848. We will evaluate all of your options and give you unbiased advice as to what you should do.

Solar Water Heater Repair

Solar Water Heater FAQ

How Solar Water Heaters Work

How Solar Water Heaters WorkThe above diagram gives a graphic representation of how solar water heaters work:

  • Solar collectors, or panels, harness the sun’s energy and use it to heat up air or water.
  • There is always some kind of storage. For pool heating systems, the pool itself is “storage.”
  • Cold water passes through the solar collector first, which preheats the water.
  • It then passes through the conventional back-up water heater (these are simple systems that do the job).
  • Sometimes the back-up water heater is connected with the storage tank, bypassing the separate heating unit in a two-tank system. Here is an example of an Active Indirect One-Tank System:
  • Active Indirect One-Tank Solar Water HeaterTo provide hot water, pumps are used to circulate water through your system and into your home.

Is a Solar Water Heater Right for Me?

The first thing most people want to know is “How much?”. For a quick answer, expect to pay between $2,000 and $4,000 for a solar water

The answer, however, is more complicated than how much the upfront costs are. Don’t be surprised when you see your water heating bill drop 50%-80%. You also won’t be subject to the rise and fall of fuel prices.

Besides having more predictable gas or electricity bills, you will also be helping to promote technologies that are good for the environment. Replacing your standard water heater (useful life of 10-15 years) with a solar water heater (lifespan of about 20 years) will “offset the equivalent of 40% to 100% of the carbon dioxide emissions of a modern passenger car” (U.S. DOE).

One thing to consider when shopping around for a solar water heater is if you have an unshaded area on your site that faces in the southern direction. A professional solar water heater expert at Boulden Brothers can evaluate your property for solar panels/collectors.

Whether you’re ready to schedule a consultation now or you simply have questions or concerns about how a solar hot water heater can be integrated into your home, we would love to hear from you. We have live operators standing by 24/7 at (302) 368-3848.

Depending on how much sun your site receives, whether temperatures frequently drop below freezing, and other factors will contribute to the decision of which type of solar heating system you choose.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Different Water Heaters:

Hot Water Heater Comparisons

Source: energy.gov

Types of Solar Water Heaters

Once you have decided that a solar water heater is right for you, you will want to decide which solar water heater system is right for you:

  • Direct Solar Water Heater  uses a pump to cycle water through the solar panels/collectors to preheat the water; this can become a problem if the temperatures outside are frequently below freezing.
  • Passive Direct Solar Water Heaters – circulates water or heat-transfer fluid through the system without using pumps or electricity. These systems are great during power outages but suffer in freezing climates.
  • Thermosyphon System – warm water rises and colder water sinks in this system, creating the need to place the solar collectors below the storage tank so that
  • Indirect Solar Water Heater – uses a pump to circulate friendly antifreeze through the solar collectors and heat exchanger. These systems are popular in areas that are prone to freezing temperatures.

Of these choices, an indirect heating system is the most popular choice for homeowners in the Newark/Wilmington area since temperatures often drop below freezing. The eco-friendly antifreeze in an indirect solar water heater system is not affected in the same way that water is.

Solar Water Heater Sizing:

Another factor you will want to consider is how large your solar water heater needs to be to accommodate your home. You will need a tank large enough to provide as much hot water as you’re likely to use in an hour on any given day, and it also needs to keep that volume of water at the appropriate temperature until you need it.

Although it may be tempting to install a solar water heater on your own because it doesn’t have many moving parts, this would be a bad idea. Professional solar water heater installers will know how to estimate your hot water needs and by working with them, you will have the best, most efficient solution for your home.

A professional Boulden Brothers technician will know exactly where to install your new solar water heater system and will take care of all the local and state building codes and permits, so you won’t have to worry about anything. We will give you information about government tax breaks and rebate information so you can get all the savings you are eligible for.

Hiring the professional solar water heater installers at Boulden Brothers will ensure that the installation goes perfectly or you get your money back.

Reference: U.S. Dept. of Energy


Boulden Brothers knows how important it is to have reliable hot water. We regularly install and maintain solar water heaters for customers all overt the Wilmington & Dover metropolitan area and would be more than happy to do the same for you.

With our indirect solar water heater systems, you will never have to worry about fluctuating fuel prices or freezing water pipes again.

If you have questions or want to learn more about how a solar hot water heater can be made a reality in your home, give Boulden Brothers a call today. (302) 368-3848

Your Satisfaction is 100% Guaranteed!

Categories