Solar water heaters have the potential of being an ecofriendly and cost-efficient way of heating one’s household water supply. The process is simple and does just what the name implies. This type of system harnesses sunlight, turning it into heat through a device called a Solar Thermal Collector.

Direct solar water heater systems

There are several types of solar water heaters on the market. While it’s true that these water heaters can work in any climate, some do work better in warmer areas.

Open loop

One of the most common types of Solar Water Heaters is called a Direct System, also known as an “active” or “open loop”.  The process for the Active system is simple: Water is circulated from the water tank, up to the roof to the Solar Thermal Collectors. The water is then heated in the collectors and transferred down to the water tank and into the household, ready, for use. This type of system is best for tropical climates, as it doesn’t require assistance in heating one’s water.

Closed loop

The most common Solar Water Heater, in the Direct System, is the Indirect or “closed-loop” system. These work best in climates where temperatures drop below freezing. This system uses a combination of sunlight and antifreeze to heat the water. Antifreeze is circulated from the water heater up to the Solar Thermal Collectors, heated, and then moved down into the heat exchanger, heating the water in the tank, indirectly. The cooler antifreeze is then pushed back up to the collectors where the process begins again.

Common Problems with Solar Water Heaters

Leaking

Probably the most common problem with a Solar Water Heater is leaking. The most plausible explanation for this is a leaky temperature and pressure relief valve on the solar heater. Do not try to repair this problem on your own. It’s better to call and have a technician come out and replace it. Another reason leaks can occur is because the piping in the solar panel has burst. This may be due to either freezing weather conditions or simply too much pressure in the pipes. It is best to call a technician to come and assess this problem as well. The problem could also be that the pipe fittings just need to be tightened.

Not enough hot water

The second most common problem is not having enough hot water. To address this issue you can do a couple of things.

Make sure the solar panel is in the correct placement on the roof, i.e. away from tree shading, facing south with the recommended tilt. Also consider if the solar panel size is correct for the household size. The amount of hot water that you use will help determine the size you need. Not having enough hot water can also be caused by a leaky or stuck valve. Make sure that if there is a back up storage tank, that the thermostat is set to the right temperature. Be mindful in the winter months that the solar panel is given an adequate slope, so the output end is higher. There could also be a system blockage. If so, all you need to do is flush the system until the flow is no longer blocked. The most important thing you can do is make sure that the solar panels are properly insulated.

No hot waterno hot water, water heaters

Finally, the third most often reported problem is no hot water at all. To avoid this problem, it is best to be preemptive. Make sure to maintain the absorber paint on the collector panels. If this paint deteriorates, it can cause the system to be less efficient. Make sure that the paint is both heat and UV exposure resistant. Also make sure to provide a small weep hole on the bottom of the collectors. When there is a lot of condensation inside the panels, the excess needs to be expelled so as not to affect the performance of the system.

Conclusion

Despite their drawbacks, Solar Water Heaters are a great option for alternative-energy conscious homeowners. If you are looking to save money, we’ve got everything you need to get you started on this eco-friendly alternative energy option for your home. Give us a call today!

scrabble tiles spell save on top of pile of moneyTankless or demand-type water heaters are a type of water heater that only heats up water when one needs it. They are a more cost-efficient way of heating water because they don’t waste as much energy on heating a whole storage water tank. They are also referred to as instantaneous water heaters.

How do they work?

 

diagram of how tankless water heater works

The way these water heaters are designed is quite ingenious. The hot water is turned on at the tap, and cold water is propelled though the pipeline into the unit. Once this happens, either an electric unit or a gas burner heats the water. This type of system practically insures that one will always have hot water available. It will produce about 2-5 gallons of hot water per minute. Keep in mind that a gas-burning water heater will yield larger quantities of flow rates than an electric-powered water heater. The beauty of this is that the demand-type water heater will do all of this without needing a hot water heating tank, saving space, money, and energy in the process.

While the tankless water heater itself is more expensive than the typical storage water heater, it will usually last longer. Tankless water heaters also cost less to operate, and as mentioned before, save energy. All that counters the initial purchase price. In addition, the storage water heater only lasts about 10-15 years, whereas a tankless water heater will last up to 20. It is also easy to keep up with the maintenance of a tankless water heater because its parts are so easy to come by and usually cheap.

What are some common problems with tankless water heaters?

Running out of hot water

One of the most common problems with a tankless or demand-type water heater is that it runs out of hot water too quickly. There are several variables that one must consider when dealing with this problem. One reason this could be happening is that tankless water heaters cannot supply enough hot water when the hot water is being used for multiple things at the same time. For example, if one household is using the dishwasher, the laundry machine, and the shower all at the same time, this will drastically impede the water heater’s ability to supply hot water to all three places. A simple but slightly pricey solution to this problem is to install an additional tankless water heater next to the original to help spread the hot water throughout the household. Another possibility is to install appliance-specific water heaters onto the appliances.

close-up of blockage in pipeMineral build-up

Mineral build-up can be another culprit. Hard water can be damaging and counter-productive for any water heater. Be sure to flush the tankless water heater about every six months or so to insure optimal usage. Consider a water softener to help keep the mineral build-up to a minimum.

flame lighting matchesFailure to ignite

Failure to ignite is a frustrating problem. This is often caused by blockage of the air supply or exhaust. Many tankless water heaters will have a display with an error code to tell that there is an air supply or exhaust problem. The demand-type water heater is most likely struggling with venting or combustion air. Make sure all the vents are clear. Look out for small animals, birds or even wasps. These creatures like to make their homes in or around the outside vents.

Flame failure

Flame failure is another common problem. This typically occurs from an electrical or gas pressure issue. Make sure that it is not because of an overdue gas bill or empty propane tank before calling professionals.

Sound good?

Give us a call if it’s time to change the way your house heats water! We have professionals standing by to help with the next chapter in your home improvement journey.