FAQs: Solar Hot Water


Some common questions to help you guide you.

A solar water heater uses the sun's energy to pre-heat household water before it enters the conventional gas (or electric) water heater. Because Southern California and Nevada have sunny weather almost year-round, a solar water heater can actually generate up to 90% of your annual water heating needs.

The potential savings on water heating bills depend on the type of fuel you are using and the number of people in the home or building. If you are heating hot water with electricity or natural gas for two or more people, then solar water heating could be a great investment for you. You can invest today in a solar hot water heating system and enjoy lower monthly energy bills. Your solar system savings, along with financial incentives will offset your payments, so you will actually own your solar water heating system at the end of six to eight years. Remember that all solar savings are in non-taxable income, so a dollar saved on your water heating expense is equivalent to $1.30 or more.

You will receive a 30% tax credit, up to 2,000 for your home and a 30% credit with no cap for your business.

Hot water is a constant daily expense accounting for approximately 20% to 30% of your annual utility bill. In a typical household, hot water for showers, dishwashing, and laundry costs about $110 a year per person. A properly sized solar water heating system can be expected to save this average household $450 to $600.

This is a great time to install a solar hot water system. The monthly savings are far greater than the small increase in mortgage payments. In addition, the tax savings from the home mortgage or home improvement loan -- typically 25% or more -- count as an itemized deduction on your income tax. The typical after-tax rate of return on investment will be over 18% per year, even for two people.

Today solar collectors are typically integrated into the slope of the roof. This method of installation gives the solar collector the appearance of a quality, glass skylight. In most cases, it actually improves the appearance of the home because it looks like an elegant skylight.

All solar water heating systems deliver both higher temperature water and more water volume than conventional water heaters. They heat typically 40 to 80 gallons more water than conventional water heaters.

Water heated by the sun can reach temperatures exceeding 212º F, but the normal temperature for household use is only 120º to 130º F.

Solar water heaters are divided into two major categories: active and passive. Active solar systems rely upon moving mechanical parts in order to transport heat, while passive units simply use the sun to accomplish this action. See Solar Water Heating – How Does It Work for more information.

Yes. Since the water heater will operate far less frequently, solar will extend its life significantly.

There is too wide a range of price possibilities to provide a ballpark figure. In each case energy savings is usually the result, so the price often makes financial sense. Financing is also available and affects how to measure the cost.  A customized quote is the only way to get a proper idea and reliable number.