Best Solar Water Heaters – Top reviews of 2019

Solar water heaters can provide a low-cost and environmentally friendly way of turning available water into a ready-made hot water supply for you and your family. By harnessing the sun’s energy using solar powered water heaters, you can ensure that you’ll never run out of warm water. Easy, convenient, and completely self-powered, these heaters prove that caring for one’s family and one’s environment doesn’t require one to sacrifice quality, convenience, or peace of mind.

With many competitive options on the market, it doesn’t take much for you to harness the sun in order to make the most of your environment. Read on for several brief reviews of the top products on today’s marketplace, as well as several choice pieces of advice on selecting a solar powered water heater from the wide variety of possible features and options.

Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System for In Ground Pool

30 Tube Water Heater Collector by Duda Solar

SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater

Best Solar Water Heaters Reviews

Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System for In Ground Pool

Editor's Pick

Purchase peace of mind with this solar powered pool heater from Smartpool. Although the product is a bit pricey, the guarantee of reliably warm water in any scenario is more than worth the price of the purchase. With solar collectors available in 80 square feet, this product offers a lot of versatility, allowing you to adapt your order to the practical and aesthetic requirements of your home.

In total, purchasing this water heater will allow you so save up to 50% on your normal heating costs. The digital controls allow you to change both the water temperature and the pump speed, giving you control over the heater’s output. The top-quality copper and stainless-steel components are designed to be both durable and easily replaced, giving this solar water heater an impressive lifespan. Just in case, however, the product comes with a 4-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

Overall, this product is a great choice for those looking to make their first foray into the world of solar water heaters. The large solar panels and versatile design makes the Smartpool one of the most effective solar heaters on the market. Overall, a win-win, and a great way to move towards achieving your solar dreams.

SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater

Best Value

Branded as the ‘ultimate solar water solution’ this solar water heater and system from Sunheater is quite the buy. The system as a whole has excellent efficiency ratings, a staggering lifespan, and an admirable ability to reduce carbon emissions. Plus, the system has the capacity to reduce a homeowner’s pool heating costs by up to 70%.

Much of that potential comes from the high-quality solar panels that accompany the system. These durable panels a specially manufactured with riser tubes laser welded to the absorber plates, optimizing both heat transfer and lifespan. Additionally, three insulation layers provide these plates with a cumulative thermal resistance value of R-8. That means better insulation, less heat lost to environmental leakage, and more thermal energy devoted to heating your water. In other words, you get more bang for your buck.

Overall, if you’re looking for a brand-name, reliable alternative to the Smartpool, the Sunheater solar water heater is a great option. Drawing 70% of the energy required to heat your water from the sun, this solar heater is guaranteed to pay for itself over the course of its lifespan via the impressive reductions in utility and/or fuel costs. Plus, the system comes with excellent customer support and services courtesy of Sunheater, along with an impressive reputation for durability and reliability, all of which makes this system an excellent deal.

30 Tube Water Heater Collector by Duda Solar

Most Popular

Unlike our previous options, this collector is not part of a complete system and does not rely on a flat panel collector to gather the sun’s energy. Instead, this solar water heater uses evacuated tubes elevated at a specific angle to collect thermal energy from the sun. The advantage of this design is that it retains thermal energy more efficiently than flat panel collectors, making them a great option for colder climates. Additionally, these collectors obtain an even higher level of efficiency when the sun is in the east or west due to their angled mounting. This occurs because the angled design allows sunlight to passively track through the tubes, increasing the surface area absorbing thermal energy.

These collectors are SRCC certified and eligible for a 30% federal tax rebate within the United States. They are also available in a variety of tube numbers designed to make the most of the surface area available on your roof. Additionally, they can be hooked up to a variety of pumps and water tanks in order to make a complete heating system. The downside is, of course, that researching and setting up this system is more work than buying a complete system like the Cirex or the SolPak. Duda Solar does offer expert installation but the fee is quite pricey and does not include the cost of other components. If you’re handy, however, the savings and versatility might just be worth the work. Depending on your climate, capacity requirements, and budget, these can certainly make a tempting option. Plus, they are quite reliable and competitively priced–no doubt a large contributor to their popularity.

Smartpool WWS421P Sunheater Solar Pool Heater for Above Ground Pools

A fully operational above-ground solar hot water pool heater system, Smartpool’s product is specially designed for above-ground pool needs.Unlike its competitors, the Smartpool system works without pumps or moving parts, making installation easy for those looking for a DIY solar water heater, or for plumbers hired to install the product.

Smartpool offers a warranty to back up their product. Additionally, the high density urethane insulation surrounding the system’s tank provides the collector with excellent heat retention, allowing it to keep water hot over the course of the night. Although the system is pressurized, it has no pumps, relying instead on the movement of hot and cold water to further cut energy usage. While this might lead to some loss of water pressure compared to systems that utilize pumps or glycol, it does mean that the cost of and process surrounding system installation is much, much cheaper.

As mentioned before, the simplicity of this system does come with some downsides. Though the fact that this is an entire system makes up for the cost, one must also consider the potential pressure loss and reduced capacity that comes with completely abandoning more conventional methods of water circulation.

Ultimately, if you’re ok with sacrificing water pressure and heating capacity, and are looking for a low-cost, low-fuss, low-energy to heat your home’s water supply, then this solar water heater from Sunbank Solar is a great option to consider.

XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System 28" X 20'

The only thermosiphon system on our list, this solar pool heater has the advantage of operating on its own power, without any electrical input. Capable of heating thousands of liters of water at a time, this system is serviceable for a medium-sized family pool with moderate water usage.

Additionally, the product is internationally certified and available at a much lower price than comparable competition. Though, of course, there is no option for installation and shipping prices, depending on where you are ordering from, can be quite hefty. Ultimately, this product is a good option for your wallet if you’re the handy type, you don’t need anything too fancy, and you’re ordering from within the continental United States. Otherwise, consider one of the other options on our list.

GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater

If you’re handy, you don’t have a terribly large family pool, and you live in a warm climate, than this solar pool heater kit from Game is certainly a tempting option for you. Great for areas where freezing weather is not an issue, this kit comes with a buyer specified number of flat solar collector panels (one for every ten gallons of water to be heated), one complete set of fittings and adapters, one TopsFlo TD5 stainless steel housing pump, one bottom feed connector to connect directly to your existing water heater, and one Grade A 10W solar panel to power the pump, plus wire and a PV mounting kit.

The Game SolarPRO has been designed with above-ground and in-ground pools in mind and will fit most any pool. This solar panel pool heater comes with everything you need to increase your pool’s temperature in a matter of hours. It’s durable construction and reliable design is relatively maintenance-free.

Ultimately, this solar hot water heater is a great option if you live in a warm climate and are looking to cut costs by performing the installation yourself. Alternatively, if you live in a climate prone to freezing, you’ll want to rethink this purchase. Otherwise, this kit offers the advantage of no-solder installation. Plus, it connects to your existing pool without interfering in gas or electric operations.That means that you can enjoy a warm pool without worrying about your electric bill. A win-win scenario, making this kit an excellent choice of solar water heater for those willing to invest their time and energy.

How Solar Water Heaters Work

How Solar Water Heaters Work

Unlike most solar powered technology, the majority of solar hot water heaters do not rely on photovoltaic panels that use the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to generate an electric current. Rather, most solar hot water heaters have specially-crafted solar thermal energy collectors that harvest the sun’s thermal energy and transfer it to the water.

These collectors typically come in two types: flat panel collectors and angled, evacuated tube collectors. Both types have special, thermophilic coatings that maximize the absorption of solar energy and increase heat transfer between the collector’s external materials and the interior water.

After heating water in the collector, most solar water heaters then transfer it to a well-insulated tank for storage, where it remains warm until you’re ready to use it. It’s an environmentally friendly way to heat water, as demonstrated by this study on the life cycle environmental impacts in Turkey.

Types of Solar Water Heaters

There are two main types of solar water heaters: passive and active. Passive solar powered water heaters rely on either gravity and existing water pressure or natural circulation of hot and cold water to provide water pressure. Thus, they rely on free solar heat (like solar umbrellas) to transfer water rather than external energy sources. In addition to their self-sufficiency, passive solar water heating systems are usually cheaper than active systems. On the flip side, however, passive systems are also less efficient, and more prone to low-water pressure.

Passive systems can be further subdivided into two types: integral collector storage (ICS) and thermosiphon. In integral collector (also known as ‘breakbox’) systems cold municipal water flows into a rooftop water collector. The collector typically consists of a pipe or series of pipes covered with a heat-capturing coating. As the pipe captures the sun’s heat, it is then transferred to the cold water. Then, the water flows directly to a well-insulated storage tank. More cold water is then drawn into the collector, driven by pressure in the municipal water pipes. In effect, the sun does all the work normally performed by the water heater’s burner in a conventional water heater.

In thermosiphon systems, on the other hand, the density difference between hot and cold water is what drives the movement of water. Water heated by the sun’s rays in a flat-plate collector rises through tubes as it heats, travelling into an insulated storage tank. Then, new cold water is drawn into the solar collector, allowing the cycle the solar water heater operates on to continue.

Unlike passive solar powered water heaters, active systems use electric pumps to circulate water. Like passive systems, active systems can be further divided into two types: direct (also known as open-loop) systems and indirect (also known as closed-loop) systems. Direct systems work best in warm climates. City water flows into an insulated storage tank. A pump then draws water from the storage tank, pumps it to the solar collector, and then returns the warmed water to the storage tank. Some systems also pass the water through a booster or backup heater before storing it. The whole system is controlled by automated sensors attached to the pump; whenever the water in the collector is warmer than the water in the water in the tank, the pump turns on.

In colder climates where the temperature frequently drops below the freezing point of water, an indirect system solar water heater is necessary. That’s because the water in the rooftop collector must be protected from freezing, either through draining the water when the temperature dips, or by mixing antifreeze solution into the water. Because this process requires temperature sensors, pumps, and automatic control apparatuses, these systems are among the most complex and expensive solar hot water heaters to install.

The most common type of indirect solar water heating system is the closed-loop antifreeze heat-exchanger system. When the water in the solar collector is warm, a food-safe antifreeze solution composed of propylene glycol is pumped first through the collector, then through a heat exchanger, and then finally back through a collector. Water from the collector is fed into the heat exchanger, where the heat is then transferred to cold municipal water. Typically, the heat exchanger is located at the bottom of an insulated storage tank. As a leak in the heat exchanger would permit antifreeze to seep into the municipal water supplies, many local plumbing code officials require double-walled heat exchangers before they will allow these systems to be installed within their jurisdictions.

In addition to solar water heaters for the home, there are also smaller solar hot water heaters commercially available solely for the purpose of heating pools. Solar heaters for pools are typically lighter and made of UV-resistant polymers. They are also usually much cheaper than their home-water counterparts. In order for these solar powered water heaters to be effective, their collectors must take up fifty to one-hundred percent of the pool’s surface area. The more area covered by the solar collector, the warmer the pool will be in cold weather. Combine this with some solar sun rings or solar sun squares, and you’re golden!

Solar Water Heater Maintenance

Solar Water Heater Maintenance

All solar hot water heaters, like solar pool covers, regardless of whether they are intended for your home or your pool, require regular maintenance. For example, the storage tanks and water collectors must be flushed annually. Furthermore, in active systems, the pumps and valves are microelectrical–meaning that they will likely require periodic attention. Annual pressure testing is also a good idea; that way, you can spot leaks and other issues before they become a major problem. Finally, corrosion over many years is a concern with any home plumbing system, but with proper care and maintenance most systems should last up to 35 years.

In conclusion, like solar attic fans, a solar powered water heater can be a solid investment for those looking to lessen their reliance on gas or electric power. Additionally, solar hot water heaters are self-sufficient and environmentally friendly–a refreshing change from more traditional water heating methods. Using the natural properties of the sun, solar water heating systems provide a low-stress way of securing a safe hot water supply in any situation. With a wide variety of reliable, high quality options on the market, you can be sure to select the solar water heater that best suits both your requirements and your budget. (Looking for more information about cool, new solar products? Check out our guide on how to build a solar still here!)

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