A nice hot shower can be an invigorating way to start your morning or the perfect end to a long day. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy those hot showers without having to worry about wasting energy or increasing your electricity or gas bill? With a quality solar water heater, you can enjoy the decadence of long hot showers completely guilt-free.

Solar water heaters come in several styles, both for home and portable use. For this article, we’ll be focusing on larger home units. Take a look at our picks for the top 5 best solar water heaters of 2020. Then check out the later part of this article to find useful information that will help you choose the best solar water heater for you.

Top 5 Best Solar Water Heaters of 2020


Reviews of the Best Solar Water Heaters

Sunbank Solar Water Heater

Sunbank Solar Water Heater

Quick Look: Pressurized solar water heater, no pump required. Comes in multiple sizes and can be expanded. Safe for colder climates. Easy to install with multiple installation options. Comes with a 10-year warranty on heat collectors.Check Price at Amazon

Soaking up the heat of the sun was never easier than with this solar water heater from Sunbank. These water heaters are closed-loop and ultra-insulated, making them the perfect choice for those who live in colder climates. The evacuated tube solar heat collectors absorb 92% to 96% of the solar radiation that hits them, so as long as there is sunshine, you’ll have hot water.

Sunbank offers water heaters in multiple sizes, including 40 and 80 gallons. For those with larger needs, multiple systems can be combined for even more hot water storage. The tanks themselves are well-insulated and work just like a regular water heater, meaning there are no pumps or moving parts to worry about.

The heaters are easy to install and offer multiple installation options. You can install the unit on the roof or on the ground, as long as there is sufficient sun exposure. The tank can be connected directly to your water system and used independently, or it can be connected to your existing water heater for supplemental water heating.

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Heliatos SW-38 Water Heater Panels

Heliatos SW-38 Water Heater Panels

Quick Look: Individual solar water heating panel. Pump required. Lightweight, durable, and easy to install. Perfect for DIY water heating systems.Check Price at Amazon

Purchasing a full solar water heating system can be hard on the budget. If you want to give it a try on a slightly smaller scale, have a look at these individual water heating panels from Heliatos. These high-quality panels are lightweight, only 12lb, and easy to install, perfect for building your own custom solar water heating system.

These panels have heavy-duty aluminum frames with built-in mounting tabs and brass fittings for plumbing. Each panel is capable of heating 6 gallons of water. You can use the panels individually for small applications or string them together for bigger heating systems.

The internal tubing absorbs solar radiation quickly and efficiently, so these panels are capable of producing scalding temperatures. For that reason, it is important to use these panels in conjunction with a water pump and storage tank so that the hot water can be cycled out and stored for later use. You can use these panels to preheat water for your existing water heater or independently with a separate tank.

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Heliatos Hybrid Complete Solar Water Heater Kit

Heliatos Hybrid Complete Solar Water Heater Kit

Quick Look: Complete hybrid solar water heater kit. Comes with four heating panels, water pump, solar panel to power pump, and all necessary fittings and wiring. Not designed for cold climates.Check Price at Amazon

Even if you’re not ready to switch to solar exclusively, you can still take advantage of solar heating to decrease your water heating expenditures. With this convenient kit from Heliatos, you can use the heat of the sun to preheat your water before it goes into your existing water heater, significantly cutting down on the energy required to heat your water.

This kit comes with four water heating panels, a solar-powered circulation pump, and a 10W solar panel to power the water pump. The panels are lightweight and easy to install. The panels are equipped with brass fittings that simply thread together, no soldering required.

The heating panels are built to last with heavy-duty aluminum frames and mounting brackets. For optimum performance, they should be installed on the roof, but they can be mounted elsewhere if necessary. As long as they are placed in direct sunlight, you’re sure to have plenty of hot water. It should be noted that these panels are not freeze-proof, so they are not recommended for extremely cold climates.

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Northern Lights Group SunRain Vacuum Tube Solar Water Heater

Northern Lights Group SunRain Vacuum Tube Solar Water Heater

Quick Look: Solar water heater with 30 vacuum tube heat collectors. High-quality and high-efficiency. Tank not included. Comes with a 5-year warranty.Check Price at Amazon

If you live in a colder climate, you definitely know the value of a quality water heater. With this unit from Northern Lights Group, you can enjoy hot showers on even the coldest days. This unit comes with 30 vacuum tube heat collectors, meaning that it even works on slightly cloudy days.

With their internationally patented design, these tubes are built to be highly efficient and long-lasting. Each tube has three internal coatings made from aluminum and copper. The multiple coatings not only absorb solar energy more efficiently than other brands, but they can also withstand higher temperatures for longer periods of time without wearing out.

The collected heat is transferred to the water via a heating unit that is twice the size of those on similar solar water heaters. This means that the Sunrain is capable of heating more water in a shorter amount of time, so no worries about running out. This unit does require a storage tank, so be sure to purchase a quality tank before purchasing this heater.

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Duda Diesel Solar Water Heater System

Duda Diesel Solar Water Heater System

Quick Look: Full solar water heating system. Comes in multiple sizes from 26 to 264 gallons. Kit includes a water tank, solar heat collector, expansion tank, solar working station, and all necessary parts. Comes with a limited manufacturer warranty.Check Price at Amazon

Duda Diesel is a big name in the world of alternative energy options, so it’s no surprise that they would offer quality solar water heating systems. They offer a number of styles, but we’re going to focus on their active solar water heater systems. If you’re ready to jump in and go fully solar, then this is the water heater for you.

This kit includes a vacuum tube solar heat collector, a water storage tank, a solar working station, and all the necessary parts for installation. Each kit also comes with a small expansion tank, the size of which also depends on which kit you choose.

The solar working station acts as a circulation pump and device controller. It allows you to view the status of your water heater as well as adjust the settings. This kit is easy to install and maintain. Each element is designed and built to last and comes with a manufacturer warranty, so you can depend on it to last for years to come.

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How We Chose The Best Solar Water Heaters

Like most solar products, solar water heaters have become much more popular over the last decade, so there were several quality options to choose from. When it came to choosing our favorites, we decided to focus on these key elements.

Quality Material

Although solar water heaters are guaranteed to save you money in the long run, the initial expense can be a bit high. For that reason, we looked for heaters that were made from quality materials that would last for decades.

Versatility

We know that every solar enthusiast is different and will have different water heating requirements. That is why we decided to look for a variety of styles to ensure that there would be something here for every situation. Whether you just want a little supplemental heat or you want to go exclusively solar, there is a heating system here for you.

Ease of Use

Plumbing projects are rarely fun, but they don’t have to be excruciating either. All of the units on our list offer easy installation, so even if you’re not a professional plumber, you shouldn’t have any trouble setting up any of these water heating systems. Although most of these units function best when they’re installed on the roof, they offer alternative mounting options as well, so there is an option for every location and situation.

As far as maintaining the system, most of these heaters are maintenance-free, so there is very little to worry about. Some closed-loop systems may require descaling if you have hard water, but that’s pretty much the extent of the required maintenance.

What You Need To Know About Solar Water Heaters

There are several different styles of solar water heaters to choose from. Understanding the different styles will help you to determine which one is best for your home.

Solar Thermal Energy Versus Photovoltaic Solar Power

There are two main ways that you can use solar energy to heat water: solar power and solar thermal energy.

Solar powered water heaters are simply electric water heaters that are powered by photovoltaic solar panels. Those who have full solar systems in their homes may choose this option for a couple of reasons. The main reason would be that their solar panel array already takes up a good portion of their roof and they don’t have a good location for a solar water heater. Another reason could be that they simply don’t want to install a large solar heating system. This is a perfectly viable option if you have a powerful solar system, but electric heaters can use a lot of energy, so this isn’t the most energy-efficient choice.

Solar thermal energy heaters use solar radiation to directly heat your water, there is no electricity involved. As you can imagine this is much more energy-efficient. These heaters come in multiple forms, but the two main types are vacuum tube and panel.

Vacuum tube heaters are made up of long glass tubes with heat-conducting lining. The lining absorbs the sun’s heat and transfers it to the water via a metal heating element. The heating element can either be submerged directly into a water storage tank or it can be connected to a metal pipe that heats the water as it is carried to the storage tank. This style of heater is best for those who live in cold climates.

Panel water heaters are glass panels that contain heat-absorbent tubing. As the water runs through the tubing the heat is transferred to the water, resulting in extremely hot water. This style of heater is not meant to be used in colder climates. Low temperatures can cause the water in the panels to freeze and possibly damage the panel, so only use these when you know there is no danger of freezing.

Passive Versus Active Systems

Another set of terms that you’ll often hear in relation to solar water heaters are “passive” and “active”.

Passive solar water heaters work like traditional water heaters in that they use the water pressure from your existing water system to move the water, no pumps are required. Passive solar water heaters usually have the water storage tank connected directly to the heat collectors, like the Sunbank heater on our list.

Active solar heaters require a pump to circulate the water through the heat collector. This ensures that the water in the tank stays warm and that the water in the heat collector doesn’t overheat. These systems do require some electricity to run the pump, but the pumps only need a tiny amount of energy and can usually be powered by a small solar panel.

Hybrid Versus Independent

Last, but not least, there are hybrid and independent solar heating systems.

Hybrid solar heaters simply combine the power of solar heat with your traditional water heater. The solar heating unit is used to preheat the water before it goes into your water heater, meaning the water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the water warm. This decreases the amount of energy used, saving you money on your energy bills.

Independent solar water heaters are just what the name implies. These systems rely solely on solar power for heat. The heated water is still stored in a water tank, but all the heat comes from the solar heat collectors, not the tank.

How to Choose The Best Solar Water Heater For You

Now that you know what styles are available, it’s time to choose the heater for you. There are two key factors that you have to consider when choosing a solar water heater for your home: your location and the amount of hot water you need.

Your Location

Your location is the most important factor to consider before investing in one of these systems. The climate in your area will dictate how much sunlight you get every day as well as the base temperature of your water and the ambient temperature of the location where it will be stored.

If you live in a warm climate where the temperature rarely dips below freezing, then your options are wide open. Simply keep in mind that if you choose a system with heating panels, you have to install a circulation pump to ensure that the water does not get too hot and damage your equipment.

For those who live in colder climates, you will want to use a freeze-proof system that allows you to store the water away from the heating element, such as the SunRain solar heater. If you live in a particularly chilly location, you may want to choose a hybrid system or install a backup water heater, such as this low-energy electric unit from EcoSmart. As long as you have direct sunlight, your solar water heater should be sufficient, even on the coldest days, but it is better to be safe than frozen.

How Much Water Do You Need?

Once you choose the style, all you have to do is determine what size system you need. If you live alone or with one other person, a smaller unit such as a 40-gallon tank from Sunbank should be fine. If you have a larger family, you may want to go with a bigger system such as the 185-gallon system from Duda Diesel. A good place to start is to simply look at the water heater you already have and base your decision on that. If what you have seems sufficient then you can match the size of your new system to the old one. If it’s not enough, you can adjust accordingly.

Bottom Line

Hot water on demand is a wonderful thing. Knowing that you’re heating your water with free clean solar energy makes it even better. Whether you want to switch to solar completely or just decrease your energy bills with some supplemental solar, a solar water heater can help you reach your energy-saving goals.

Top 5 Best Solar Water Heaters of 2020


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