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Can I Add A Solar Water Heater To An Existing System?

#Hot Water Systems

Wondering if you can add a solar water heater to an existing system? This guide highlights the different types of systems and explains them in detail.

Are you having trouble managing mounting energy bills due to your family’s hot water needs?

What if we told you that the sun, which provides energy for electricity, can be used for heating your water directly? That’s right; instead of installing traditional or smart water heaters, using a solar water heater for all your heating needs would be best.

Adding Solar Water Heater Existing System

But you might be wondering — can I add a solar water heater to an existing system? The answer is yes, thanks to the availability of active and passive heating systems. Read this guide for all the information and explore these opinions in further detail.

Can I Add A Solar Water Heater To An Existing System?

Large Solar Heater Installed Roof

You can add a solar water heater to an existing system by choosing an active or passive heating system. The former uses mechanical methods for water circulation, while passive systems run on convection.

But convection only works when the tank is installed above the collector, so you need an active system for a ground-level water heater.

You also have the option to choose between an open-looped or closed-loop mechanism. With an open-looped system, you can pass water directly into the tank from the collector, but if you prefer closed systems, retrofit an internal coil to the water heater.

The difference between these two systems is that an open-loop system heats faster and is low-maintenance since it doesn’t require a freeze-resistant fluid like closed-loop systems. To better understand these systems, let’s look at how a solar heater works to understand these systems better.

How Does A Solar Water Heater Work?

Solar Solar Heating Systems

The modern solar water heater consists of two components - a collector that heats the water and a tank for storing the hot water. Most importantly, the tank must have proper insulation, and you should install the collector in a sunny area close to the tank.

Such solar water heating systems also require proper circulation to keep the water inside the tank hot, for which you must choose the best solar panels. Make sure your preferred solar panels are compatible with the collector for proper installation on the roof so that they receive maximum sunlight.

You can even place the storage tanks on the roof or within a protected space on the ground.

Advantages Of Adding A Solar Water Heater

1. Cost Cutting

The main advantage of solar water heaters is they are cost-effective since they use energy from the sun to heat the water rather than electricity. This helps reduce heating costs and lower electricity expenses. But the installation charges are high, although it will prove effective in the long run.

2. Low Maintenance

Most solar water heaters are easier to maintain than other water heating systems due to their off-grid nature. You already know how such systems don’t run on fuel and last longer than smart electric water heaters. Whereas traditional water heaters only last 8-10 years, solar water heaters have an average lifespan of 20 years.

Solar Water Heater Roof

3. Environment-Friendly

Because solar water heaters don’t use fossil fuels, they are also eco-friendly. Solar water heaters use renewable energy, so there’s no chance of the energy resources depleting. Moreover, no harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere, which makes these systems a safe alternative.

How To Add A Solar Water Heater To An Existing System

We have shortlisted two methods to add solar water heaters to an existing system.

A. Direct Configuration

For active water heating systems with an open loop, you will need two tanks - one tank helps circulate water while the other tank feeds water into the system. These are storage and collector tanks, so you must split the cold water line, ensuring it goes to both tanks.

The line connecting to the collector contains a circulation pump to keep the water moving. When the heater is sufficiently heated, water leaves the storage tank and passes through a connecting pipe to enter the water heater.

The heating element or burner continues to raise the temperature until the water is hot enough for use.

Close Solar Hot Water Unit

B. Thermosyphon Configuration

This is part of a passive system and comprises a solar heating panel connected to a rooftop tank. Since these systems are common across the world, especially in Australia, many homeowners route the cold water in the water heater through the solar tank.

But remember that a thermosyphon configuration is best suited for warm or moderate climates, as heat radiates from the pipes in cold weather. To prevent this, people in colder Australian cities insulate the pipes to minimise heat loss and position the collector close to the water heater.

Most importantly, ensure the roof is strong enough to withstand a full tank’s weight.

Adding A Solar Water Heater System

As you can see, adding a solar water heater to an existing system isn’t difficult, especially when you have a clear idea of what system to use.

However, contact a licensed plumber for the installation instead of doing it yourself. Working with plumbing systems is complicated even for DIY experts, but professional plumbers can check all the pipelines and connections to provide appropriate suggestions.

But although solar water heaters are low maintenance, you must clean the tank, solar panels, and pipelines so the system runs like clockwork. And consider several factors like budget, personal requirements, or professional advice to opt for the correct solar water heater.

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