Blue solar hot water system collector panels

5 Ways to Look After Your Solar Hot Water System

Often people think once they’ve installed solar hot water panels, that they no longer need to worry about them. Here at Metropolitan Plumbing, we think you should be doing these 5 things to look after your hot water system and the solar panels that power them. These will prolong the life of your solar water heater and ensure it is working efficiently.

How Solar Hot Water Systems Work

Before we look at the best ways to look after your solar hot water system, it’s worth looking at how they work and the benefits of installing one for your home.

A solar hot water system harnesses the sun’s energy to heat water for household use, particularly beneficial for Australian homeowners due to the abundant sunshine. Solar collectors, installed typically on the roof, absorb solar energy. Water or a heat-transfer fluid circulates through these collectors, gathering heat. In a close-coupled system, where the storage tank is mounted above the collectors, heated water naturally rises into the tank.

Alternatively, in systems with a heat exchanger, the heat from the fluid is transferred to the water in a separate storage tank. This eco-friendly approach significantly reduces electricity or gas usage for water heating, leading to lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint, aligning with Australia’s growing emphasis on sustainable living.

The Benefits of Solar Hot Water System Installation

Solar hot water systems offer significant advantages for Australian homeowners, especially considering the intensity of the sun’s energy here in Australia. The benefits of choosing to install a new hot water system powered by energy from the sun include:

  • Reduced electricity bills: Using solar power significantly lowers the energy costs associated with heating water that you might otherwise incur with an electric or conventional gas hot water system. Using solar electricity allows you to create excess power which you can also feed back into the grid.
  • Environmentally friendly: Decreases greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a healthier planet.
  • Reliability and energy efficiency: High efficiency in converting solar energy to heat, ensuring consistent hot water supply. Even on cloudy days.
  • Government incentives: You may be eligible for potential government incentives and rebates. These can vary depending on which state or territory of Australia you’re in, but typically involve the selling or assigning of small scale technology certificates that enable you to receive a cash payment or a discount on the purchase and installation of your system.
  • Increased property value: Homes with solar installations often see a rise in market value.
  • Low maintenance costs: Once installed, a solar system requires minimal upkeep to heat water.
  • Year-round, reliable hot water: Even during cold weather, they efficiently provide hot water with the use of an electric or gas booster element.

These benefits make solar hot water systems an attractive, efficient and sustainable option for Australian homes, with energy savings and lower running costs both highly appealing to homeowners.

Clean Solar Collectors and Trim Trees

Solar hot water systems use solar collector panels to heat your water. Regardless of whether you have flat panels or evacuated tubes, your water heating won’t be as efficient if they are dirty. And if tree branches are blocking the sunlight, this also won’t help your efficiency on sunny days.

Rainwater plus the angle of the collector panels will take care of most of this cleaning for you, but over time you may notice dust and bird droppings accumulate. You can use a mild soap in water and a gentle sponge to clean your collector panels without damaging them. A window squeegee on a pole is very useful for this chore.

Be sure to trim back tree branches that cast shade over your collector panels. Shading reduces the efficiency of your water heater as less sunlight is available to heat your water.

Add Antifreeze and Insulation

Your solar hot water heater shouldn’t show any dip in efficiency during winter if it has been looked after correctly.

If you live in an area where the temperature can drop below freezing, you must have antifreeze compounds added to your collector loop. Antifreeze is an additive that lowers the freezing point of any water-based liquid it is added to.

This is to prevent the damage caused by ice in your water heaters and other plumbing systems. Frozen water has a greater volume than liquid water, and so when water in hot water systems freezes, it expands. This creates additional pressure in the system which can damage it.

It is also important your hot water system pipes are insulated. This will prevent heat loss from your system, which will be especially worse in winter due to less energy from the sun and colder external temperatures.

Checking for Solar Hot Water Systems Leaks 

Leaks can happen from time to time and they can be an indicator that something is wrong with your hot water system. Leaks will show themselves in different places depending on the type of solar hot water system you have.

Thermosiphon systems have the collector panels and storage water tank all fixed to the roof together. It might be more difficult to see leaks in systems that are on your roof, but if left unnoticed for too long, they can pose a great risk to your home.

Split systems have the collector solar panels fixed to the roof and the storage tank on the ground. With the storage tank on the ground level, noticing when your water heater has sprung a leak is much easier.

If you notice a leak from your solar hot water system, call in a professional before the problem gets worse.

Soften Your Water

Some regions in Australia are particularly prone to hard water. This can be bad news for your hot water system and your plumbing in general. Hard water contains more minerals than regular water and can leave deposits of these minerals in your plumbing system.

A build-up of these minerals in your hot water system can reduce its efficiency and can even cause blockages, effectively eating into the cost savings that a solar water heater should provide you. To mitigate this, you can have a water softener installed. This new system will even stop those annoying scum stains from forming in your kitchen and bathroom!

Regular Solar Hot Water System Servicing

Unless you’re a fully qualified plumber, you probably don’t know how most components in your solar hot water system work. You must have a plumber attend regularly to service your water heater and carry out any essential plumbing work.

If your solar water heater has a natural gas booster or electric booster it can get even more complicated. On top of the tips above, regular servicing of your hot water system can greatly prolong its life expectancy. It will save you money on costly repairs you’ve managed to avoid as well.

Contact The Solar Water Heater Specialists Today

For more information on solar hot water systems, contact Metropolitan Plumbing today. Not sure if a solar PV system is for you? We also have Hot Water Systems: The Complete Guide to help you out, with information on everything from conventional gas hot water systems to highly energy efficient and cost effective heat pump water heater systems.

Published: 2020-06-17

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