Ben’s DIY Solar Hot Water System

For sometime, I have thought how nice it would be to have a solar hot water system on my house.

Then I checked on the cost. Ouch. Even through solar hot water systems tend to have a relatively short payback time, and usually have good tax incentives, it’s still a chunk of change up front.

I figured I could do just as good with my library card, a class or two, and some salvaged materials.

First off, I bought a used solar panel for $100. It’s a 10′x4′, with extruded aluminum rails. A similar model new would cost about $1000. Even just trying to BUILD something like this myself, it would cost over $100 in parts!

Next, I started experimenting with a pump, some copper pipe, and a old water heater. After making my back yard wet way to many times, I decided I would build a tank with two copper coils inside, one for the solar panel, and one for the domestic water. The tank would be filled with water that would transfer the heat from the one pipe to the other, but prevent contamination should one pipe leak.

Here’s one of my experiments, testing heating a tub of water with the solar panel.

Obviously, a plastic tub is not going to be the permanent tank for inside my house. I did find a free steel water tank that seemed to be in pretty good condition. I thought that would make an ideal tank, as it would be about the right volume of water, and would fit the footprint of space I have available in my utility room. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get INSIDE that tank, short of cutting the top off, so I headed to a friends house to use his fancy cutting tool, a “plasma cutter”.

Next, I will have to start bending copper tube into a coil to fit inside the tank.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alan October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am

Hey, it seems quite easy to make the whole system. But I’m confused with one thing, that is would this solar heating system be as efficient as a gas hot water system?

2 admin October 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm

A solar hot water system and a gas hot water system are two completely different things.
Essentially, a solar hot water system uses NO fuel. At least no fossil fuel anyways. In cold climates, solar water systems are generally SUPPLEMENTED BY natural gas or electric heat.

3 Tom Slaiter February 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

Great video tutorials, really clear and I’m definitely trying this on the weekend!

Thanks a lot :-)

4 Billy Flemings December 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Solar water heaters are a cost-effective way to heat water, making these systems a great choice for homeowners looking to save money. Videos added in it are really good and informative .

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