Common questions on solar water heater, and answers from professionals

By: Miles Hingston


Are you tired of the skyrocketing energy bills as a result of your electrical or gas hot water system? Switching to a solar water heater is a smart move for many reasons. In this article we will attempt to answer some of your most burning questions as you plan your next solar water installation in Ballarat.

Table of Contents

Can solar water panels heat a house in the winter?

Unless your house is very small and exceptionally well insulated, it might not be possible to heat the house using solar water panels. You would also require to fill up your entire roof with solar panels to be able to do so. If you live somewhere which is mostly cloudy, even this might not work.

Is it safe to drink water from solar hot water systems?

It is recommended not to drink water from your solar hot water system, or that heated through any other energy sources mainly because the tank itself might be contaminated with metal residues and accumulated bacteria that could be harmful for consumption.

Can a panel solar feed a boiler heating system?

Solar panels used along with combi boilers can be used to produce the heating level you are after. However, using a solar PV system alone might not be the best solution in this case.

What is active solar heating?

An active solar heating system utilises the solar energy to heat a fluid such as air molecules or water molecules, and then transfer the heat produced to be circulated in the interior space or a storage system.

This system is most often used for radiant heating such as boilers with hot water radiators, absorption heat pumps, and coolers.

How much solar power do I need to run a heater?

While solar heaters come in different sizes, generally you would require at least 5 solar panels producing 300kW of energy an hour to be able to run a solar heater.

Does solar hot water work on cloudy days?

solar water heaters on roof

The simple answer is “Yes”. It takes more than just a few clouds to block out the sun. Even if you live in a place that’s cloudy on most days, the sun rays will still get through and be able to charge your solar panels.

Which is better? A heat pump or solar hot water?

Heat pumps are more budget-friendly and convenient when it comes to heating water for your home. 

Solar hot water systems can be 50% more expensive than heat pumps, require extra piping, occupy roof space, are exposed to harsh weather conditions, and need some other source of energy to heat the water during the night or frosty days. 

By comparison, heat pumps cost less, work in any weather condition, require less piping, can be sheltered from harsh outdoor conditions, and can be placed anywhere without showing a lot.

Is solar hot water heating cost-effective?

As compared to electricity or gas, while the upfront cost may be more the heating cost is significantly less – 75% in summer and 25% in winter.

Can we connect a solar panel directly to a water heater?

Due to the fact that solar panels produce DC or direct current, to be able to charge your water heater you would need an inverter that converts DC to AC or alternate current.

Does a solar water heater not heat water at night?

The solar panels connected to your hot water system works hard during the day to heat the water enough to last not just through the night but also until the next morning. The insulation of your hot water heater further helps to keep that water hot.

Can solar hot water heaters get damaged if it freezes?

Freezing or frost damage can happen to solar hot water heaters when the temperature goes below 0 degrees Celcius. This can result in a cracked or leaking hot water system and can be expensive to repair or replace. 

However, evacuated tube and flat panel solar hot water collectors have frost protection systems.

Why are the surfaces of solar heaters black?

Black colour absorbs the maximum amount of heat from the sun’s radiation as compared to other lighter colours that tend to reflect the heat.

Can I use solar panels for floor heating?

Just like powering any other appliance in your home using solar energy, underfloor heating can also be done using solar panels.

Solar energy can heat up the water running in the pipes under your floor which can then radiate the heat to the surface. Alternatively, you can use an electric mat that is powered up by the sun for efficient floor heating.

How much does a solar water heating system cost?

A solar hot water system’s price ranges between $3000 to $7000 with installation. The cost will vary on the size of the system and the charges of your solar installer.

Can a solar panel power a heater?

Yes. Just like powering up any other appliance in your home, a solar panel can easily power up your home’s heater as well.

Do solar panels absorb more light near water?

Solar panels absorb the light that falls on the panels, so solar panels mounted on a property that is closer to a water body do not directly impact the productivity of the panels. 

As far as the question is of your solar panels’ performance during rainy days, it’s good to know that since rain washes away the dirt over them, this will actually improve absorption of the amount of light that still manages to come through the clouds.

What is a solar water heater with an electric backup?

When the sunlight is not enough, a solar water heater with an electric backup uses electric energy to heat the water.

How does water stay hot overnight using solar energy?

Your solar hot water system is well insulated to keep the water from cooling down while it is not being heated during the nighttime.

Why do we use evacuated tubes in solar water heaters?

Evacuated tubes work extremely well at trapping the heat from the sun and transferring it to the fluid inside the solar collector. As this fluid moves through the evacuated tubes it is heated and this heat is then used to heat the water inside the hot water tank. 

Evacuated tubes are best for regions that experience a lot of cloudy days.

Is using a solar water heater safe for skin?

Unlike the direct solar rays which may be harmful if your skin is exposed to them, using water heated by your solar hot water system is completely safe.

How long should a solar hot water system last?

The life of your solar hot water system depends on how often it is serviced. Typically, solar hot water heaters come with 10 or more years of warranty.

How does a solar water heater heat potable water?

Solar panels are powered up by the sun’s radiation to gather heat in the solar collector. This heat is then transferred to portable water. The heated water then flows from the collector to the hot water tank and is ready to use.

Are solar water heaters worth the investment?

A solar water heater, with regular maintenance may last upto a decade or more and reduce your monthly bill on hot water heating by upto 50% – 80% as compared to gas or electrical hot water systems. 

With such great savings, you investment on solar hot water heaters would likely recover in 5 years or less.

How to use excess hot water from a solar water heater?

Sometimes the heat collected to heat up the water in your tank may be more than needed. This can result in excess hot water for use. 

To prevent this from happening, overheating protection techniques are used that involves covering your panels to stop them from generating too much energy.

Wrapping up

As your licensed Ballarat Solar Company, we have tried to answer the most common questions that might come to your mind as you plan to switch from a traditional water heater to a solar water heater. 

We can help you with your next installation. Please feel free to get in touch with us.

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install the best suited solar system for your home. 

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Miles Hingston

Miles Hingston

Owner of Ballarat Solar Company and MJ Electrician Ballarat

I have been working in the electrical business for over 20 years, and have 5 years of experience in the solar industry. Ballarat born and bred, I am a very active contributor to the community and I’m also a member of Alfredton Rotary club.We look forward to assisting you with all your solar needs. So feel free to give us a call anytime.

Michelle Rigg
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This is the 2nd house I've put solar on. I shopped around enormously and Miles from Ballarat Solar was outstanding. They are a local company, nothing was ever too much trouble and he always answered any questions I had. Josh and the crew he has working for him are very professional, knowledgeable and helpful too, especially with the app. At the time of installation I couldn't feed back in to the grid but the moment he heard that I might be able to, he offered the assistance I needed to enable this to occur, and it was done in a very timely manner. I highly recommend Miles, Josh and the team at Ballarat Solar Company and will be referring them to my family and friends for any future solar needs. :)
Tony Cawood
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The Bacchus Marsh Lions Club chose Ballarat Solar Company to install a Solar System comprising of a 15kW Inverter and 57 Solar Panels on the local Scout & Guide Hall. The company was very professional to deal with. From quote to installation was carried out on time and the workmanship was first class. The certificate of Safety was issued without a problem. I would not hesitate in recommending this company for future installations.
Rob McDougall
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Ballarat Solar Company were great to deal with, attentive to our requirements and recommended a great system that suited our needs. Nothing was too much trouble, their workers were very polite, worked hard and even cleaned up after themselves.
Robert Floky
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My dealings with the Ballarat Solar Company was an excellent experience with from start to finish. The service was professionally provided and completed with a quick and smooth turn around and no issues. I would not hesitate to recommend them to all.
Dale Whytcross
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Ballarat Solar Company are a very professional company, they came as promised, the workmanship was first class and quote was very competitive. I would recommend Ballarat Solar Company.

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