Solar Hot Water FAQs

How much does a solar water heater cost?

The cost of a solar water heater may vary from $4,000 to $8,000. The price depends largely upon the following variables:

  • Amount of hot water needed (usually determined by the number of people living in the home)
  • Size and brand of solar panel
  • Roof material where the panels are mounted
  • Building code requirements
  • Orientation of panels

How much do I save with solar hot water?

How much you save depends on the size of the solar hot water system, the water heating needs of your household and the way you currently heat your water. The average annual cost for water heating can be over half the expense of a household’s entire annual gas bill, especially for homes with teenagers or shower hogs.

In an average home, a person uses between fifteen and twenty-five gallons of hot water a day, which can cost $5.00 to $25.00 per person every month, depending on how you currently are heating your water. We have found that a family of four could be spending somewhere between $384 to $1,200 a year.

A utility bill is sometimes structured to charge for energy at varying rates or tiers, where the most costly level or tier is imposed in winter, when you are using the most gas. A solar system can reduce your daily gas consumption so that you can purchase gas at the less expensive Tier 1 or “lifeline” rates. This “shaving down” of the highest tier can have a profound effect on the cost of your winter gas expenses, because you will be getting charged for heating your home at a lower rate.

Are there any public incentives available to reduce the cost of a solar water heater?

Yes. There is a federal tax credit available to homeowners and businesses that will lower installation costs by 30%. It scheduled to expire on December 31, 2016.

CSI offers thermal rebates to So Cal Gas customers who install residential and commercial solar water heaters. Residential customers can receive up to $2,791 in rebates, while multifamily home and commercial customers can receive up to $500,000.

For commercial water heaters used in a business, there is also accelerated depreciation (MACRS) which will offset the financial impact of an installation. Currently, the system must be rated by the SRCC to qualify for these federal tax benefits.

How long does it take for a solar heater to pay for itself?

The payback for solar water heating can vary from 4 to 10 years, depending on what you are paying to heat your water today.

It may be more useful to think of solar hot water as an investment that yields an annual return, similar to a bank savings account that provides interest. In many cases, a solar water heater will generate savings that can equal a bank account generating a twenty percent (20%) annual return, since the savings are not taxed as income, as is the interest you earn at the bank.

This is the ultimate truth: if you want hot water, you will be paying for that heat. You may prefer to pay the utility bill forever, or you may wish instead to go solar, and become your own utility. It is quite similar to the reason you once decided to buy your home and stop renting.

Solar is simply the best investment available today because it guarantees a return on money that you will otherwise “burn”. It also helps you develop equity as you bank your savings and enjoy improved equity in your home valuation.

How hot can solar heated domestic water get?

Water heated by the sun can reach temperatures exceeding 212° F, but the normal temperature for household use is only 120° to 130° F. Solar energy can easily achieve these temperatures, even on cloudy days.

Will solar heating affect how much water I will have?

No, you will actually have much more hot water than ever before. If the system is sized well for your family, you will no longer need to wait for the water heater to reheat between showers.

Solar water heaters are always installed in addition to your regular water heater. That means that even during bad weather you will still have hot water.

Will I have to change my bathing and cleaning routine?

To maximize your savings, we recommend trying to use most of your hot water in the late morning or early afternoon when the solar system is operating at its peak.

Also, it helps to spread your cleaning load over the week. For example, instead of washing seven laundry loads all at once it would be beneficial to do one load of laundry a day. These changes in habit will reduce the amount that your regular water heater must operate and allow you to rely mainly on solar-heated water.

Will the solar system affect my existing water heater?

Solar water heating affects your existing solar heater in a positive way. Since the water heater will operate far less frequently, solar will extend its life significantly. The life of an ordinary gas heater without solar is between 5 and 10 years, but with solar you can extend the gas heater’s life to 20 years or more.

Are there different kinds of solar water heaters?

Yes, there are two kinds of solar water heaters: active and passive.

The majority of solar water heaters installed in Southern California are active solar systems because they considered to be more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing. They rely on moving mechanical parts in order to transport heat.

In contrast, passive solar heaters simply use the sun to transport heat and need no auxiliary power (electricity) to operate. For these reasons, passive solar heaters are more popular worldwide, since they require no auxiliary power to provide hot water.