If you're considering a solar hot water system, you probably know that your conventional water heater is likely responsible for 21% of the energy used in your home. An efficiently installed solar hot water system can provide the majority of your household's hot water. The rest comes from a backup water heating system fuelled by gas or electricity. While the cost of solar energy is dropping in Australia, it is still a significant investment and you'll want to ensure that you get the very best from your system. The more you use it, the quicker it pays for itself with cheaper energy bills. This guide should help you decide what type of system to go for.
Do Your Research Well
Before you make a commitment to a system, research thoroughly and take independent advice. Sustainability organisations and events are a good starting place. They can help you work out your needs and give advise you about installation. You may be able to find local open house events that you can attend. These are good places to look at systems and get information.
Get the Most from the Sun
Ensure your water is heated as much as possible by the sun. You can use timers or controllers to make sure that the backup heating system only kicks in when the sun is no longer providing energy.The timing of your backup heater can have a substantial impact on the performance of your solar system.
Divide the Cylinder and Conquer the Bills
If possible, ensure that there is a section of your hot water storage unit that is heated by the solar hot water system. This is usually achieved using a twin coil cylinder which allows water sections to be heated by independent sources.
Wrap up for Hot Water
Ensuring you have good insulation for the pipes and the hot water cylinder will make sure that your hot water does not lose heat before you've used it. This is particularly important for hot water stored overnight for morning use.
The Penalty of Electric Showers
Take note that the use of electric showers will reduce the full benefit you can get from a solar hot water system. This is due to the shower heating the water it uses itself, rather than using the solar heated supply.
Variety Is the Key
Adjust your hot water temperature according to your family's requirements. If you don't need red hot water all the time, adjust the temperature accordingly. This enables you to limit how much your backup water heating system uses. Make sure you heat your tank to above 60 degrees at least once a week as this prevents legionella bacteria from growing.