A solar hot water heater is a good choice for those who want to switch to solar power but may not have the money for solar panels that provide for all their home's electrical needs. They're also a good option for homes with smaller roofs that cannot accommodate those larger panels. If you've thought about getting a solar hot water system but haven't yet made the decision, note a few questions you might have about these so you know what to discuss with a contractor.
Can these be used with tankless or on-demand water heaters?
A tankless or on-demand water heater doesn't have a tank of water that is kept at a certain temperature; instead, it heats water as needed using a heating coil. This type of water heater still runs by electricity, so it can be connected to your solar system. Keep in mind that the solar system simply collects sunlight and then converts that sunlight into the type of electricity you need for your hot water heater. It makes no difference whether the hot water heater you use has a tank of water that is always heated or just a heating coil; in some cases, you can even purchase a package that includes a solar hot water panel and a tankless system together.
Can these be used with radiant heating?
Radiant heating refers to a home heating system that circulates warm water through coils under the floors of your home, versus blowing warm air through vents. As with a tankless hot water heater, these work with electricity to heat that water. They too can typically be connected to the solar hot water heater so that it's used to warm the water that circulates under your floorboards.
Can solar hot water heaters provide enough energy for my family's needs?
This depends on your family and their needs for hot water; if you have a large family that is always using the shower as well as a dishwasher, clothes washer, and the like, you may see that you're still using electricity from the city to heat that water. In those cases, you might note if you should upgrade to a panel that collects more sunlight or to more than one panel, if possible. Remember that these panels can be placed in the ground on a stand rather than just on your roof, so if you're thinking your home can only accommodate one panel, you might want to discuss your options with a contractor to see about an addition or upgrade.