12 Apr 2024

Pros and cons of solar water heaters

Renewable energy technology has been generating a lot of buzz lately, as it becomes more efficient and less expensive to install. Solar hot water systems are one major application of sun-derived power, and with heating cylinders making up a large part of most households’ power bill, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of interest in it.

When making a decision about your home, especially regarding something as central as heating, it is important to make an informed decision. Doing your research and considering all the significant factors is necessary to ensure you are doing something you won’t regret.

While replacing your gas hot water in NZ with this sun-based technology can bring you great results, the technology is relatively new so getting acquainted with the facts is essential. It’s important to not only know about the technology itself, but how compatible it is with your house.

Renewable technology is a rapidly developing field and the benefits it could bring to your home are numerous. With such a big initial investment however, is it really worth the effort to replace your gas hot water system in NZ? To make the decision easier for you, Cylinder Guy has weighed up the pros and cons of this heating system. Hopefully, this will help you decide whether or not it’s the right solution for you!

How Solar Hot Water Systems Work

Solar water heating and solar heating are two different things. With solar heating, the panels will heat antifreeze fluid, which is looped into the cylinder from the roof. This heats the H2O when the power from the sun is strong enough, however, because it’s not always dependable, most systems will also have a source from the mains power. This ensures you have hot H2O available at all times.

On the other hand, solar water heating operates by directly heating the H2O that gets pumped into your home. The heating system comes in two forms: active and passive. Active systems are where pumps circulate H2O from the household mains through a series of pipes located in the panels, and this is returned into the home. This system works best in warmer climates, as you’ll stop seeing results when the temperature drops. The other type is the passive system, where a storage tank and solar collection tank work together to pump cold H2O through the solar collectors to be stored for later use. This system is better for households that have a high need for heated H2O during the day and evening.

Solar Water Heater Pros

There are some major pros when it comes to replacing your electric or gas hot water system with solar that definitely makes it worth the consideration of outlaying the initial costs.

  • Carbon-free heating. The biggest benefit for many people will be the impact (or lack of) on the environment. Fossil fuels are a dwindling resource that is damaging our planet further and further every year, whereas radiation from the sun is naturally occurring and limitless. For anyone wanting to reduce their carbon footprint and get away from systems generating hydro and gas hot water in NZ, sun-based technology is an excellent option.
  • Renewable energy source. Not only is energy from the sun a great eco-friendly alternative to a gas hot water system, a renewable energy source means that you won’t be affected by the forces of demand and supply. If your heating system is completely self-sufficient with solar energy, your heating bill won’t be affected by the likes of peak and off-peak pricing or fluctuating costs. You can also be assured that your heating system is reliant on a limitless source of energy, unlike a gas hot water system.
  • Efficient technology. This specific type of renewable technology is efficient, with approximately 80% of radiation from the sun being turned into energy. Installing a solar hot water system can capitalise on this efficient technology. This could be a good alternative to relying on the electrical grid or gas hot water systems.
  • Saves costs through returning investment. Of course, another major benefit is the money it saves against your power bill. Although this technology requires an initial investment to install, the electricity it produces is free and replaces the energy you would otherwise be purchasing from the power company. Depending on your location and sunshine hours, the investment will eventually pay for itself and profit. It’s estimated that if you install this solar technology, your heating bill should drop 50-80%. You’ll be saving significant costs in the long term by moving from a gas hot water system.
  • Easy to maintain. A well-installed solar water heater doesn’t require a lot of maintenance to keep running, though it’s important to take care of it to make sure it keeps running at maximum capacity. Every 3-5 years, circulate a water softener or mild acid through the pipes and collector to break down mineral deposits that may build up, and ensure that when the system is installed, all the components are non-corroding.
  • Quiet and non-intrusive. You’ll need an extra space for the storage tank if you’re using the passive method, but other than that it’s a seamless installation into your home, and doesn’t make any sound. There are few moving parts, and it will integrate with your mains power so that when you need it, you can switch to regular power without losing hot water.

These systems have come a long way, and you may be surprised at how sleek and easily the technology fits into your home. With these pros in mind, be sure not to discount installing this renewable technology-based system just because of its initial cost!

Solar Water Heater Cons

Of course, there are also some counterpoints to consider.

  • Initial installation cost. It’s unlikely that you will start making financial gains until several years into owning your solar hot water system. This is because it takes a while to balance out the installation cost, which can be quite high. The panels, tanks and pipes all need to be installed by professionals, and it’s essential that you select an experienced tradesperson to ensure the system is long-lasting and as efficient as possible.
  • New technology. As a relatively new technology, there are constant developments in solar. Because it isn’t as established as other heating methods, there is a possibility that you may face some unexpected problems. Because of this, you may need to spend more time getting acquainted with the idea of having a solar hot water system and understanding how it integrates into your home.
  • Weather dependent. Of course, like all renewable energy from the sun, the effectiveness and output of a solar hot water system are highly dependent on the weather. In areas with fewer hours of sunshine and frequent sub-zero temperatures, you may want to spend more time considering this investment.
  • Variable house suitability. Depending on the build of your house and the environment surrounding it, the results of installing a solar water heater will vary. Some houses will benefit more from installing this sun-based technology than others, although having a gas hot water backup can help with this.
  • Only produce heat. A solar hot water system only heats H2O – it’s separate from a full sun-based electricity system that produces electricity that can be used by appliances all over the home.

You should definitely keep these points in mind when making your final decision about whether you should install a solar water heater into your home.

Is A Solar Hot Water System Worth It?

To make the final decision, you will have to consider more than just general positives and negatives. Getting an expert opinion on its suitability for your home specifically is important to ensure you will not regret the decision you end up making.

The location and build of your house are important factors that will affect how suitable sun-based technology is for your home. It is best to get a professional to observe your house in order to determine the suitability.

Ultimately, it is definitely not a short-term investment, but it is a solid one. In the future, electricity prices are only going to rise as natural resources become more and more scarce. It will also become more and more necessary to consider how our choices impact the environment.

With rising environmental issues due to global warming, it is important that we consider how our decisions are going to affect our planet, especially if we want to keep New Zealand clean for future generations. Thinking of alternative systems to electric or gas hot water in NZ is important for this reason.

While relying on fossil fuels has been secure in the past, as our supply continues to dwindle, it might be wise to turn to renewable sources of energy. As technology becomes more sophisticated in integrating renewable energy, using such technology instead of gas hot water in NZ can make a difference in the health of our planet.

Because of the positive impact upon both the environment and having a secure energy source in the future, it is worth considering whether you should replace your electric or gas hot water system with a solar water heater. However, as mentioned before, it is also important that you ascertain how suitable it is for your house.

Get started by giving us a call

The Cylinder Guy offers a range of solar-compatible cylinders. If you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and decided to give installing a solar water heater a go, get in touch with our team!


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