While people regularly rely on solar energy to help provide electricity to buildings, many people forego using a solar hot water heater to provide hot water to their business. These very simple units are cost effective to install and are a great way to help reduce energy costs. The availability of hot water can become a concern, particularly on cloudy days or at night. Below, let's examine how solar hot water heaters work, and how they function in periods of minimal or no sunlight.

How Does a Solar Water Heater Work?

A solar water heater is a pretty basic system. The first necessary component is a solar collector, usually a solar panel, placed outside typically on the roof of the building. The role of the collector is to collect sunlight and transform it into useable energy. This energy will be used to heat the water.

Next, a large, well-insulated holding tank is needed to house the heated water. These tanks are quite large, usually about 80 gallons. Inside the tank is a specialized pump that helps to circulate the water. The water is moved from the bottom of the tank through the collector to be reheated, and then back into the tank to create useable, hot water.

Lastly, solar water heaters require a solar controller. This device helps monitor the temperature within the tank and triggers the pump to turn on when hot water is needed. At its core, a solar hot water heater is a very simple system.

Does a Solar Water Heater Work at Night?

Most solar hot water heaters have an additional back-up unit. Usually, this is an electric or gas powered traditional water heater. The point of the back-up unit is not to generate the hot water, but to simply supplement the amount of hot water.

The back up hot water tank will only turn on if there has not been enough solar energy collected for the day or if the water in the solar tank is not hot enough. Sometimes, at night, the backup unit will turn on momentarily to provide hot water. It is important to remember that the back-up unit is only meant to supplement the heat so energy costs from the back-up unit are minimal.

What Are the Benefits of a Solar Water Heater?

Switching to a solar water heater will ultimately reduce your electric bill. Individual benefits will vary from each commercial building depending on the needs of the occupants. Generally, about 1/3 of all electric usage is dedicated to creating hot water. Depending on the type of facility you run, your building could easily use hundreds of gallons of hot water a day, or more. Over the course of a year, that is a tremendous amount of money spent on hot water. Using a solar water heater reduces the monthly consumption, thus lowering the electric bill. In addition, there are many available federal or state tax credits to incentivize people even more to make the switch to solar.

Taking advantage of Earth's natural resources is a great way to not only make eco-friendly decisions, but to save money, as well. At Gausman & Moore, we care about the environment and try to implement renewable energy as much as possible in our commercial building projects. If you have questions about renewable energy or would like more information about including renewable energy sources, contact us today!