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Daily Tips & Tricks
Updated: 01.12.2020

DIY Solar Water Heater (easiest way to save $200 with solar)

A DIY solar water heater is a great way to utilize solar power to help lower your monthly energy bill. In fact, solar water heating is one of the best cost per savings investments you can make.

With the average household coughing up roughly $1,400 a year for energy there is a lot of room for improvement. And considering that on average, 16% of your energy bill is from hot water heating, you could save over $200 by installing a simple DIY solar water heater.

There are many different styles of solar waters heaters but it does not get any easier than the Batch style. This style is great for beginners because not only is it extremely effective but it is very simple and inexpensive to build. If done properly you can build one for around $100.

If you look back through time, solar water heaters were widely used in the early 1900s with great success but as technology advanced these water heaters were replaced with newer electric and gas water heaters. This was great at the time but energy prices have been climbing ever since and are forecast to soar to new record heights over the next 40 years. So there is no better time to embrace the past and start using your own DIY solar water heater than now.

Finding a Place for Your DIY Solar Water Heater

The easiest place to put your new solar water heater is in your back yard where you will have easy access to it. Ideally you will want to face it south so that it has access to the most direct sunlight possible. And it should go without saying that you will want to find a spot that gets a lot of direct and uninterrupted sunlight. It is also worth noting that the closer you can locate it to your gas or electric water heater the less plumbing you will have to run which can simplify the installation.

Constructing Your DIY Solar Water Heater

Building your solar water heater is pretty simple and straightforward. Just follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Get an old recycled hot water heater tank and strip the insulation until only the tank is left.

Step 2: Spray paint the outside of the tank black to help it better absorb heat.

Step 3: Build a wooden enclosure out of 2x4s and plywood, large enough to house the water tank while lying on its side. The top of the box should be angled, sloping down towards the front at an angle of around 45 degrees. You will also want to make sure you use pressure treated wood so that it will hold up longer.

Step 4: Seal all corners of the enclosure using silicone caulking to help retain the heat inside the enclosure.

Step 5: Line the entire inside of the enclosure with reflective foil faced insulation. This will help reflect all of the sunlight to the water tank while insulating the box to better retain heat.

Step 6: If the tank’s inlet holes are empty, install two 6 inch galvanized fittings.

Step 7: Drill holes in the side of the enclosure large enough to fit the inlet hole fitting.

Step 8: Insert the water tank into the enclosure with the inlet hole fittings exiting from the holes you just drilled. Seal the holes using silicone caulk.

Step 9: Run weather stripping along the top edge of the enclosure.

Step 10: Cut a piece of plexi-glass the size of the top of the enclosure and fit it to the top making a seal with the weather stripping.

Step 11: Use flashing to secure the plexi-glass to the enclosure.

Plumbing Your DIY Solar Water Heater

This type of solar water heating system works by pre-heating your water and then feeds it to your electric or gas water heater. Your main water heater will not have to run unless necessary because the water is already coming in hot.

Using a check valve, you will need to branch your water intake line at your water heater and route it to your diy solar water heater. From there it will enter your water tank via the inlet hole where it will be heated and then exit through the second inlet hole as hot water. From here, the water line must be routed back to the water heater where it will enter your gas or electric water heater as heated water.

There are a series of valves that you need to install inline with the piping on both sides of your DIY solar water heater for the system to operate properly and to protect the system. These include an isolation valve, check valve, and drain valve at the input and an air vent, vacuum breaker, pressure relief valve, freeze protection valve, drain valve, and check valve at the output.

As you can see there really is not much to a Batch style solar water heater. It is easy, inexpensive, and is one of the easiest ways you can save some much needed money on your energy bill. So give it a shot and start building your own DIY solar water heater.

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