How to Maintain a Solar Hot Water System

One of the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly solutions for your home is a solar hot water system. It harnesses the sun's energy to provide you with a steady flow of energy-saving and eco-friendly hot water.

However, like any other appliance, solar hot water systems require regular maintenance to achieve optimal performance and energy use.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through every aspect of maintaining your solar hot water system, helping you keep the heat flowing and your energy and money savings soaring.

What is a Solar Water Heater?

A solar hot water heater is a device that uses energy from the sun to heat water for various domestic, commercial or industrial purposes. It is an eco-friendly and energy-efficient alternative to conventional heaters that rely on electricity, gas, or other fossil fuels.

A typical solar water heater system consists of several key components:

  • Solar collector panels: These are typically mounted on rooftops or other sunny locations to capture solar energy. They are designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into heat.
  • Storage tank: The heated water is then transferred to a storage tank, where it can be stored for later use.
  • Heat transfer fluid: In some systems, a heat transfer fluid is used to collect heat from the solar collectors and transfer it to the water in the storage tank.
  • Piping and pumps: Piping and pumps are used to circulate the heat transfer fluid or water between the collector panels and the storage tank.
  • Control system: A control system guarantees that the system operates efficiently and safely, regulating the flow of heat transfer fluid and monitoring temperature.

How Do Solar Hot Water Systems Work?

Solar hot water heaters have a straightforward mechanism. The solar collector unit is usually installed on the roof and absorbs the sun’s energy. This energy is then used to heat the groundwater in the collector.

Once hot water has been heated, heated water naturally rises and then moves to the storage tank, ready for your use.

Types of Solar Water Heaters

There are two main types of solar water heaters that you can choose from:

  • Active solar water heaters: These systems use pumps or other mechanisms to actively circulate the heat transfer fluid between the solar collectors and the liquid storage tank. Active systems are generally more efficient but require additional components and energy for operation.
  • Passive solar water heaters: Passive systems rely on natural air convection or gravity to circulate the heat transfer fluid in the surrounding air. They are generally simpler and have fewer components but may be less efficient.

Water tank with solar panels on roof

Benefits of Solar Hot Water Systems

The benefits of using a solar water heater include:

  • Energy efficiency: Solar water heaters are highly energy-efficient, as they use renewable solar energy, reducing the reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
  • Cost savings: By harnessing free solar energy, solar water heaters can lead to significant cost savings on electricity or gas bills.
  • Reduced environmental impact: Solar water heaters are eco-friendly, as they produce zero greenhouse gas emissions during operation.
  • Long-term investment: While the initial cost of installing a solar water heater may be higher than conventional water heaters, the long-term savings and environmental benefits make it a worthwhile investment.

Inspecting Your Solar Hot Water System

Regular inspections are your first line of defence on maintaining your solar hot water system.

Here’s what you need to look for during your routine concerning solar hot water systems and well usage check-ups:

Collector Panels

These are the heart of your roof and solar hot water system. Look for any signs of dirt or damage. Clean and install solar hot water panels only when necessary.

Also, inspect your roof for cracks or loose fittings, as these can hinder solar panels’ performance.

Pipes, Connections and Valves

Check for leaks, corrosion or loose fittings, as they can compromise the efficiency of your solar hot water systems, heat pump, and your entire solar hot water system.

Tighten any loose connections and replace any damaged components promptly.

Storage Tank

Inspect the electric booster for rust, corrosion, or mineral buildup. An annual draining and flushing of the electric or gas booster and tank is essential to remove sediment, guaranteeing long-term efficiency.

Keeping the Solar Panels Clean

A clean rooftop with a solar PV (photovoltaic) system and hot water system roof are fundamental to the efficient operation of all systems on your rooftop with a solar hot water system.

Here are some ways to keep them spotless:

  • Use a soft brush, sponge, or a non-abrasive cloth to clean the panels.
  • If your panels are particularly dirty, you can use a mild detergent with water. However, make sure to rinse thoroughly to prevent soap residue.
  • Under no circumstances should you use abrasive cleaners or tools, as they can scratch the glass surface, leading to reduced performance.
  • Overhanging branches and vegetation can cast shadows or drop debris on your panels, reducing their efficiency.

Checking for Leaks

Regularly checking for leaks is crucial. Leaks can occur in pipes, connections, or the storage tank itself.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Look for any signs of water or moisture around the collector panels, pipes, and storage tank.
  • Lift the valve’s lever to release a small amount of water and confirm that water flows through it, indicating its proper operation.
  • To detect leaks, place a clean sheet of paper or cardboard under the collector panels and around the storage tank. If you notice any water droplets or puddles, this may indicate a leak, and you should address it promptly.

Solar hot water system in the sunshine

Temperature and Pressure Tracking

Check the temperature and pressure of solar hot water systems. After all, the temperature and pressure of your solar hot water system is a crucial part of its regular maintenance process.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of how to effectively perform these tasks:

Temperature Monitoring

  1. Set the desired temperature: Most solar hot water systems have a control panel that allows you to adjust the desired temperature of the heated water. Consult your system’s manual to understand how to operate the control panel effectively.
  2. Regularly check temperature: Periodically check the temperature of the hot water coming out of your taps.
  3. Desired range: Hot water must be stored at 60°C to prevent the growth of dangerous Legionella bacteria. A tempering valve should ensure that hot water is delivered at 50°C or less for your safety.
  4. Temperature adjustment: If the water temperature is consistently too hot or too cold, it may be necessary to adjust the settings on the control panel. You will need a qualified plumber to do this adjustment.
  5. Solar gain considerations: Solar hot water systems are designed to maximise using solar energy. Thus, water temperature may fluctuate depending on the weather and the amount of sunlight your system receives.

Seasonal Adjustments

Different seasons may require changes to the electric heat pump and gas hot water system:

  • Collector panel angle: Adjusting the angle of your collector panels according to the season can help maximise sunlight exposure. This small tweak can make a significant difference in your system’s heating efficiency.
  • Winter preparation: Some solar hot water systems come with built-in freeze protection features. If your system lacks this feature, consider draining the system or using antifreeze solutions to protect it from freezing temperatures.

Pressure Gauge Check

  1. Locate the pressure gauge: You can find it on the system’s control panel or near the storage tank.
  2. Regular inspection: Ideally, check it at least once a month or whenever you’re conducting maintenance on your solar hot water systems.
  3. Pressure range: The pressure gauge will have a recommended range indicated by a needle or numbers. Typically, this range should be between 15 and 30 psi, but it may vary depending on your specific system.
  4. Reading the gauge: Observe the pressure gauge’s reading. If the needle or numbers fall within the recommended range, your system is likely functioning properly. However, if the gauge reading is too high, it might indicate an issue with the system’s expansion tank.
  5. High pressure: High pressure can put undue stress on your solar hot water systems, leading to leaks, damaged valves, or even a burst pipe.

Professional Servicing

Scheduling professional servicing for your new solar hot water system at least once a year is highly advisable.

An experienced technician can perform a comprehensive check of your solar system itself, address any potential issues, and make sure it’s running at peak efficiency.

Key Takeaway

Don’t forget, while you play a crucial role in your energy bills and keeping your electric, split, and hot water systems in top shape, the Cyber Plumbers team is always available to help with professional expertise, quick response times, full installation, and flexible payment options.

Together, we can make sure that your solar, hot water systems and your conventional electric or gas booster keep hot water flowing efficiently for many years to come.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See Cyber Plumbers’ Terms & Conditions here.

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