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Solar hot water systems
Solar hot water systems take advantage of Australia's supply of sunshine and use solar energy to heat water for household use. A solar hot water system should provide between 50 and 90 per cent of your hot water needs—the amount depends on your local climate and the model of solar hot water heater you install. Solar hot water systems generally come with electric or gas boosters to provide the rest of your hot water needs.
There are many types of solar hot water systems (or solar water heaters) available so it's important to do your research and choose one that suits your needs. You can consult the Solar water heater guide for households for comprehensive information to assist you before and after installation.
Solar hot water systems use solar collectors (either flat panels or evacuated tubes) which absorb energy from the sun to heat water for your home. The heated water is then stored in an insulated tank for when you need it. The solar collectors are usually located on the roof of your home—they are best positioned facing north.
On cloudy days, or when hot water usage is higher than usual, your hot water system may need a boost. The booster will come on when the temperature of water in the storage tank falls below the thermostat setting and turn off automatically when the water reaches the required temperature. For more control over the system, a manual booster switch and a timer may be installed to ensure you make the most of the amount of energy coming from the sun to heat the water. A gas booster generally produces less greenhouse gas emissions than an electric booster.
If you live in a frost-prone area ask your retailer about frost protection for your solar hot water system.
To maximise the benefits of installing a solar water heater ensure you understand how solar water heaters work, the best type for your particular circumstances as well as how they should be installed, operated and maintained.
Solar hot water systems generally cost more to buy and install than other types of water heaters, but the extra upfront cost will be recovered over the life of the system through reduced energy bills. Solar hot water systems will recover their costs more quickly in larger households, in warmer parts of the country, or where there is plenty of access to sunlight.
The benefits of solar hot water should outweigh the upfront cost:
- The difference in cost will be paid back as you'll spend less on heating water.
- You'll reduce the amount of greenhouse gases your home produces.
And of course another major benefit of solar hot water systems is that they use a renewable energy resource.
If you decide a solar hot water heater is the best system for your household ensure you understand how different electricity tariffs will impact your bills and install the system correctly.
If you install a solar hot water system at home, you could be eligible to receive renewable power incentives in the form of Small-scale technology certificates (STCs). An STC is a measure of renewable energy which can be traded for cash or a discount on the purchase price of a hot water system.
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Did you know?
About 30 per cent of the energy used to heat water in a storage system is wasted due to heat loss from the tank and associated pipe work.
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