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Install a solar hot water system
Installing a solar hot water system is a great way of using Australia's plentiful supply of sun to heat water for your home. It can also greatly reduce your water heating costs. Depending on the climate where you live and how much hot water you use, a solar hot water system should supply between 50 and 90% of your hot water needs.
- Reduce your energy use and bills
- Enjoy free renewable energy from the sun to heat your water
- No or low greenhouse gas emissions once installed
At a glance
- Savings 3
- Ease 1
- Impact 3
- Find out the best type of low-emission hot water system for your household—either a solar, gas or heat pump hot water system. Electric hot water heaters (storage and instantaneous) are another option though are generally less energy efficient and produce more greenhouse gas emissions. Consider your household size, available energy sources, your climate, space and access, and your existing system.
- You should also consider purchase and installation costs, as well as running costs for different systems. Don't forget to include potential long term energy savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in your decision making.
- Make sure you understand which electricity tariff will apply to your new hot water service.
- If you decide on a solar hot water system, it's important to choose the most appropriate one for your needs as there are many different types available. You'll need to consider your house type, roof characteristics, available space and visual appearance. You can also consult the Solar water heater guide for households for comprehensive information to assist you before and after installation.
- Ask your installer or supplier whether they are registered for 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 eligible solar or heat pump hot water systems.
- If you're looking at particular systems or models, you'll often be able to research them online.
- Seek expert advice about your options and get several written quotes to make sure you get the best system for your needs at the best price. You can speak to installers, building information centres, or retailers for advice.
- Check your installer is licensed—this generally means being both an accredited plumber and an accredited electrician. Qualified installers will be aware of safety issues and will install systems correctly. Contact your local council or state government about what requirements apply.
- Ask installers about any additional costs that may not be included in the quote.
- If you're in a frost-prone climate, make sure your system is appropriate for the conditions.
- Ask about the warranty and after-sales service and what help you'll get if you have questions about your installation in the future.
- Talk to your installer about the best place to locate your system. In Australia, for the most efficiency, solar hot water systems should face north. The best tilt angle of the solar collectors will depend on where you live. Make sure the solar collectors (usually flats panels or evacuated tubes) are not shaded by trees or nearby buildings, particularly in winter.
- Some solar hot water systems have a storage tank located on the roof. A complete system when full of water can weigh several hundred kilograms. Most roofs can support a storage tank without reinforcement but talk to a builder, designer or engineer to check yours.
- If you have a booster control, make sure it's in an accessible location and has an indicator light you can see from inside to remind you to turn it off when not needed. Most solar hot water systems will need a booster to guarantee hot water when sunshine is low and to make sure that the water is heated to above 60°C to prevent growth of bacteria.
- If your system has an electric booster, the person doing the electrical work must be licensed to undertake this work.
- If you have a booster control, make sure it has a timer to ensure that you are only heating water when you need it.
- Make sure your pipes are insulated.
- While your installer is on site, make sure you have all the information and paperwork necessary to lodge application for any rebates you may be eligible for and renewable energy certificates.
- Request a Certificate of Compliance from your installer so you can be confident your new water heater meets all regulatory requirements.
- Before your installer leaves, make sure you have clear instructions on how to operate your system and what maintenance is required. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance recommendations.
- Talk to your installer about having your hot water system regularly inspected and serviced.
- Set the temperature of your booster thermostat to above 60°C to prevent growth of harmful bacteria. Don't overheat the water as this wastes energy.
- Use hot water early in the day if possible so that the water left in the tank will be heated by the sun, ready for use at night.
- If you have a booster, you can turn it off when going on holidays. When you return, allow plenty of time for the water to heat back up to above 60°C and remain at that temperature for a minimum of 35 minutes to kill any bacteria that may have grown. It could take several hours for the water to heat to above 60°C before you can safely use it.
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