Solar hot water systems were pioneered in Australia. Over four decades we have produced many of the best domestic solar hot water systems available in the world.
Solar hot water systems can help bring down utility costs and potential carbon emissions from fossil fuels, all while heating your home’s water.
So what are the best solar hot water systems for Australians?
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The Best Solar Hot Water Systems
Here are some of our favorite solar hot water systems available in Australia today (listed in alphabetical order):
Apricus Solar Hot Water Systems
People love them for their:
- Large Size Options Available
- Electric and Gas Boosting
- Extremely Weather Resistant
- Australian Owned Company with Great Support
Apricus is an Australian company with great hot water systems designed for Australian citizens in Australian climates. Have we made our point? If you want to go local and love the idea of 1,200 resellers across the country for technical support, then an Apricus solar hot water system may be the best option for you.
Whereas most companies tout their minimal impact on your roof, Apricus wants you to know that their hot water systems are durable and secure. In the event of frost, hail, or even a cyclone, an Apricus solar collector will remain intact and operable on your roof.
Apricus uses evacuated tubes with an interior vacuum to insulate solar energy at up to a 95% efficiency rate. The company also offers gas or electricity backed boosters to keep the hot water active in colder weather conditions.
Chromagen RoofLine Solar Hot Water Systems
People love them for their:
- Passive System, No Pump Needed
- Extremely Cost Efficient
- Tank on Roof Saves Space on Ground
- Well Known Brand Name
Of course, this list would not be complete without at least one passive hot water system, and no one does it better than Chromagen.
In Cromagen’s RoofLine solar hot water systems, the water tank is located directly above the thermal solar collectors. This makes it ideal for people with limited ground space and also cuts down significantly on material and installation costs.
Despite being much better financially, unfortunately, the RoofLine’s performance is a bit limited when compared to other solar hot water systems. As the tank is exposed above the roof, a passive system will not work in colder climates. Similarly, the system does not have a pump and will likely only cover up to 80% of your homes year round hot water needs.
All in all, Chromagen has been providing high quality thermal solar products for over 50 years. So although their systems may not be for everyone, they can still be very beneficial to some.
Dux Ecosmart Solar Water Heaters
People love them for their:
- Australian & European Made Components
- Incredible Monitoring Platform
- Extremely Efficient Collection
- Hot Water Tank Sensors
Dux is another Australian company that builds and installs high quality solar hot water systems for its customers. With an electric or gas boost standard in each installation, Dux’s products are high-end solutions for saving money long term.
Between the dual handed plumbing connections, and the 146L of boost capacity, your home’s hot water efficiency can absolutely be maximized with a Dux system. The commercial grade insulation and tank sensors also keep the water hot, while preventing it from boiling over.
Perhaps the best feature of the Dux Ecosmart system, however, is the solar collector itself. The European-made flat plate system is ideal for all climates and ensures hot water even on cloudy or cold days. Although it may come at a premium upfront cost, a Dux Ecosmart solar water heater is one of the most efficient and cost-savings systems available in Australia.
Envirosun TS Plus Hot Water Heaters
People love them for their:
- Large Tank and Collector Options
- Globally Sourced Parts
- National Network of Installers and Support
If you do not have the ground space for the Rheem Loline system, but still want extremely high quality components, then the Envirosun TS Plus hot water heater is perfect for your needs.
With the TS Plus, the massive 444 litre stainless steel hot water tank is placed above the solar collectors, in a passive energy system. Like many other models, Envirosun’s collectors are made of copper and protected with an aluminium frame. Both the tank and the collectors come with a 7 year warranty.
Although the stainless steel tank is built to last, support may be required if anything were to go wrong with your system. Envirosun is a Australian-only company that is well known for their great customer service.
Neopower Solar Hot Water
People love them for their:
- Fantastic value
- High quality components
- 5 Star Feedback
- First rate service and support
- 10 and 15 year warranties on tanks and collectors
For those looking for the complete package, Neopower is it. High build quality and components, fair prices, and a commitment to after sales service.
Based in Victoria, they are a truly Australian company, with a smaller but rapidly growing market share. They offer both flat plate and evacuated tube systems, as well as gas and electric boosting if desired, and receive high praise from customers across their product range.
One of the things you hear over and over from Neopower customers is their commitment to educating customers, answering questions, and thorough communication during the entire process.
Rheem Premier Loline Stainless Steel System
People love them for their:
- Anti-Corrosive Stainless Steel Tank
- 7 year Cylinder and 5 year Collector Warranty
- Lightweight & Easy to Install
- Highest Level of Freeze Protection
If you are looking for the absolute best hot water system in Australia, look no further than the Rheem Loline Stainless Steel System. Whereas there is no “one size fits all” solution to solar hot water heating, the Loline is about as close as it gets.
The Rheem Loline system is made up of an attractive, lightweight stainless steel water tank and a reliable, high-efficiency solar collector. With separate components made of the absolute best materials, homeowners options for installation are essentially unlimited.
The 325 litre tank will ensure that there is enough hot water for most residential homes. Plus, the Loline Stainless Steel System comes with the option of adding a 6 star 26L/min continuous gas pump system. With an active system, hot water is guaranteed year-round in otherwise cold climates.
Price may be the only real setback when it comes to purchasing a Rheem Loline Stainless Steel System. However, it is truly quality that you are paying for. Rheem has been a leading name in solar for decades and their 2013 acquisition of Solar Edwards has only further legitimized the brand.
Rinnai Evacuated Tube Systems
People love them for their:
- Well Suited for all Australian Climates
- Range of Different Size Options
- Budget Friendly and Cost Effective
- 10 and 15 Year Warranty on Tanks and Collectors
If you are looking for a cost-conscious, great-performing unit, you should consider an evacuated tube system from Rinnai. Rinnai is a worldwide brand delivering some of the best warranties in the industry.
With an evacuated tube system, homeowners can install a cost effective solar thermal collector with minimal impact on their roof. Rinnai also offers both an electric or a natural gas boost option for continuous flow throughout the colder months of the year.
For a fully customized solution, Rinnai provides a large selection of choices for both tanks and collectors. The company has 20, 25, and 30 tube configurations as well as storage capacities between 175 and 315 litres.
The 90-Second History of Solar Hot Water in Australia
The earliest versions include the traditional flat-plate collectors together with a tank, both mounted on the roof. These have been around for 50 years, and were pioneered by companies like Solahart.
Later, split systems were developed, with the collectors on the roof, but the tank mounted on the ground.
Less weight on the roof was an attraction to many, and not having the tank dominate the roofline was a winner for others.
In the 1980’s, a new collector system was developed in Australia. the more advanced evacuated tubes. The geometry of the tubes means that they are passively tracking the sun all day, leading to an increase in efficiency.
Lower weight and less problems with frost are two of the other advantages of evacuated tubes.
While we’ve found evacuated tube systems sold in Australia back to the mid-1980’s, it is probably Apricus that can take the credit for the popularisation of evacuated tubes. Today, there are numerous companies marketing evacuated tube systems, with Apricus the leader.
What To Look for In Your Solar Hot Water System
Every day that your home or business keeps using that old electric storage hot water system, is another day that you don’t benefit from the lower running costs, improved property value, and lower CO2 emissions, provided by a well designed and installed solar hot water system.
For that reason, choosing to install a solar hot water system is one of the best financial decisions you can make when it comes to upgrading your home or business, and reducing your energy use and cost.
Like most things in your home, a solar hot water heater is not a one size fits all system. In fact, figuring out how to choose which solar hot water system is best for your individual needs can be very challenging.
Ultimately, the goal of your investment is to minimize utility costs and maximize the amount of hot water in your home.
Whereas it would be great to purchase the most expensive system on the market outright, most homeowners are looking to maximize their return on investment. In this sense, a solar hot water system should be able to reliably provide you enough hot water for your home without causing you to go bankrupt.
Consider Passive Solar Hot Water Systems for Cost Savings (but Bulkier and Less Effective in Colder Climates)
If you’re using a solar collector and water tank, there is a very important distinction between active and passive solar hot water heaters. The difference between the two types of solar hot water systems is as simple as where the water tank is placed.
In a passive solar system, the water tank is always placed on the roof above the collectors. It is done this way because hot air (and hot water) rises. Therefore, people in the building are able to draw from the hot water on top of the tank for their cooking, bathing and cleaning.
Passive solar systems are generally cheaper than active systems. However, they require much more roof space (and support) than active solar collectors. Additionally, they do not work well in colder climates where the tank is at risk to freeze.
Active Solar Hot Water Systems: Slightly More Cost, but More Flexibility and Control
In an active solar hot water system, the water storage tank can be placed on the ground or in any other convenient location. The system is designed around a pump which detects temperatures and uses electricity to move water around the home’s pipes.
If you are in a part of the country with colder temperatures, an active solar hot water system will be better than a passive one. Additionally if you do not have the roof space for a water tank, or your home cannot support the extra weight, then an active solar hot water system is for you.
Although they are usually a bit more expensive than passive solar hot water systems, active systems come with more control, better aesthetics, and potential for year-round use.
Choosing A Direct or Indirect Solar Hot Water System
When you are comparing your options between potential solar hot water systems, it is also very important to understand the difference between direct and indirect technologies.
In a direct solar hot water system, the water used in your home is the same fluid that was heated by the sun. In an active system, the water flows through the solar collectors and directly into your pipes. For this reason, direct systems work well in hot areas and climates with abundant sunlight.
In an indirect solar hot water system, the thermal collectors are filled with a fluid that is cycled to heat up a home’s hot water tank. The fluid, which is similar to antifreeze, is very resistant to cold weather and not at risk of freezing in the winter. For this reason, indirect solar hot water systems are more common in cooler parts of the world.
Remember, “Boosted” Systems Have Greater Energy Requirements
If you are planning to boost your solar hot water system, it will require an input of either natural gas or electricity. Whereas some products are compatible with both, your decision to boost with either natural gas or electricity should be determined on the cost and availability to operate.
In some areas, natural gas may be cheaper. On the other hand, those with ample sunlight may also utilize PV solar panels to run their systems boost on solar electricity.
Even further, if you are looking to minimize the energy requirements for a fully self-sufficient hot water system, then your options are limited. You will likely not be able to use a hot water pump or heat pump, relying on solely on a passive solar system.
Picking the Right Type of Solar Collector
For most people, the decision to purchase a solar hot water collector comes down between two distinct options: flat plate or evacuated tube.
Flat plate thermal collectors are generally the less expensive options, utilizing a technology that has been around for many years. With a flat plate collector, homeowners can save money while sacrificing performance in cold climates.
An evacuated tube solar collector is a newer technology, containing much more insulation than a flat plate thermal collector. Although it may be more expensive, evacuated tube collectors come with a ton of extra benefits. Most commonly, they work better in colder climates, heat water more evenly, heat water to higher temperatures, and maintain hot water temperatures for longer.
Picking the Right Size the Solar Collector
When looking at solar hot water systems, you will need to know how much hot water you will need. Although it may be difficult to cover 100% of your home’s hot water demand with one solar collector, adding more capacity may save you from headaches down the road.
As a very general rule of thumb, many roofs have roughly 2 square meters of solar thermal collectors for a two person home. With each additional person living under the roof, another square meter of thermal solar collectors should be added.
The Size of the Hot Water Tank
Of course, once the water is heated, it will need to be stored. For smaller homes of 1 to 2 people, a hot water tank between 100 and 250 litres should be sufficient.
Naturally, with each extra person in the home, the tank must increase in size. Generally speaking, a person requires about 75 litres of hot water per day. With this in mind, it is not uncommon to see 400 liter tanks installed for solar hot water heaters in family homes.
Consider a Heat Pump System
Although they are much more common, rooftop solar collectors are not for everyone. Here in Australia, there are plenty of parts of the country where the temperature remains high all year long. In these sorts of climates, heat pump hot water systems (like those we mentioned above) may actually be a good option to help you maximize savings.
A heat pump solar hot water system is very clever. Just like a split system air conditioner heating a room in winter, they use a little bit of electricity to collect a lot of heat that the sun has put into the atmosphere, and then compound or convert that thermal gain into hot water (a similar principle is on display with heat transfer kits moving air from high heat concentrations to low heat concentrations).
They produce similar savings to most on-the-roof systems, but are cheaper to install because nothing has to be installed on the roof. The connections are the same as an old-style electric storage hot water system. And they are recognised by all Australian Governments for solar hot water rebates. In some limited situations, where neither a heat pump or solar hot water system is a fit for your property, an instant hot water system is another energy-efficient option, which offers cost savings on operation as well.
Warranties on Solar Hot Water Systems
Lastly, it is also important to research product and performance warranties of your potential solar hot water systems. Heating your home’s water can be an expensive investment, so you will want to make sure that you are protected if a part were to malfunction.
Unfortunately, as with most kinds of technology, components may malfunction from time to time. For this reason, warranties are a critical part of your decision.
For solar hot water systems, there may be different warranty periods for the tank, collectors, craftsmanship, and other system parts. Before you commit to a specific system, make sure that you understand the individual components of what is covered in your warranty.
Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Hot Water Systems (FAQs)
What are the 3 main types of solar hot water systems?
The three main types of solar hot water systems are evacuated tube, flat plate, and heat pump systems. Both flat plate and evacuated tube systems work by installing a solar thermal collector on a roof or an area with a large amount of exposure from the sun. A heat pump system is more like an air conditioner, in that it uses the heat from surrounding air to increase the temperature of a home’s water.
Which Solar Hot Water Technology Is Best?
Both systems reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, whether it be gas, or any fossil fuel used to produce electricity. If we look at whole-of-life cost- the cost of buying, running and maintaining the system, we believe that the evacuated tube solar hot water system is a clear winner.
If keeping down the initial cost is important, heat pumps are the answer. And, any time a roof-mounted system isn’t suitable, the heat pump is the answer!
How long does a solar hot water system last?
On average, an entire solar hot water system will last for approximately 20 years. The thermal solar collectors used to heat water may also last for years beyond the rest of the system components. Although solar hot water systems require very little maintenance, routine annual check ups are beneficial in maximizing your investment’s lifespan.
How Much Will I Save With A Solar Hot Water System?
How long is a piece of string? It’s hard to say, because every household is different. A different number of people, different shower lengths, hot vs. cold wash, standard vs. low-flow showerheads. All these factors can make a big difference in how much you’ll save.
It’s probably fair to say that the average family of four switching from an old electric to a new solar hot water system will save around $700 a year. Of course, whatever saving they make is dramatically rising each year as energy prices head north!
Oh, we forgot to mention… you’ll also save around 3-4 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year going into the atmosphere!
Do solar water heaters work on cloudy days?
Although they do not perform as well as in full sun, yes, solar water heaters work on cloudy days. Solar water heaters can generate heat from the atmosphere’s solar radiation. Of course, it goes without saying that a solar water heater will be able to perform better in perfectly sunny weather conditions.
Do solar hot water systems work in the winter?
The short answer is: Yes, solar hot water systems will continue to work in winter conditions. Solar hot water systems work by heating up an enclosed space with the energy from the sun. Even if the outside temperature is below freezing, sunlight will continue to heat the hot water system, keeping interior temperatures high with sufficient insulation.
Ultimately, the decision to purchase a solar water heater is going to benefit your lifestyle and finances, while creating a positive impact on the environment. Of course, with all of the different climate zones and home sizes in Australia, it is important that you take time to analyze the different technologies in solar water heaters as they fit your precise needs.
An Example: 13% Tax-Free Return On Investment In 1 Year
Below is an example of a solar hot water system return on investment in the order of 13%+ (tax-free) which is a great return on investment in anyone’s books, given the current climate.
We have not plucked figures out of thin air, nor made statements about the percentage of savings off your current bills. The information we have used is factual, based on published data, and we’ve broken the basis for the figures down into their constituent parts so they are clear and transparent.
If you have an old electric hot water system on a standard mains electricity tariff, now is the time to replace it, and see a high return on your investment.
The figures below are based on the following assumptions,
- A 22 tube 250L Glass lined (triple layered) evacuated tube system based on RRP
- Connected with a tariff rate of 16.65 cents.
- Standard installation charges
- Average (kw) production of the system based on modeling software.
- Eligible for Federal SHW rebate of $1000
- STC rebate costed at $25 (value at the time of publication)
Your individual circumstances may change your outlay and return on investment, but we are very happy to discuss your situation, and provide you with the same calculations to show your own individual ROI, based on your own requirements.
The cost of a quality evacuated tube system will depend on a number of factors including,
- The number of people in the home
- The type of booster selected, ie. Gas or Electric
- The amount of installation work required to install the unit.
The system used to calculate the first year’s 13%+ return on investment consists of a 250L Glass lined tank suitable for up to 5 people matched with 22 triple layered tubes.
With standard installation costs for replacing an electric boosted system into the same location on a single story roof the cost of the system is $3870.00 (after rebates see below)
Currently when replacing an electric hot water systems there are 2 rebates normally open to you.
- The $1000 Federal Government Solar Hot Water Rebate, available to eligible home owners who have not claimed the federal insulation rebate, for replacing an existing electric HWS.
- STC’s. Each SHWS is assigned a certain number of STC’s which have no set value in price. Currently, as of the 15th August 2011, each point is worth $25.
The Return on Investment:
Your current electric hot water system costs 16.65 cent per kw to run. If you replace it with the 22 tube Hills system, the savings you make are the average amount of kw’s the 22 tubes can produce per annum that replace the mains power normally consumed by the old HWS.
- System cost $3870.00
- Average saving $517 pa (in the first year)
- Percentage return in the 1st year 13.35%
The ROI is based on Hills Solar modeling software where the average amount of (kws) per month is calculated for a 22 tube system installed in the ACT. See the below table for average monthly (kw) production. The graph above shows cumulative savings based on average 10% price increase pa over 10 years.
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