Have You Ever Built a Solar Water Heater?

| 8/10/2009 11:35:05 AM

Tags: question to readers, solar water heater,

The idea of heating water with the power of the sun is as old as … the Earth! But capturing that energy to efficiently heat water for domestic use is a more recent innovation. You can purchase and install manufactured solar hot water systems or build one yourself. Beginning in 2010, all new-house construction in Hawaii will be required to have solar water heaters.

Rather than a whole-house system, you can erect a simple outdoor, solar-heated shower.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers have been inventing ways to produce solar-heated water for decades. Have you built a solar water heater? If so, in the comments section below, tell us about it and how well it performed.


greg west_1
8/24/2009 2:16:07 PM

John, I would like to see your project photos also if you don't mind. I live in NW Georgia and have been building solar panels for heating air. But I've been to a lot of places on the net looking at other heaters, water mainly. I would be grateful for your advice and help. I have a new e-mail now. Sincerely, Greg West gwest77@comcast.net

john mihaloew
8/14/2009 4:35:06 PM

A quick caveat....I didn't develop this type of solar pannel. I back checked my research to find where I got the ideas from. It was John Canivan. The sites I learned this from were jc-solarhomes.com and mandodesigno.com/ben/serpentine.html. I wanted to ensure credit is placed where credit is due. I'm still going to share how I did my pannels and photos. To all who wrote...thanks. Expect something by Saturday night. John

8/14/2009 12:51:29 AM

Yes, I once draped a black heavy duty garden hose across the roof of my mountain cabin. I then hooked it to my gravity feed water supply at one end and to an outdoor shower on the other end. It worked, but i had to add cold water at the start of my short shower and taper the cold water off as I ran out of hot water. On a warm day it would recover in 30-45 minutes. As can be seen it was cheap and easy.

john mihaloew
8/13/2009 8:15:07 PM

Azzaro and Nelson, Please send or post your e-mail address. Marty and Tom, I'll get everything together and make a mass mailing by Saturday evening. Glad you are all interested in this...it's stoopid simple but works good. Anyone else, just drop me a line. I'll work everything into a PDF file (smaller and easier to open than word.doc) and send it as folks ask. jmihaloew@yahoo.com John

8/13/2009 5:55:49 PM

I would like the photos as well as it sounds like it would work in my area. Thanks

nelson grayson_2
8/13/2009 5:11:13 AM

John, I would like a copy of the photos of your project

tom breaux
8/12/2009 11:02:14 PM

John, i sure would like to have the photos. thanks tomlee12@juno.com

marty dennis
8/12/2009 6:11:47 PM

Hey John, I would be thrilled to see your pics of your solar hot water heater! mdennis28@yahoo.com

john mihaloew
8/12/2009 1:40:04 PM

guess I ran out of space.... I coated the aluminum pannels with un-fibered roof/concrete coating, it created the best heat I things I tried. The boxes are attached to the roof with 8 inch "L"s to allow rain and leafs to pass under the pannels. The differential controllers were bought on line, just simple ones, but they work. I get 150 - 160 degree water during the summer. More than enough for what I need. Don't know about winter tempratures yet. Not enought sun days to warrant shoveling off all the snow last winter. I kept pictures of everything and can send to anyone who is interested. John

john mihaloew
8/12/2009 1:31:23 PM

I built four and have them attached to my Bradford White water heater...it has an internal loop primarily for hydronic (in floor) heating. I used tempered glass approximately 3 X 6 feet I got from taking down a friends hot house that was falling down, so it was free. I build the boxes from treated lumber, 1 X 4's, but should have used 1 X 6's for additional insulation. It gets real cold in the UP of Michigan. The bottoms are 1/4 inch treated plywood. The design isn't the typical 3/4 inch copper bottom and top runs with 1/4 inch connectors. I used an "S" design I found on the web (forgot the site and the guy wanted to sell the book more than anything). 3/4 inch copper comes up from the bottom and "T"s off to two pannels on each side. Then it "T"s again between two pairs of pannels using unions. The inner plumbing is 1/2 inch copper with 8 "S"s in each pannel. I tried soft copper, but couldn't get it to bend right, so went with solder 90's and a short pipe to join the "S"s. The return lines are the same as the supply....unions to 3/4 "T"s and back down. I use a cast iron pump I bought on Amazon. Just make sure your pump will handle the head (or vertical distance). The pipes are wrapped in painted 24 inch wide aluminum flashing. The paint keeps a dilectric problem between the copper and aluminum from occurring. I built a press form out of 1/2 inch plywood spacing each 8 slots to fit the pannel. I pressed the flashing into the slots using a hydrolic pump jack set in a frame and used 1/2 inch steel rod and a 3/4 inch squair steel to press the 1/2 inch spacers for the 1/2 inch copper. The copper was placed into the pressed flashing and backed with flat flashing, all held together with 1/8 inch aluminum rivets. OK, it's not pretty, but does work. (Kept pictures since the words don't quite make all the sence you need). I coated the alumunum pannels with un-fib

lisa d.
8/12/2009 1:01:36 PM

My experience with solar powered water heating has been extremely limited. I recall taking baths at my old Aunt's house in the country as a child. She would fill a large metal tub with water drawn from her well and sit it in her south facing back yard. After a few hours I'd strip down to my birthday suit and enjoy my "natural" bath. The only precaution I had to take besides getting caught in the buff was to avoid contact with the hot metal edges of the tub.

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