A Homemade Solar Water Heater

For one Florida family, it made more sense to build a homemade solar water heater before they actually had a home.

  • 059 homemade solar water heater 01 showering.jpg
    The homemade solar water heater enables Bill and his family to clean up at the construction site, because he built the heater before he built the house!
  • 059 homemade solar water heater 02 collector manifold2.jpg
    The heart of the collector consists of a "jail door" manifold fabricated from 3/4" copper pipe.
  • 059 homemade solar water heater 03 scavenged windows.jpg
    The 34" x 90" wooden frame (measured internally) is just the right size to accommodate Bill's scavenged 15" x 34" awning-type windows.
  • 059 homemade solar water heater - diagram.jpg
    Diagram shows the parts, dimensions, and configuration of the solar water heater.

  • 059 homemade solar water heater 01 showering.jpg
  • 059 homemade solar water heater 02 collector manifold2.jpg
  • 059 homemade solar water heater 03 scavenged windows.jpg
  • 059 homemade solar water heater - diagram.jpg

Last summer my family and I started digging out the foundation for our new home. However, after only two sweaty days of laboring under the Florida sun, I realized that we might be going about the whole project in the wrong order. Maybe, I thought, we should erect the solar water heater and shower — which we'd already planned as part of our new homestead — before constructing the house! Well, the more I considered this notion, and the more layers of grime built up on my tribe's bodies, the more that bit of backward logic began to make frontward sense.

As you can probably imagine, the whole family clapped and cheered when I proposed my topsy-turvy suggestion to them. So I sat down to research the current literature on solar water heaters. I studied every book and article I could find, but ended up more confused than educated! All the plans called for elaborate pumps, sensors, control switches and other complicated paraphernalia.

(Oh, I did learn one thing: we sure weren't going to buy a heater. Some of those commercial solar units cost over $2,000!)

It took a lot of time and sifting, but I finally devised a simple and inexpensive homemade solar water heater that I knew "us regular folks" would be able to build. In fact, my design involves only three steps:

First, build a glass-covered wood "hot box" to catch the sun's heat.

Second, install a manifold of copper water pipes inside this collector box so the gathered warmth will heat water.

1/19/2010 7:50:01 AM

I recently made a solar water heater. It cost $300 and has no moving parts. I also came up with a $30 electric backup system for cloudy days. It heats water to 135F (55C) on sunny days in a 80 gallon (310 liter) tank. Blog post: http://www.teaters.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=217 Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOY49bH7Ocg

10/23/2009 9:52:23 PM

I was wondering if this solar water heater can be adapted to heat water in a 800 gallon water tank?http://besthomemadeenergy.com

2/17/2009 1:10:44 PM

My own collector invention is a similar framework but using a network of CPVC tubing attached to it and imbedded in just enough cement to cover the tubes. The cement is black of course. Very inexpensive and plenty hot. Glass is optional but will probably keep things hotter, your choice. The answer to our energy needs is there every day in the sky.

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