A buyer`s guide to Solar hot Water Heating

6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:43 PM Page a
A Buyer’s Guide
Natural Resources
Ressources naturelles
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:43 PM Page b
Solar Water Heating Systems: A Buyer’s Guide
Prepared for Natural Resources Canada with the assistance
of Michael Noble, EnerWorks, London, Ontario
Layout and design by
Mantle & Overall Communications, Ottawa, Ontario
This guide is distributed for informational purposes only and does not
necessarily reflect the views of the Government of Canada nor constitute an endorsement of any commercial product or person. Neither
Canada nor its ministers, officers, employees or agents makes any
warranty in respect of this guide or assumes any liability arising
out of this guide.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2000
Cat. No.: M92-179/2000E
ISBN 0-662-28486-0
Aussi disponible en français sous le titre de : Les chauffe-eau solaires : Guide de l’acheteur
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:43 PM Page 1
Table of
About this Guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
What are the benefits of a solar water heater? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
What is in a solar water heating system? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Will we always have hot water? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Is our house suitable for a solar water heater? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
What will a solar water heater do to the appearance of our house? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
What type of solar water heater should we buy? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
What do we need to know before we contact a dealer? . . . .
Do we need a year-round or a seasonal solar water heater? . .
What are the available system sizes? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Where should the solar water heater be installed? . . . . . . . . .
How do we select a dealer? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Where do we find a dealer? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
What should be expected of the installer? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
What do we need to know to complete our own installation? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
What maintenance should we do? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
How can we further increase the energy savings? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
What other ways can solar energy improve the quality of the energy we use? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
How does a solar water
Energy Collection .
Energy Transfer . . .
Energy Storage . . . .
. . . . . . . . 13
. . . . . . . . . 13
. . . . . . . . . 14
. . . . . . . . . 14
Determining your energy savings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Table of yearly energy requirement for water heating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Calculating your savings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Where can we find out more about solar energy? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Reader Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:43 PM Page 2
this Guide
This Guide has been prepared
to assist consumers with the
purchase of a solar water heater,
also known as a Solar Domestic
Hot Water (SDHW) system, for
their home. Some of the topics
covered in the Guide include:
benefits of solar water heating,
how a solar water heater works,
selection of a product and dealer,
installation and operation of a
system, and product and dealer
selection. The Guide is not a
“how to” manual on installing
a solar water heater.
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:43 PM Page 3
of a solar water heater
What are
the benefits
of a solar
water heater?
Solar water heaters provide
you with several benefits over
conventional water heaters.
You will reduce your hot water
heating costs. You will also be
directly reducing greenhouse
gas emissions (carbon dioxide,
CO2, released into the atmosphere), thereby contributing
to a healthier environment.
The energy you can expect to save
by switching to a solar water heater
depends on several factors such
as the size of the collectors and
storage tank, appliance efficiency,
amount of sunlight in your region
and, very importantly, the amount
of water you use. A typical solar
hot water system will reduce annual energy costs by 40 to 50 percent.
You can expect that a solar water
heater will provide you with 1500
to 3000 kWh of energy per year,
depending on your hot water usage
and regional climate. The map
on page 4 shows approximate
energy savings for various
places in Canada.
Example of Annual Solar Energy Contribution
March April
Solar energy (kWh)
Back-up Energy (kWh)
Domestic water heating contributes
approximately 6 million tonnes
of CO2 each year toward Canada’s
greenhouse gas emissions. By
installing a solar water heater, you
can make a difference. In fact, a
solar water heater will eliminate
up to 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions
per year, in proportion to your
energy savings.
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What is in
a solar water heating system?
St. John‘s
The Pas
Ste Marie
North Bay
St. John
Potential portion of water heating energy savings obtained by installing a solar water heater. Figures assume a freeze-protected
system with 6 m2 of single glazed flat plate solar collectors and two 270 litre (60 gallon) hot water tanks. Simulations were
completed with WATSUN 13.2 software, and use local climate data.
Most solar water heaters consist
of solar collectors mounted on
the roof of a house; a pump for
circulating the heat transfer fluid;
a heat exchanger for transferring
the heat to storage; and one or
two storage tanks for storing
solar-heated water for periods
when there is no sun.
For more details on how energy is
produced, see the section entitled
How does a solar water heater work?
on page 13.
Will we always
have hot water?
Modern solar water heaters are
well suited for the Canadian
climate because they produce
energy when the outside temperature is well below freezing. They
also have mechanisms that protect
them from freezing in the winter
and from overheating on hot
sunny days. Nearly all systems
use the existing water heater
as a backup energy supply to
ensure that there is always a
supply of hot water.
Is our house suitable for a solar
water heater?
Most solar water heaters can easily
be retrofitted to your existing
water heater. Inside your home,
you will need a small space adjacent to your existing water heater
for the solar-heated water storage
tank and the heat transfer unit
that is connected to the collectors.
Having a storage tank for your
solar-heated system will reduce the
likelihood that you will run out of
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The best location for the collectors is on an unshaded, southfacing roof or wall. For excellent
performance, solar collectors
should face due south and be
set at an angle of 18°– 50° from
the horizontal plane. Collectors
can also be mounted on a sturdy
frame near your home, or can
be integrated into the roof
of a storage shed. The solar
collectors typically require a
flat mounting area of about
3 m2 for each collector. Most
installations require one to
two solar collectors.
A small path is required for the
piping which connects the solar
collectors to the storage unit. The
piping usually can be installed
through closets, cold air returns,
wall cavities, and along the
outside wall of the home.
What will a
solar water
heater do to
the appearance
of our house?
Components for solar water
heaters are located outside
and inside your home. Properly
installed solar water heaters
will not detract from your
home’s appearance or disrupt
your normal household routines.
Taking a small amount of time
to examine the different possible
locations for the solar collector
array can make a large difference
on the visual appeal of the final
installation. On
the outside of your
home, the largest
visible component
is the solar collector
array. Solar collectors look similar
to low-profile skylights. Modern solar
collectors are usually
finished in an
attractive aluminum
casing with a glass
cover. Collectors
are 10 to 15 cm
in thickness and
require a flat area
of about 3 m2 each.
Special frames to
Glazed flat plate collectors installed on a
raise the collector
Nova Scotia home.
off the roof are
usually not
desirable and, in
the piping be run along the
most cases, the improved
outside of the house to a more
performance of the system may
convenient entry point. In
not justify the additional cost.
this case, a downspout can be
On the other hand, installing
installed to hide the piping, to
the solar collector at a shallow
avoid any negative impact on
angle may compromise winter
the appearance of the house.
performance and will not assist
in snow removal. Mounting
the collector flush with the roof
contributes to a neat installation
and ensures the collector will not
contribute to additional wind
or snow loading.
hot water in your home. However,
most small systems, for example
systems with 3 m2 of collectors,
do not come with a storage tank.
The only other part of a solar
water heater that may be visible
on the outside of your house is
the insulated piping connecting
the solar collectors with the solar
storage unit. A good installation
will pass this tubing through
a special roof flashing in an
unobtrusive place. Sometimes
cathedral ceilings or special
wall construction require that
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Solar water heater dealers are
equipped to provide you with
information on currently available models. They will advise
you in selecting the best model
for your needs and help select a
suitable location for the system.
In most cases, dealers can also
offer complete installation services. Before contacting a dealer,
however, you should become
familiar with the various types
of solar water heaters and their
suitability for your needs.
A variety of solar water heater
designs are available for consumers. There are variations in
collector styles and component
arrangements, as well as different
methods of freeze and overheating protection.
If you are planning to use a solar
water heater year-round in Canada,
it must be protected from freezing
in the winter and overheating in
the summer. Solar water heaters
that meet the Canadian Standards
Association (CSA) International
guidelines have automatic controls
to prevent overcharging the solar
heater (i.e. to prevent potential
scalding water temperatures). The
following are common system
types (the first two can be freezeprotected in the Canadian climate):
“Antifreeze” systems use
special fluid to transfer heat
from the collector to a heat
exchanger in the storage unit.
These systems are fully freezeprotected, prevent contamination of the hot water, and can
operate in all climate conditions. Snow will slide off the
collector as the sun begins
to warm them. On days with
of solar water heater should we buy?
heavy snowfall, performance
can be increased by removing
the snow off the collectors.
Drainback systems automatically drain the collectors
when they are not collecting
solar energy or when the
temperature of circulating
water is 3°C or less. Make sure
that the system’s minimum
temperature rating is appropriate for your climate.
Thermosiphon systems do
not have freeze-protection, and
are popular for cottages where
water heating is needed only in
the summer. These solar water
heaters are often less expensive
than models incorporating
expensive than solar water heaters
sold for year-round use because
they do not require equipment
to protect the solar collectors
and outside piping from extreme
freezing temperatures.
Year-round solar
water heaters
Year-round solar water heaters are
more convenient and fail-safe because they can operate in all climate
conditions. Because these solar
water heaters operate all year, they
normally provide more solar hot
water than a seasonal water heater.
These products require maintenance
comparable to conventional water
heaters. Maintenance will ensure
good performance and increase
your energy savings.
What do we need
to know before
we contact a
Before meeting with your
dealer, you should review
the following questions.
Do we need a yearround or a seasonal
solar water heater?
This depends on when you will be
using the residence where the solar
heater is installed. Year-round solar
water heaters can withstand the
extremely cold temperatures often
experienced in Canada. These types
are recommended if the residence
is used throughout the year, and
is in a climate requiring freezeprotection. Seasonal solar water
heaters are designed for use in
climate conditions not requiring
freeze-protection. Seasonal solar
water heaters tend to be less
What type
Thermosiphon solar water heater at
Camp Queen Elizabeth, Beausoleil
Island on Georgian Bay, Ontario.
Courtesy of Solcan Ltd.
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What are the available
system sizes?
The easiest way to determine the
optimum size for a solar water
heater is to match the size to
the number of occupants in the
home and their water use. As
well, consider planning for the
needs of future occupants. The
average hot water usage for your
house will also depend on the
number of appliances requiring
substantial amounts of hot water
such as dishwashers, washing
machines, whirlpools or hot tubs.
Where should the
solar water heater
be installed?
Your solar water heater dealer will
have the expertise to provide you
with proper site and installation
recommendations. However,
before making your final decision,
look at your options. Take into
account the appearance of the collectors in each possible location.
Ideally, the mounting location
should remain unshaded for
at least 80 percent of the time
between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
during the winter and summer.
For seasonal units, only the summer period is critical. Shading can
come from your own house, from
trees or shrubs on your property,
and from neighbouring buildings
and trees. If the solar water heater
is to be used during the winter
months, take into account that
the shadows are longer during
the winter months, because of
the lower position of the sun.
At noontime during the winter
months, a six metre high tree or
building can produce a shadow
of ten metres or more, which can
significantly shade a collector
mounted on the ground or a wall.
It is also important to note that
If your family does not use the
residence during the wintertime,
you should consider buying
a seasonal solar water heater.
Seasonal solar water heaters
are ideal for summer vacation
homes, and for warmer regions
not requiring freeze protection.
Ideally, they are designed for use
only during the spring, summer
and fall. For cottage use, a seasonal
unit with a safe low temperature
rating of 5°C or 0°C is usually
adequate. For residential use, a seasonal unit with a safe low temperature rating of 0°C or -10°C should
be chosen. In some West Coast
communities, a -10°C seasonal
solar water heater can be used
all year, but in most parts of the
country it can only be used for
about eight months of the year.
Good examples of seasonal solar
heaters are batch heaters or integral collector-storage systems.
Seasonal solar water heaters
must be shut down and drained
when the temperature drops
below the water heater’s safe low
temperature rating.
A solar water heater usually
comes in three standard sizes
and corresponds to your daily hot
water use: 150 L/day; 225 L/day;
and 300 L/day (See Table of Yearly
Energy Requirement for Water
Heating on page 15 to determine
the system size you will need).
These sizes vary according to the
volumes of hot water the heaters
are designed to deliver on an
average day and are not a rating
of their maximum output.
Seasonal solar
water heaters
Small systems often come with a
heat exchanger and a combined
solar preheat and auxiliary tank.
Most medium to large systems
have both an auxiliary tank
and a solar preheat tank with
a heat exchanger.
in most Canadian municipalities
there are no laws that prevent
a neighbour from building or
planting something that could
shade your collectors.
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6 metres
10 metres
The sun is much lower in the winter than in the summer. Therefore, a six-metre tree or building can significantly
shade a collector mounted on the ground or on a roof, even at a distance of 10 metres.
A suitable roof or wall location
should be about 6 m2 in area and
should face between southeast
and southwest. In most of Canada,
excellent performance can be
obtained with collectors that are
mounted between 18° and 50°
from the horizontal. Most roofs
have a minimum slope of 18° and
are usually the preferred location
for solar collectors. If no suitable
roof or wall location is available,
then a ground-mounting frame is
recommended. Snow coverage and
the seasonal changes in the sun’s
position should be considered for
year-round installations.
To reduce heat loss, all mounting
locations should allow the connecting insulated collector pipes
to pass through the roof or wall,
preferably at a point adjacent to
the collector. The pipes should
be able to pass unseen through
closets, walls or floor spaces,
to the basement or hot water
plumbing area. Piping bundles
mounted on the exterior of the
house should be protected in a
sleeve such as a downspout. This
will protect the insulation from
ultraviolet degradation, decrease
heat losses, and ensure the installation does not detract from the
appearance of the house. Some
systems use piping that combines
the supply and return lines
and sensor wire into one bundle,
thereby making installation
much easier.
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For best performance
install collectors at
an angle between
from the
should be installed on a
southeast to southwest
orientation for maximum
Solar collectors should be positioned facing southeast to southwest.
Finally, check that there are
no zoning restrictions in your
community that might restrict
the placement of solar collectors.
Some areas might also require
a building permit. Your installer
should be able to assist you
with these issues.
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How do we select
A good dealer will help you select
a solar water heater that meets
your specific needs. The dealer
should provide all necessary operating information, explain maintenance requirements, and in the
case of seasonal water heaters, the
operating temperature limits. If
you plan to complete your own
installation, the dealer should
supply you with well-documented
instructions and fully explain the
system’s warranty.
If possible, restrict yourself to
dealers who can offer a warranty
on both parts and labour and
who have a successful track
record of satisfied customers.
If possible, ask to view a solar
water heater installed by the
dealer in your community.
Consultation with a dealer should
include a visit to your home so
the dealer can make an accurate
estimate of the installation cost
and help you make the final decision on where the collectors and
the storage unit should be placed.
When choosing a solar water
heater to meet your basic requirements, consider the following:
• year-round or seasonal use;
• best placement of the solar
collector array; and,
• size of the system.
Choose a solar water heater that:
• meets current CSA standards
or will be approved by your
local building inspector;
• has warranty coverage; and,
• has support from a local
dealer or installer.
a dealer?
Your purchase should include
the same considerations as
those involved in purchasing
any new appliance:
• consider the dealer’s reputation and experience;
• examine the limitations
of the warranty;
• ask for photos or to view
completed installations;
• inquire about follow-up
service arrangements;
• review all contracts and
agreements; and,
• obtain more than one
written estimate.
priate permits are obtained from
local authorities. The contract
should require the installer to
start up the water heater, demonstrate to you that it is working as
designed, and show you how to
periodically check its operation.
In addition, before the installer
leaves, you should go through
the following checklist:
Where do we find
a dealer?
There are several resources
you can use to assist in finding
a dealer to meet your needs.
The Canadian Solar Industries
Association and the Solar Energy
Society of Canada, Inc., both
maintain databases on dealers
and manufacturers in your area.
Both of these organizations can
be accessed through the Internet;
details on how to find them
are provided under the section
Where can we find out more about
solar energy? on page 18.
You should understand:
What should be expected
of the installer?
The Canadian Solar Industries
Association (CanSIA) maintains a
list of solar water heater installers.
It is highly recommended that
you have your solar water heater
installed by an experienced
installer recognized by CanSIA.
When you have identified a
dealer, ensure that the contract
documents the terms of the
installation and that all appro-
You are fully satisfied that
the solar water heater has
been properly installed and
that you fully understand
how the appliance works.
The installer has provided
a signed checklist verifying
that the installation has been
checked for plumbing leaks,
that roof and wall pipe penetrations are properly sealed,
and that outside pipe insulation is properly jacketed and
sealed against the weather.
You have an owner’s manual.
how to shut down, isolate
and drain the water heater
in an emergency;
how to check that the water
heater is operating properly;
how to drain a seasonal water
heater in the fall and refill
it before starting it up in
the spring;
how to carry out any routine
maintenance, such as topping
up fluid reservoirs;
when to call a qualified solar
technician to check or replace
antifreeze; and,
details of any warranty
covering the installation.
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Completing your own
What do we
need to know
to complete
our own
The cost of installing a solar
water heater can be reduced if
consumers carry out some of
the work themselves. Installing a
solar water heater that will deliver
reliable performance (consistent
with the performance rating)
requires some experience in electrical, plumbing, and carpentry.
It is important to complete the
installation to CSA standards.
Some specialized knowledge is
required to mount solar collectors, prime the collector piping,
install control sensors, and adjust
the water heater. You should discuss the warranty limitations for
do-it-yourself installations with
your dealer. You are also responsible for meeting local building
regulations and electrical and
plumbing codes.
What maintenance should
we do?
Routine checks and maintenance
will ensure your savings are
You should ask your dealer for
procedures to follow when you
will not be using your solar
water heater for extended periods
of time. If you suspect a malfunction, contact your solar
water heater dealer immediately.
Once your solar water heater is
producing hot water, a monthly
check-up is recommended. There
are three easy ways to verify that
your system is running well:
How can we further increase the
energy savings?
1. Look to see that the pump
is operating when it is sunny.
2. Check carefully that the
pipes are warm.
3. Review your energy bills
to confirm your savings.
To ensure the water heater is
collecting solar energy when the
checks are made, complete the
checks on a sunny day just after
you use some hot water. Be careful, the pipes can be very hot!
Maintenance of a solar water
heater should be carried out
according to the manufacturer’s
recommendations. Your solar
water heater is an appliance.
It should be maintained on a
regular basis, like your other heating and cooling systems. If you
have an antifreeze system, the
antifreeze should also be checked
every 1 to 2 years according to
the manufacturer’s recommendations. As well, if you carry out
your own maintenance, ensure
that the manufacturer’s maintenance practices are followed, and
that you use only recommended
antifreeze for topping up or
By timing your heavy hot water
usage, you can increase the energy savings from your solar water
heater. For example, by washing
your clothes early in the day,
between 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.,
you can maximize the energy
savings benefits of your solar
water heater. As well, you will
give the system a chance to recharge during the rest of the day.
You can also introduce some
simple conservation measures
that will reduce your water
heating bill, such as:
• installing low-flow
shower heads;
• adding an insulating jacket
to the hot water tank if it is
not a high efficiency tank;
• insulating all hot water pipes;
• setting your back-up heater
temperature to 50°C;
• changing washers in
leaky faucets;
• using lower water temperatures for laundry; and,
• installing a separate hot
water temperature booster
on your dishwasher.
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What other ways
can solar energy
improve the quality of the energy
we use?
Solar pool water heating is
a common use of solar energy.
Unglazed plastic collectors are
used to heat the pool water, substantially reducing energy costs.
Solar water heaters can be less
expensive than gas pool heaters.
Natural gas or electricity heats
approximately one third of all
residential pools.
Passive solar heating incorporates the use of solar energy
into the architectural design and
selection of building materials,
such as windows, to maximize
the benefits of solar radiation.
Active solar heating can also
be used to heat floors or the space
of buildings. Applications include
radiant floor heating and solar
air heating systems, such as the
Solarwall®, which preheats ventilation air to reduce heating costs
and improve air circulation.
Photovoltaic systems convert
the sun’s energy into useable
electricity. These systems are
now being used to supply the
electrical needs of residences that
are separated from the electrical
grid. Some homeowners also use
photovoltaic modules to reduce
dependence on utilities within
grid-serviced areas.
Unglazed solar collectors are commonly used to heat residential pools.
Courtesy of Taylor Munro Energy Systems Inc.
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 13
does a solar water heater work?
Solar water heaters perform three
basic operations before the hot
water comes out of your tap:
1. Energy Collection:
Sunlight is collected and
converted to heat energy.
The two most common types
of solar collectors used in solar
water heaters are glazed flat plate
and evacuated tube collectors. A
glazed flat plate collector consists
of a shallow rectangular box with
a transparent glass “window”
covering a flat black plate. The
black plate is attached to a series
of parallel tubes or one serpentine
tube through which air, water,
or other heat transfer fluids pass.
Hot Fluid
The solar collector is mounted on
or near your home facing south.
As the sunlight passes through
the collector’s glazing, it strikes
an absorbing material. This material converts the sunlight into
heat, and the glazing prevents the
heat from escaping in a similar
manner to leaving a car parked
in the sun with its windows
rolled up. The temperature inside
a glazed solar collector on your
roof can easily reach 150°C when
there is no heat transfer fluid
flowing through it.
In a flat plate collector, sunlight is converted to heat and trapped by the
“greenhouse effect”.
Although uncommon, unglazed
plastic collectors can be used
as a seasonal solar water heating
system. However, they are used
mostly for pool heating.
An evacuated tube collector
consists of several individual
glass tubes, each containing a
black metal pipe through which
the heat transfer fluid passes.
The space between the pipe and
the glass tube is “evacuated,”
so the air is removed.
Each collector has its advantages,
and each can perform well
if matched with the proper,
well-designed, storage unit.
Cutaway view showing glazed flat plate solar collector components
1. Metallic Absorber 2. Glazing 3. Housing
4. Insulation 5. Heat transfer fluid inlet
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 14
2. Energy Transfer:
Circulating fluids transfer
the collected energy
in the form of heat
to a storage tank.
Heat energy is transferred from
the collector to the water storage
tank. In some water heaters,
hot fluid is pumped from the
collector to the storage tank. The
pump is powered by electricity
that either comes from an electrical wall outlet or a small photovoltaic module located beside
the collector.
In other types of solar water
heaters, the sun heats the storage
tank directly, so the fluid in
the collector is heated and rises
naturally to a storage tank above
the collector. This type of solar
water heater is often referred
to as a thermosiphon system.
It does not require an electric
pump. Passive solar and solar
photovoltaic-powered systems
will continue to operate even
if there is a power outage. The
products that require electricity
from a wall outlet will not
operate during a power outage.
3. Energy Storage
Solar-heated water is stored in
an insulated tank until you need
it. Hot water is drawn off the
tank when tap water is used,
and cold make-up water enters
at the bottom of the tank.
Solar water heaters tend to have
a slightly larger hot water storage
capacity than conventional water
heaters. This is because solar heat
is available only during the day
and sufficient hot water must
be collected to meet evening
and morning requirements.
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 15
Determining your energy
Follow steps 1-5 to translate
these energy contributions
into dollar savings:
Step 1
Estimate your annual energy
requirement for hot water heating
from the table below. Read off the
energy requirement of electricity,
litres of oil or propane, or cubic
metres of natural gas, depending
on the fuel you use for heating
your water. Write this value in
Box 1.
Step 2
Step 4
Find your (or one with a similar
climate) location or the nearest
location to you on the map of
Canada on page 4. Write the
percentage that corresponds to
the potential portion of water
heating energy saved in Box 2.
On a recent electricity, gas, oil
or propane utility bill find the
amount you paid and the amount
of kWh, litres, or cubic metres
of fuel used. If you are paying
a fixed monthly rate, call your
utility company for this information. Write the amount you
paid in Box 4 and the amount
of fuel used in Box 5.
Step 3
Multiply Box 1 by Box 2. Write
this figure in Box 3, which is your
estimated energy saving in kWh,
litres, or cubic metres.
Step 5
Multiply Box 3 by Box 4 and divide
by Box 5. This is your estimated
annual dollar savings from your
solar water heating system.
Table of Yearly Energy Requirement for Water Heating
Household Size (in persons)
Average Hot Water Usage
Suggested Solar Water
Heater System Size
Equivalent? Existing Water
Heater Tank Size
More than 5
150 litres/day
225 litres/day
300 litres/day
• no pre-heat tank
• about 3 m2
• pre-heat tank
• 5-6 m2
• pre-heat tank
• greater than 6 m2
180 litres
(40 gallon)
270 litres
(60 gallon)
270 litres
high power output
(60 gallon)
Estimated Annual Energy
Required by Fuel Type
Electricity kWh
Natural Gas (m3)
Oil (litres)
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 16
Calculating your Savings
Box 1
Box 2
Box 3
Box 4
Box 5
Yearly energy
for water
in kWh, m3,
or litres
Portion of
energy met
by a solar
water heating
system in
your region
(see map
on page 4)
energy savings
by a solar
water heating
system in
kWh, m3,
or litres
Dollars paid
for energy
used (from
a recent
utility bill)
Amount of
energy used
in kWh, m3,
or litres (from
a recent
utility bill)
annual savings
from a solar
water heating
5000 kWh
2350 kWh
Your figure
Your figure
Your figure
Your figure
Your figure
Your figure
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 17
Gigajoule (GJ): Unit of energy
equal to 1,000 million joules,
950,000 BTUs, 278 kWh of
electricity, 25.8 litres of oil,
26.9 m3 of natural gas, or
39.2 litres of propane.
Solar photovoltaic panel:
A group of modules fastened
together. The modules are made
up of cells that convert light
directly into electricity. The
term “panel” is often used
interchangeably with the
term “module”.
Storage unit: Tank or vessel
that stores the solar-heated water.
Some systems have only a single
tank, and use the same tank for
storing solar-heated water and
water heated with auxiliary
energy. Other systems use two
separate tanks for storing solarheated water and water heated
with auxiliary energy.
Pre-heat system: Describes
an add-on solar water heater,
which can be installed with
a conventional water heater.
Safe low temperature rating
or minimum operating
temperature rating: Outside
temperature that defines the
lower limit for freeze-protection
of the solar water heater.
Solar collector: A device that
absorbs solar energy and converts
it into useable heat.
Solar contribution: Amount
of solar energy that a solar water
heater converts into hot water
on an average day.
Solar Domestic Hot Water
(SDHW) system: Describes a
stand-alone residential solar water
heater that is installed with a
conventional water heater. It is
also a name sometimes used by
solar specialists for a residential
solar water heater.
Solar fraction: Percentage
of the total water heating
load provided by the solar
water heater.
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 18
Where can we find out more about solar
Natural Resources Canada
Renewable and Electrical Energy
Energy Resources Branch
580 Booth Street, 17th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E4
Fax: (613) 995-0087
Web site:
Natural Resources Canada
Energy Technology Branch
580 Booth Street, 13th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E4
Fax: (613) 996-9418
Web site:
Canadian Solar Industries
Association (CanSIA)
2415 Holly Lane, Suite 250
Ottawa, Ontario
K1V 7P2
Tel: (613) 736-9077
Fax: (613) 736-8938
Web site: http://www.cansia.ca
Solar Energy Society of Canada
Inc. (SESCI)
225 Metcalfe Street, Suite 710
Ottawa, Ontario
K2P 1P9
Tel: (613) 234-4151
Fax: (613) 234-2988
Web site:
Énergie solaire Québec
460, rue Sainte-Catherine ouest,
Bureau 701
Montréal, Québec
H3B 1A7
Tel: (514) 392-0095
Fax: (514) 392-0952
Web site:
To order additional copies
of this publication and other
publications on renewable
energy and energy efficiency
call our toll free line at
1-800-387-2000. You can
also obtain a copy of this publication by visiting our web site at
Free software
available to assist
you in your decision.
Renewable energy technologies,
such as a solar water heating system, can be a smart investment.
RETScreen™ just made it easier.
RETScreen™ is a standardized
renewable energy project analysis
software that could help you
determine whether a solar water
heater is a good investment for
you. The software uses Microsoft®
Excel spreadsheets, and a comprehensive user manual and
supporting databases to help
your evaluation. The software and
user manual can be downloaded
free from the following web site:
http://retscreen.gc.ca or by
contacting NRCan by phone
at (450) 652-4621 or by fax
at (450) 652-5177.
6126-B NRCan Solar Water Bklet 3/15/00 12:44 PM Page 19
Thank you for your interest in NRCan’s Solar Water Heating Systems: A Buyer’s Guide.
To improve this guide we would like to ask you to take a few moments to answer some questions.
Where did you receive your copy of the Buyer’s Guide?
Introductory Brochure (NRCan)
Trade Show
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Please provide your name and address (please print).
Please send the completed form to:
Natural Resources Canada
Renewable and Electrical Energy Division
580 Booth Street, 17th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0E4
Fax: (613) 995-0087
Postal Code:
Energy Alternatives
8-6782 Veyaness Rd.
Victoria, British Columbia V8M 2C2
ph: (250) 544 0488
toll free: (800) 265 8898
fax: (250) 544 0478