Solar Hot Water Systems


Guide to sun-heated H20

Way back in the 70s and decades before, too, hundreds of us tried lots of ways of heating water with sunlight. Some schemes worked fine at first, but later succumbed to failures of materials and technique. Some defiantly produced only lukewarm water available only at awkward hours. Some defied the laws of physics and didn’t work at all. A few exploded. It wasn’t long before it was common to see deteriorating solar water heaters perched disconsolately on rooftops, abandoned by humiliated, exasperated owners.

Time to try again! This inspiringly-comprehensive book presents what has been learned the hard way over the past 30 years or so. Clear illustrations (many in color) show the layouts that have proved to be the best in every way. Recommended hardware is here complete with brand name and even the part numbers. Here are the most effective pipe sizes and materials and why they are chosen. Classic mistakes are attended along with their corrections. Cautions are noted; success is celebrated.

My experience in the field and 25 years at the Whole Earth Catalog tells me that every aspect has been well covered and detailed. If you follow the recommendations, your solar hot water system will be sure to work and last a long time. I consider this book as a model for collected experience on other subjects as well.

Note: a black and white version of the book is also available. I recommend the colored version.

PDF download of Table of Contents

-- Jay Baldwin 03/16/09


Changing sunlight into electricity (PV or photovoltaic systems) captures everyone’s imagination and the publicity causes them to contact solar contractors. Once they focus on KWH’s [kilowatt hours] saved, it becomes clear that for every $20 to $30 spent on a PV system you can save the same amount [of KWH] for $1 spent on a solar hot water system.

NEVER RUN THE INSULATION THROUGH THE FLASHING THROUGH THE ROOF DECK WITH THE PIPING. This can cause rain to run between the insulation and the piping into the home. Seal under the stand pipe before soldering around the “coolie hat.” DO NOT USE SILICONE SEALANTS.


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