DIY Solar Heating Is Rewarding And Challenging

Get warm using diy solar heating and know that you are not contributing to global warming. David Suzuki once said that installing a solar hot water system on their roofs was the biggest single thing a householder could do to reduce effects on the environment.

And here's a guide telling you how you can do this yourself.

Find all the information on solar heating here to get you started!

But it is not quite that easy either!

Still… Ready to do it yourself anyway?

I’ll walk you through some background…

Did you know that one-sixth of all the energy produced globally is used in our homes? This represents more energy than the oil produced by Middle-Eastern oil producers. By getting up your DIY solar heating you do your bit for global warming prevention. Gas and electricity consumption is involved in most traditional forms of water heating, and contributes greatly to global warming.

diy-solar-heating or commercial? Your choice!

The main uses for solar heating are in domestic use, heating pools and for underfloor heating.

You use the power of the sun directly in using solar thermal energy.

If you're in a hurry to use ready-made systems - of course - no-one insists on waiting for you to do it yourself, least of all the planet. You will literally find Including parts to make your own solar hot water systems. Shipped all over the globe by this very interesting and committed alternative energy store.

DIY solar heating advantages

With your DIY solar heating system you are ahead on several scores. You

  • Save energy
  • Produce clean solar energy, and
  • Reduce utility costs

DIY solar heating cost savings

Purchase and installation of a solar hot water heating system is more expensive than most electric or gas systems. But in the long run they are cheaper. The lifespan of an average solar water heater runs from 15 to 30 years and your utility bill could drop by as much as 80%. DIY solar heating cuts the initial costs, its main disadvantage.

If you love trial-and-error, you may start really low-tech and low-cost. For instance, here's how to make a simple solar hot water panel for only a few dollars. If you want more certainty about proven design we recommend this guide.

Either way, you can do it. Many have gone before you!

In any case of course how much you save will depend on factors like

  • How much water you use
  • The efficiency of your system
  • The availability of solar energy where you live
  • What solar energy grants may be available to you
  • How much you pay for gas and electricity
  • How much you pay for energy for any back-up to your solar heating as you will still need that

DIY solar heating system size

Before you choose your system you will need to know your system size. Doing that involves evaluating your total needed solar collector area and the storage volume needed to provide close to 100% of your hot water needs in the summer. You may need a solar hot water contractor to work this out for you.

To maximise your system’s effectiveness you will also need to evaluate your site’s orientation to the sun and that of your solar collector, including its tilt.

DIY solar heating regulations

You must check out any regulations—there are sure to be a number!—that govern your project.

If you don’t get that right from scratch your project’s costs could blow out, wiping out your DIY solar heating savings. Besides you want a safe system, don’t you? Get it right now.

These are some examples only of aspects that regulations will cover

  • Acceptable roof load
  • Quality of heat exchanger
  • Quality of wiring. Must be done by a qualified electrician!
  • Sources of water that you use
  • Aesthetic aspects of your design
  • Obstruction of light to neighbours or their views
  • Required distance from your site’s boundaries

There will be more… Go check them out with your local authorities!

Different collectors are used for solar hot water heaters

  • Flat plate collectors
  • Integral collector-storage systems
  • Evacuated tube solar collectors

Flat plate collector

These can be glazed or unglazed. The glazed collector consists of a box that is insulated and weatherproofed with a dark-coloured plate under glass or plastic. Unglazed collectors are used for pool heating.

Integral collector-storage systems

These features a number of black tubes or tanks inside a glazed, insulated box. The sun heats cold water circulating through them and the hot water is stored in a traditional back-up water heater. Pipes can freeze in very cold weather conditions.

Evacuated tube solar collectors

These collectors feature parallel rows of transparent glass tubes, each with a glass outer tube and metal absorber tube, attached to a fin. Solar energy is absorbed by the fin’s coating which also prevents heat loss. Up till now these collectors were mainly for commercial use.


Things are changing as we speak. Solar hot water systems are constantly evolving, with both rooftop and heat pump technology providing roughly similar results- savings of 60% or more on hot water bills. Evacuated tube technology is now seriously challenging traditional flat plate on-the-roof systems.

There are different types of solar water heating systems—passive and active systems

First active systems

Direct circulation systems

This system is suitable for conditions where water does not freeze. Household water is pumped through the collectors and home.

Indirect circulation systems Good under freezing conditions. Here not water, but non-freeze heat transferring liquid is pumped through the collectors and through a heat exchanger. This heated water then flows through pipes into the home.

Next the passive systems

These are not as efficient as active systems but less expensive and more reliable with longer service life.

Integral collector-storage passive systems

Best used where freezing conditions are experienced and significant hot water use in daytime and evening.

Thermo-syphon systems

More expensive than integral collector storage system and featuring a heavy storage tank on the roof. Collector is installed below the storage tank and solar-heated water rises into the tank.

Save further cost through DIY solar water heating

After installing the best system for your circumstances you may yet save further costs. For example

  • Fix leaks
  • Install water-saving shower heads
  • Buy water-efficient washing machine or dishwasher
  • Set your thermostat to a slightly lower setting
  • Insulate your water heating tank and hot water pipes
  • Install a timer that turns off your system at night and during peak demand times

And this list is not exhaustive.

DIY solar water heating can be rewarding but is perhaps not for anyone. Seriously consider using qualified contractors for parts or all of your system if you lack the considerable needed skills and qualifications.

Acknowledgement: Much of this information is sourced from the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Still need more information? Get Paul Trimby's

And the Franklin Research Centre's

You're on your way! Knowing about DIY solar heating alone is not enough. Knowing more about the context in which diy solar heating is important to a flourishing world will add to your enjoyment in making it work.