Hot, Hot, Hot! Connecting Solar Hot Water to a Tankless Water Heater

We like it hot. Our showers, that is. So we stand in the glorious fountain of water that comes out of our shower, enjoying the hot cascade and using up the contents in the hot water tank in the process. Ah, the enjoyment. Oh, the guilt of using hot water.

But what if you didn’t have a hot water tank? What if warm water flowed freely from the tap? What if some of this water was heated by the sun?

What is Tankless or On-Demand Hot Water?
In North America, most homes are built with a hot water tank. This tank stores water in a large cistern and keeps it at a constant warm temperature. However, those who are watching their gas or electric bills creep or leap upward may wonder about the efficiency of the hot water heater. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to heat water over and over, day in and day out, while we only use it a few times a day.

A tankless or on-demand water heater is a device that heats water when you need it. It does not store hot water all day. This makes it far more energy-efficient than a traditional hot water tank.

Tankless hot water heaters do have their drawbacks. Those with hot water tanks worry about the long shower or the shower that occurs after running another appliance that uses hot water. It is possible to run out of the stash of hot water. Those with tankless hot water heaters do not need to worry about running out of hot water. However, all of the appliances that are on a single system need to share the hot water, so it is possible to try and do too many activities with hot water at the same time. By installing an additional tankless or on-demand water heater, you can solve this problem.

What is Solar Water Heating?
The solar water heater is a device that uses the sun’s energy to heat water. The sun is remarkable at heating water, especially when it is assisted by materials that collect heat, such as black cloth. Solar hot water systems are generally placed on the roof of the home to heat water for a pool or for in-home use. Using the sun is a very energy-efficient way to heat your water, but it doesn’t always produce the quantities of warm water you would like, especially on a gray sort of day.

Like the traditional home water system, solar systems have a water tank. However, solar hot water storage tanks are far more energy-efficient than the traditional gas or electric hot water tank. Solar hot water tanks get warm through direct or indirect means. A direct solar system moves hot water from the collectors to the storage tank. An indirect system circulates hot fluids from the collectors to a heat exchanger, which heats the hot water in the storage tank. 

Combining Tankless and Solar Hot Water Systems
It is possible to combine these two energy-efficient technologies to reap the benefits of the instant hot water of tankless and the extremely efficient nature of solar hot water heating.

The tankless hot water heater goes on when water is below the temperature that you’ve set as your desired hot water temperature. Use a controlling mixing valve to combine the solar-heated water with the tankless system. When the water is at the correct temperature, the tankless element will not go on. When the water is too cold, the tankless heater will go on and heat it up to the desired temperature.

To combine your solar and tankless systems, you must have hot water systems that are compatible. If you currently have a tankless or solar system, work with a water heating contractor to determine whether the systems will be compatible.

Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation and Tankless and Solar Systems
One word of warning: for those who love to love hot water, the energy efficiency of a tankless system may not be up for the challenge. A tankless system used alone or on a gray day will still use energy, especially if your showers are long.

Water conservation is still a concern for those who are looking into tankless and solar hot water heaters. Making water messy and sending it down the drain to be cleaned means that you still have an ecological impact and send waste-water to be treated, unless you treat the water yourself in a greywater marsh.

Climb aboard the solar and tankless hot water train, and you’ll find a better way to heat your water: two better ways, in fact! While you’ll still need to remain conscious about the amount of time you spend in your shower, you’ll be spending some quality time with water that has been heated by sunshine instead of lurking in your basement all day, and that’s a wise choice for energy efficiency.

Posted in Solar.

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