Through answering a lot of emails I’ve found that the most in demand topic or “how-to help” people have asked for is the solar hot water heater. People want to know about green hot water heaters – that is, water heaters that are green and environment friendly. Usually, this means solar hot water heaters, as the sun’s heat is the best and most abundant source of natural heat available on the surface of the Earth.
I looked around on the internet for quite awhile and compiled a pretty impressive list of sites where you can find instructions, complete with pictures, on how to build your own green hot water heater (all of these use solar heating as the method), as well as companies that can help you out when building your own green solar hot water heater.
I was going to give you a run-down on the different kinds, sizes, options, etc. But frankly, there are just too many designs for solar water heaters out there.
So, hopefully, these active links will direct you to the right place. Some of these heaters are tankless, while some have tanks, but the tankless hot water heaters on this list generally use black PVC or metal tubing to heat the water.
In the broad category, there are two different kinds of solar hot water heaters: active and passive.
Active hot water heaters have circulating pumps and controls.
Passive solar hot water heaters do not.
In the active category, there are Direct circulation systems and Indirect circulation systems, which include Closed Loop systems.
In the passive category there are Integral collector-storage passive systems and Thermosyphon systems which include simple Batch systems.
The article that I found had the most detail about the different options for green water heaters is from EnergySavers.
There are many, many different designs online for both homemade hot water heating systems and those designed by companies. Here is the treasure chest of information I’ve found.
This is a survey that helps you decide what size, kind of panel, and kind of heater is right for you.
For information on Solar Hot Water Heaters:
A-Z Solar Center has incredible detail on the different kinds and parts.
HomePower is helpful for the different parts, and it’s got great pictures so you know what everything looks like.
And the moment you’ve all been waiting for…. Instructions on how to make your own:
FSEC is great. Complete with a manual, pictorial guide, law abiding code video, troubleshooting, and many links to other helpful websites.
BuildItSolar’s heater was homemade using a lot of things you can find around the house, or cheaply.
Build your own batch hot water heater through a resource from SolarCooking.org.
Another solar hot water heater design from Build It Solar is cheaply made and is non-pressurized.
Another great one from Build It Solar was homemade cheaply!
A step by step JC Solar Homes instruction by someone who’s done it for themselves.
This one from Instructables is incredibly cheap and incredibly detailed.
Things that might help:
This post on ByExample.com is by someone who’s built a batch collector.
Here’s BuiltItSolar with another helpful post.
EcoSmartInc is a company that does solar hot water heater installs itself, but they are more than helpful in letting you build your own.
ArtTec talks about closed loop heaters, written in a blog style by someone who’s done it, and it has lots of resources.
This website (Belgian) has many pictures from someone who’s built a closed-loop heater.
Mother Earth News has a story of someone who’s built their own.
I got some of my links from this Build It Solar’s website. It’s an incredibly helpful resource and has about everything you’d need if you want more resources on building a green solar hot water heater.
Please feel free to post your designs or helpful tips on how to build your own solar hot water heater, here in the comments or in the Greenjoyment forum. It’s free to register, and a great place to post or search for the answers to any of your questions, solar hot water heater related or not.