Solar Hot Water Q & A

Is my house suitable for solar hot water?

The best homes for solar meet the following requirements:

  • A good-sized roof – most houses will use 2 collectors which are each around 2m tall x 1 m wide. That means you need at least 2m x 2m, plus some clearance space on your roof. You’ll also need some ground space for the ground-mounted hot water storage tank. For a roof-mounted tank, you’ll need even more roof space .
  • A north-facing roof area – it’s best if the collectors can be mounted facing north in order to capture the most sunlight. If you’re not sure, use a compass or go to Google Earth to check if you’ve got a north-facing roof area.
  • An area free from shade – the roof where the solar collectors are fitted needs to get plenty of sunlight so watch out for shade from trees or surrounding buildings.
  • Climate can also be a factor when choosing a solar heater. Extreme weather areas that get frost or very high heat will need a product designed to suit the climate
  • The panels are inclined approximately 25° from horizontal
  • The tank is properly sized for your longer term needs
  • The booster is connected to off peak tariff, and your major use of hot water is in early to mid-morning

Does my roof have to face North?

If your roof space is not northerly but within 45° of north you will only suffer a few percentage loss of solar gain. If you have a flat roof then mounting frames can be provided to obtain the correct panel inclination.

What if I live in a frost prone area?

If you live in an area prone to frost or clear cold nights, its possible that water can freeze and damage the panels.  Manufacturers do make Anti-Frost panels which are used and are designed to keep a small amount of fluid and warm water circulating to stop the water freezing on cold nights.

Does solar work on rainy or overcast days?

Yes. All solar water heaters come with either a gas or electric boost function, so you can get hot water even when it’s cloudy. Although the heat output of the solar collector is reduced on overcast days it will still be able to provide heating. If it is a heavily clouded day or raining, then more gas or electric boosting may be required to maintain water at the required temperature.

Different systems are suited for different climate zones. Your installer can advise on what is right for your location.

A Heat Pump is another option that’s best suited for some climates and will work without the sun. It is often referred to as “solar without the panels’

What is the difference between a Heat Pump and Solar hot water system?

A Heat Pump doesn’t need solar collectors mounted on the roof. It uses technology to extract and intensify the warmth that is naturally in the air around us then uses that warmth to produce hot water.

Traditional solar water heaters use the warmth from the sun to heat the water.

Is solar hot water heating a viable alternative to gas or electricty

Solar should not be seen as a alternative to gas or electricity, but rather a supplement. Solar cannot totally replace the need for gas or electric heating as there are sometimes days when there is little sunlight. When averaged over a year, a correctly sized solar system can provide 60%-70% of a household’s hot water needs.

Gas Hot Water Q & A

What is a Gas hot water system?

Gas storage water heaters heat and retain a quantity of water in an insulated cylinder, ready for use. They provide hot water at mains pressure and as they can deliver the whole stored quantity immediately it’s needed, can service many outlets (such as several showers) at the one time.

When emptied, it takes time to reheat and have you back in hot water, but high recovery models can reheat 200 litres an hour. They came in capacities from 90 to 170 litre in 3, 4 or 5 Star energy efficiency levels.

What is a Continuous Flow gas hot water system

Gas Continuous Flow water heaters heat water continuously on demand, giving hot water that ‘never runs out’ as long as water keeps flowing. They are ideal where there are not a large number of hot water demands at once but many at different times (such as many people having showers one after the other).

They are compact and come in varied capacities to suit small or large homes. Available in 50C or 60C temperature models, they can have remote temperature controllers fitted enabling you to set the hot water temperature. They need a power point as well as gas supply (which will need to be a larger pipe than for a Gas Storage water heater).

What if I don’t have gas connected yet?

You will need to contact your local gas supply company and arrange to have a gas main fitted at your property prior. Not all homes have access to the gas main and LPG bottled gas is available but an expensive option to run a gas hot water system.

Electric Hot Water Q & A

What is off peak electricity?

Off-peak refers to lower, discounted electricity prices during specific times.  Off-peak times are generally when residential homes and businesses use less electricity.  Off-peak times will vary depending on your location and meter type, but typically are at night and/or weekends.

Electricity used in busy peak times can place a strain on Australia’s electricity networks. That’s why off-peak electricity is charged at a cheaper price, to encourage people to use their electricity outside these busy times.

Off-peak electricity can also refer to electricity being used by a stand-alone appliance, like an electric hot water service on a dedicated circuit. This appliance is metered separately and can be billed on off-peak rates.

How do I know if my tank is on off peak?

You will need to check you last electricity bill and it detail if you were charges any usage at off peak times.

What times do tanks on off peak heat up?

The times of off peak tariffs vary according to your electricity supplier. Most have times around 11pm – 7am for Off Peak 1 and mid morning till around 5pm for Off Peak 2. If you are on off peak 2 your hot water will be able to heat up prior to the evening use and then will reheat up to be ready in the morning.

Can I move my electric tank from inside to outside?

Yes you can. If your upgrading to a larger size tank or would like it moved out of the laundry to save on space, we can reposition your old tank or even a new one into less obtrusive location.

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