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How Much Does A New Solar Water Heater Cost?

Most homeowners spend between $3,015 to $4,700 nationally.
Get free estimates from local contractors who can Install Solar Water Heater System.

If your gas or electric home heating bills are getting you hot under the collar, consider a cost-effective alternative. Solar water heaters are quite expensive to install, but offer significant energy savings and potential federal tax credits. ImproveNet's online search function makes it easy to find a contractor to install a new solar water heater, but before you start shopping for quotes, spend some time researching the cost of solar water heater systems to get the best price.

National Install Solar Water Heater System Costs

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National

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$11,150

Average Cost

$122

Minimum Cost

$190,000

Maximum Cost
Average Range:

$3,015
to
$4,700

National Average Cost $11,150
Minimum Cost $122
Maximum Cost $190,000
Average Range $3,015 to $4,700
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How do we get this data? This info is based on 33 cost profiles, as reported by ImproveNet members.

Table of Contents

  1. Solar Water Heater Cost
  2. Cost Savings For Solar Water Heaters
  3. How Solar Water Heaters Work
  4. Advantages Of Solar Hot Water Heaters
  5. Disadvantages Of Solar Hot Water Heaters
  6. Types Of Solar Heater Systems
  7. Find A Pro

Solar Water Heater Cost

When answering the question, "How much does a solar water heater cost?" you need to consider several factors, such as the size and complexity of the system, what permits are required, geographical location and whether or not to hire a professional. Usually, the cost of hiring a professional to complete the work ranges from $2,039 to $4,619 (an average of $3,304). Small installations cost from $800, while large projects cost as much as $6,000.

Gas and Electric Water Heaters

Solar water heaters cost more to install than other types of water heaters. A professional can install a traditional heater system for around $772 to $953, with an average of $871. However, the potential energy savings and tax credits, plus the peace of mind that comes from safeguarding your home from future gas or electricity price hikes, make solar energy systems a sound long-term investment.

DIY Installation

Installing a solar water heater isn't a casual DIY project. It requires permits, all of the work must meet local and state building codes and the complex nature of the installation may result in potentially dangerous mistakes. If you accidentally damage your existing pipes and heating systems, it may be necessary to employ a plumber to fix a broken main or perform other remedial work. The U.S. Department of Energy advises hiring a solar thermal systems contractor. However, if you have the necessary skills to do the work yourself, the only costs are the price of the heater system, necessary tools and your own time.

Cost Savings For Solar Water Heaters

Cost Savings For Solar Water Heaters

The reduction in home energy bills and the potential to receive federal energy tax credits offsets the cost of solar water heater systems. A new solar heater system often "pays for itself" within 10 years of installation, although the exact amount you save depends on the amount of water you use and the system's efficiency. Thus, you may have to undertake other work as part of the installation, such as improving your main water supply or repairing your water treatment system.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, installing a solar water heater reduces water heating bills by 50% to 80%. Additionally, tax credits for solar energy systems are available at 30%. For a home to be eligible, a Solar Rating and Certification Corporation certified solar heater system must generate at least half of the home's energy.

How Solar Water Heaters Work

Solar water heaters harness the power of the sun to heat your home's water supply, and some modern examples are capable of working in any climate. There are several types available, and you may want to speak to a professional installer to see which type is the best option for you.

Advantages Of Solar Hot Water Heaters

The main advantage is the noticeable monthly savings. With a reduction in energy bills as high as 80%, the system quickly becomes profitable. The potential tax credits are another big incentive.

How Solar Water Heaters Work

Disadvantages Of Solar Hot Water Heaters

The main disadvantage is the initial solar water heater installation cost. In addition to the costs of the system, there may be additional costs for permits, improving a main water line and hiring a certified plumber.

Because it costs more than installing a traditional heater system, it may take months or even years to save up enough funds, and you may need to repair your old water heater in the meantime. Costs are much more manageable if you include the price of the heater system in a 30-year mortgage, as the monthly savings are often greater than the monthly heater costs.

Types Of Solar Hot Water Heaters

There are several types of solar heaters, employing different types of collectors and circulating systems.

Collector Types

  • Batch Collectors: Heat water in dark tanks within an insulated box, storing the heated water until required. They don't operate well in cold climates.
  • Flat-Plate Collectors: Consist of copper tubes fitted to flat absorber plates. They typically contain 40 gallons of water.
  • Evacuated Tube Collectors: Comprise glass or metal tubes surrounded by larger glass tubes. The vacuum between them ensures there is no heat loss, making the system very efficient and capable of operating in low temperatures.
  • Direct: The system circulates water through solar collectors for the sun to heat it. This type of system is best for climates where it rarely freezes.
  • Closed-Loop: The system circulates a non-freezing liquid, which transfers heat to the water in storage tanks. This type of system is good for freezing climates.
  • Active: Electric pumps and valves move water from the collectors to the tank. This type of system is the only way to completely replace a home's traditional water heater, and is therefore more expensive than a passive system.
  • Passive: There are no pumps, and the system relies on natural convection to move water from the collectors to the storage tank.

Advantages Of Solar Hot Water Heaters

Circulating Systems

  • Direct: The system circulates water through solar collectors for the sun to heat it. This type of system is best for climates where it rarely freezes.
  • Closed-Loop: The system circulates a non-freezing liquid, which transfers heat to the water in storage tanks. This type of system is good for freezing climates.
  • Active: Electric pumps and valves move water from the collectors to the tank. This type of system is the only way to completely replace a home's traditional water heater, and is therefore more expensive than a passive system.
  • Passive: There are no pumps, and the system relies on natural convection to move water from the collectors to the storage tank.

Find A Pro

ImproveNet's online search function makes it easy to find a local plumber with the skills and tools to install anything from a water treatment system to a solar water heater system that meets all applicable building codes. A skilled contractor has the knowledge to help you decide which type of heating system to install; he or she may even complete the permit applications on your behalf, helping to ensure the project runs smoothly.

By searching online, you can read reviews from previous customers. Where possible, get several quotes to choose from — but remember, you "get what you pay for." It may be worth paying slightly more to hire a contractor to complete the work to a high standard.

Get free estimates from local solar hot water heater contractors

Last updated on Feb 21, 2017

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