How To Make Solar Water Heater Panels


What are solar water heater panels?

How do they function as part of a solar water heater system?

Do you have to have them for your system to work?

Solar water heating panels are designed to work with the full water heating system to heat your water and move it from point A to point B. They are a crucial part of the solar water heater setup and are required in order for your system to work correctly.

Most DIY solar water heater systems involve moving water from the source to the solar heater panel collectors. There, the water is heated before it’s moved into a storage tank, where it’s kept until the household needs it.

There are many ways to make solar heating panels for your water heater system. In this article, we’ll explore one of the many ways to make this happen, and we’ll also show you how to connect it to the rest of a simple DIY system and get started using it right away.

With this information, you’ll be able to make your own DIY solar water heater panels or tweak the method to come up with a style that works better for you.

This project is simple enough for beginners to complete. As long as you know how to operate power tools and can use a table saw, you should have no trouble completing this project over the course of a weekend.

Learn how to make solar water heater panels below.

Materials and Equipment Needed

  • Drill and bits
  • Table saw
  • Hole saw
  • Xacto knife
  • Tape measure
  • Silicone adhesive and caulking gun
  • Round file
  • 4 feet of 1-1/4” ABS piping
  • 4 ABS caps, 1-1/4”
  • 4×8 sheet of corrugated plastic
  • 2 hose nipples, ½”
  • Black paint
  • 2×8 polystyrene sheet
  • 4×8 plywood sheet
  • 3 pieces of lumber, 2×3
  • Screws
  • 4×10 transparent plastic
  • Hose clamps
  • Water tank
  • Garden hose
  • Valves (optionally, an auto shutoff valve)
  • Optionally, backup electrical pump
  • Optionally, backup electrical heater


1. Using the Xacto knife, cut the plastic sheet to 22 x 90. You can also ask the hardware store to cut this piece for you if necessary.

2. Cut the ABS pipe in half so each piece you have is 20-1/4 inches in length.

3. Using the drill, put a hole ¾ inch in diameter into the side of each of the two caps for the ABS pipes.

4. Use the drill and a file connector to enlarge the holes until they’re just big enough to fit the hose nipples through the holes.

5. At the very end of each of the ABS pipes, drill a semi-circle ¾ inch in diameter. This semicircle is intended to clip around the end of the nipple after you attach the caps to the pipes.

6. Cut a slot down each of the ABS pipes with the table saw. You may need to make two passes to ensure this is completely cleanly.

7. Cut the caps the same way.

8. Check to make sure everything fits together before continuing. Cut the ABS wherever necessary to make a tight, secure fit.

9. Check to make sure everything fits on the corrugated plastic sheet next.

10. If everything fits, affix the tubing to the plastic sheet with the silicone adhesive. You may choose to connect the caps to the tubes using this adhesive as well.

11. Let stand 24 hours.

12. Cut the hose in half and use the clamps to attach one half of the hose to each of the hose nipples.

13. Connect the garden hose to a tap and check for leaks. If you see any, dry the area thoroughly and then seal it again with more silicone adhesive. You’ll have to let it stand another 24 hours after completing this step.

14. Use black paint to paint the collector surface.

15. While the paint dries, get to work on the frame.

16. Cut a 2×3 into two 22-1/4-inch pieces.

17. Attach these two pieces to the remaining two 2x3s using screws. This will form a rectangular shape.

18. Wrap the frame in the clear plastic to create a lid.

19. Cut your plywood sheet to 24×8’ and cut the polystyrene to 7’4”x3’9”.

20. Center the polystyrene on the plywood.

21. Drill two 1-inch holes in the plywood for the hoses.

22. Stack the polystyrene on top of the plywood.

23.Stack the collector on top of the polystyrene.

24. Top it off with the transparent cover.

25. Use clamps to secure all of the pieces together.

26. Mount the collector panel board so that one end is higher than the other. You may choose to build additional legs for it, or you may prop it up on something instead, depending on where you’ll be placing it.

27. Mount the tank so that it is higher than the panel board.

28. Attach the top hose to the storage tank with a valve or clamp.

29. Attach the bottom hose to your water supply.

30. Slowly, the panel will fill with water which will heat before it is pushed out the top hose and into the storage tank.

31. If you installed a shutoff valve, the system should stop itself from overflowing. If not, you will need to manually stop it when the tank is full.

32. If you choose to use this setup for a long-term water heater source, you may want to add a water pump to the design. You can purchase solar powered water pumps, or you can use an electrical pump as a backup in case the panel fails.

33. You may also want to add an electrical heater as a backup for times when you don’t have enough hot water available. This may happen during times of reduced sunlight, such as winter months or during a rainy period.


As you can see, it’s not too difficult to make your own solar water heater. However, it does require a little knowledge of how to use tools and how to measure and cut materials, too. With just a little experience, you can put together the perfect solar heater setup to meet all your needs.

What are some of the benefits of making your own solar water heater panels? Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • You can save money on the cost of a pre-built solar water heater when you make it yourself.
  • Building your own solar water heater also makes it easy to save money on the cost of installation.
  • You can install the water heater on your own time when you go this route, rather than waiting for a company to try to fit you into their schedule.
  • It’s easier to fix problems and keep up with maintenance on a solar water heater system you build yourself than on one you purchase.
  • You can create custom sizes and styles of water heater systems when you make them yourself.

You may have other needs you’re looking to meet with your DIY solar water heater, too. By following the instructions listed above, you can build panels that will work great with a variety of different homemade setups. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try different techniques along the way, too!

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