Can you install solar water heater setups on your own?
Should you hire solar water heater installers instead?
How difficult is it to complete the installation of solar water heater systems yourself?
Performing a solar water heater install can be tricky, and depending on the type you install, it may be easier in the long run to hire professionals. However, many homeowners install their own with no trouble, and you may be able to do the same thing.
If you know how to use tools and understand plumbing connections, you should be able to set up your solar water heater easily. You may need help from another capable adult, however, to handle the lifting and to make it easier to hold some of the tubing in place throughout the process.
In this article, we’ll teach you the basics of how to install a gravity-fed passive solar water heater. With this information, you’ll know how to set up and install one of the many types of solar water heaters out there.
If you have a different type, the installation process may look a little different. And depending on your abilities, concerns, and the type of home setup you have, you may want to call a professional to handle the hard parts for you.
Otherwise, check out the guide below to give you a head-start and make it easier for you to understand the installation process of a passive solar water heater.
Learn how to become a solar water heater installer for your household with the information below.
Materials & Equipment Needed
- Solar water heater system
- Including a heating panel, collectors, tank, and pipes
- Small bucket
- Optional sponge
- Dust rings for solar water heater system
- GI endcaps
- ¾” gate valves
- ¾” double nipples
- ¾” non-return valves
- Air vent pipe
- GI ½” tee connector
- ½” double nipple
- ½” MTC connectors
- ½” barrel nipple
- ½” socket
- Optionally, assistance from another adult for heavy lifting
1. First, choose where you’ll be mounting the solar collectors. They often go on the roof, but can also go in your yard. Make sure your house is capable of supporting the weight of the solar collectors and the water on your roof before installing them.
2. Understand that you might need to remove the shingles or parts of your roof to properly install the panels. If you are uncertain about how to do this, it may be best to work with a professional.
3. If you’re installing the collector panels in the back yard, the process is much easier. Simply put together the included stand that comes with the panel according to the manufacturer’s directions.
4. Install the collection tank for the solar water heater. On many systems, this is attached to the top of the collector frame. The right way to install the storage tank depends on the make and model of the panels you purchase, so check the manufacturer’s directions for this step as well.
5. Next, combine soap and water in a 1:1 ratio in a small bucket.
6. Using your fingers or a sponge, put the soap and water mixture inside the holes where the connector tubes are meant to be inserted into the tank. Then rub the mixture on the outside of the tubes as well.
7. Place the dust rings on each of the tubes, and then insert the tubes one at a time into the holes in the tank.
8. Insert the tubes into the bottom of the stand as well. Make sure they are all tightly in place before continuing.
9. Cover the top outlet of the tank with a GI endcap to prevent water from leaking out.
10. Connect the bottom left outlet to the cold water intake from your home’s water source. Make sure the cold water is at least a foot higher than the tank, so gravity will help it flow correctly.
11. Use a ¾” gate valve and a ¾” double nipple to connect to the ¾” non-return valve on the tank.
12. Attach the air vent pipe to the top right outlet using a GI ½” tee valve and a ½” double nipple.
13. Attach a ½” composite MTC valve on either end of the tee valve.
14. Connect the hot water outlet to the bottom of the tee valve.
15. If you choose to use an electrical backup heater, connect it to the bottom right valve on the tank.
16. Connect the plumbing to the house’s water supply using a non-return valve on the outside of the wall, connected to the spigot.
17. Attach a ½” barrel nipple and a ½” socket to the non-return valve. Connect these to the cold water inlet tube via a 1/2” MTC connector.
18. Test the system to make sure everything works and there are no leaks. If you notice leaks, repair them before using the system.
Installing solar water heater systems is probably best left to the professionals if you have any concerns about your own abilities. However, if you’ve already had a lot of plumbing experience or you’ve installed solar panels before, you probably have some idea of what you’re working with and can handle the installation process yourself.
If you choose to hire professionals, though, there’s nothing wrong with that. Many companies offer high-quality installation services and are ready to help you get your water heater system up and running in just a short amount of time.
What should you look for in a reliable installation service?
- Choose a company with a proven history. You should be able to see information about completed projects. Some companies even provide contact information of customers willing to share their experiences with others.
- Pick a company that will give you all the information you need up front. The company you pick should tell you pricing as well as the general installation process and an estimated time frame as well, before they ever get started working.
- Choose a company that understands how to work with roofing needs. If you’re installing on the roof, you’ll need to work with a company that won’t cause bigger problems down the line.
Where can you find these types of services?
- Yelp: You can check reviews for all sorts of installers by looking them up on Yelp. There may be other, similar review services online to pick from, too.
- Thumbtack: This service makes it easy to search for professionals in a variety of fields. This option may not list as many companies and individuals as some of the other options mentioned here, but it works with only professionals.
- Online community forums: Does your community have a group on Facebook or another online service? If so, this can be a great place to check for recommendations.
- Nextdoor: If your neighborhood is part of the Nextdoor app service, you may be able to ask for recommendations here as well.
With some know-how and experience, solar water heater installation can be completed as a DIY project. But it’s also easy to find professional installation services if you prefer, too. In the end, it’s up to you to choose which solution works best for your needs and abilities, and to decide whether or not you feel comfortable installing your own solar water heater system.