solar hot water heater

How to Build Your Own Solar Hot Water Heater

solar hot water heaterDid you know that water heaters use more energy than all of your other household appliances combined?

What if you could dramatically cut that cost in half with a simple DIY project?

A good solar water heater can cut your heating costs in half.

This simple guide will show you how to build your own solar hot water heater and get you on the road to savings!

First, let’s talk about how solar heaters work.

At it’s most basic level, solar water heaters pre-heat water utilizing the sun’s rays inside either a heating coil or a tank.

The water is then either pumped into your existing water heaterĀ or passively flows to it.

Sun + water = hot water. That’s pretty much it.

Let’s dig into more detail.

If you’ve ever made one of those solar hot dog ovens when you were a kid, you already know the basics.

We’re going to do this on a larger scale, but the concept is the same.

1. Build A Box

You’ll need to get some 2x4s and sturdy plywood or particle board for the frame and exterior.

It should be large enough to fit a full-size water heater inside with a foot or two space all the way around it.

The box should be approximately 7′ long, 4′ wide, and 5′ tall. It doesn’t need to be exact.

Also, you’ll want to build it on a 30-degree angle so it can collect the most amount of sunlight.

The final box should resemble a large, roomy reclining coffin (the water heater will be our “body”).

2. Insulate The Box

Get some insulation and layer the inside of the box so your water heater has a nice comfy bed to lay in.

Fill in all the empty space you left when building the box.

3. Add Reflective Material

Next, get some galvanize roofing tin and place it on top of the insulation. Make it curved like a big metal cradle for your water heater.

Staple or nail the edges to the sides of the box frame for a secure fit.

You should now start to see the heater taking shape.

The curved reflective tin will focus the sun’s rays directly onto the water heater when we put it in place.

4. Insert A Water Heater

Get your water heater and paint it black. This will help collect the sun’s heat as well as retain heat (just like hot asphalt).

Make sure you cut a hole in the bottom/back of your box for the emergency blow-out nozzle. Don’t take shortcuts. Let’s be safe.

Also, be sure to cut holes for your hot and cold water valves. You’re going to need those.

Your solar water heater should now look like that giant hot dog oven you made as a kid… or a giant coffin for your water heater if that’s your thing.

5. Cover The Box With Glass

The final step is to cover the box with heavy-duty, outdoor-grade glass.

Secure the glass over the exposed side of your box, sealing your hotdog in its glass tomb.

Complete your solar hot water heater by finishing the sides with paint and a nice wood sealant.

Finally, hook up your new solar water heater to your existing home water heater.

Your “hot dog oven” works by pre-heating the water, then flowing directly into your home hot water tank. You’ll never know the difference!

Always be careful using power tools and all materials you used to construct this.

And that water can get up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit… so always use a thermometer.

Depending on how much hot water you use, the average family can save up to $30 per month with this simple DIY project.

That’s $360 a year! How many lattes can you buy with that?