DIY: How to Build Your Own Solar Hot Water Heating System

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With the increase in the interest of having a “green” society, the topic of solar power as a source of heat is a hot one. There are different methods of achieving this, as well as different things to use the solar power on as a heat conductor.

What follows is a synopsis of some of these methods and some insight as to what one might need when interested in using this kind of natural power for heating purposes.

How to Make a Solar Water Heater ?

Depending on the method of solar heating used, here is a list of some things you may need to have when using solar heating of water.

  1. One or more 100 feet long black garden hoses
  2. One or more 50 feet long black garden hoses
  3. Southern exposure. The roof is the preferred place of southern exposure if feasible
  4. 30 gallon clean black plastic barrel with spigot
  5. Four 4×6 treated posts, eight feet long in length
  6. Concrete Mix
  7. 3X3 sheet of one inch thick plywood
  8. Four 2 by 4’s, 3 feet in length
  9. Sixteen carriage bolts with lock washer,washer, and acorn nut
  10. A post hole digger
  11. Four 4×6’s, three feet in length

Both methods don’t require all of these things, but we will put this together with the following methods so you can see what material you will need for each.

1° Method


The first method of solar hot water heater homemade is as follows:

  • Step one: Using large loops, stretch a 100 foot long black garden hose out over the southern side of the roof.
  • Step two: Attach on end of the hose to your homes incoming cold water line.
  • Step three: Take the other end of the hose and attach it to the cold water intake of your water heater.

Your water will now be warm before it enters your water heater as the heat from the sun will be absorbed by the hose, thus warming the water.

2° Method

  • Step one: On the side of the house where you can have the effects of the full sun, build a 3×3 by 6 foot tall platform.

To build the platform:

  1. Dig four two feet deep holes, three feet apart from each other in a square.
  2. Center a post in each and then fill with concrete. Make sure posts are square and level. Let concrete set for 24 for 48 hours.
  3. Attach the 2×4’s flush at the top of the posts. Use two carriage bolts at each end of the 2×4’s.
  4. Use 1 1/2 inch wood screws to affix the 3×3 plywood sheet. Space screws about an inch from the edge and use one every six inches.To supply enough support for a full barrel, be sure your plywood is at least one inch in thickness.
  • Step two: Screw three foot long pieces of 4×6 posts along the top of the platform using 6 inch screws to ensure they go through the posts, plywood, and 2×4’s. This will create a ledge to prevent the barrel from falling from the platform.
  • Step three: Place the empty barrel on the platform with the hose attached to the spigot.
  • Step four: Attach the hose to the cold water intake of your water heater and fill the barrel with water.

Keep in mind that the water will take several hours to heat, so using these methods will likely give you enough water for one or two showers per day.

Solar Water Heating for Swimming Pools

A long loop of 2-inch black PVC tubing that is a bypass into your pool’s water pump hose are the basics of a solar heating system for your pool. Many people spend over a thousand dollars to get a heater for their pool, but by putting in a solar system it’s possible you can spend about one fifth of that.

First you need to be sure to get black PVC piping. White reflects sun and black has the opposite effect. Get yourself at least 200 feet of 2 inch black PVC pipe along with the following.

  1. a proportionate amount of 2-inch, black PVC elbow fittings
  2. some hose clamps
  3. PVC glue
  4. Primer

Now your ready to know how to use solar power to heat your pool.

  1. Find area of the pool that receives the most light.
  2. Determine loop and grid. Figure out where to lay the pipe. Keep in mind that the roof of a blacktop garage will run lots of heat.
  3. Run a continuous loop of the tubing from the pool to a series of parallel lines, interconnecting PVC tubing throughout the grid loop. Now you have a single loop grid collecting energy from the sun and using it’s energy to heat your pool.

How to Make Your Roof into a Solar Water Heater


There are basically two very similar methods. They both use the sun to preheat the water that is then fed into your regular water heater.

1) Tanks – This is essentially a black water tank on the roof. The dark color absorbs the sun’s rays, heating the water. The advantage of using a tank system is that the water held in the tank often has enough weight to allow the heated water to flow into your water heater as well as new, unheated water to flow into the roof tanks without additional pumping.

The obvious disadvantage is that such a heavy system could require reinforcement of the roof against the sheer weight of the system as well as against wind, as the tank enclosure tends to be a high profile construction.

2) Hoses – Using the same principle as the tank system, fresh water is pumped through dark colored hoses arranged in a serpentine pattern on the roof. While eliminating or reducing the weight and wind issues of the tank system, the hose system has its own concerns.

While the tank system utilizes tanks in a protective enclosure, the hoses in a hose system are exposed to the elements and might not last as long as a tank system. The second issue is that without a great deal of water weight being concentrated in any one place, pumping is the only option to cycle fresh water into the system.

The two systems are pretty much the same, it’s just a matter of which works best for you in your specific situation.

Does a Solar Water Heater Panel Have to Face South ?

Answer: This depends on your location.

If you are living in Texas, there’s no point of having the heater panel facing south because it is an area that has mostly heat and sun all year long it’s easy to charge and operate products with a solar power as a generator.
If you are living in an area that does not get a lot of sun but does get sun during noon but in a particular direction it is very important to have your solar water heater panel facing that direction. This is so that you may receive as much sun light as possible and so that you can not only run your machinery but also save power and money.

To answer your question in short it really does depend on your own judgment. You need to find out the best times when the sun will be at it’s peak, for how long, and in which direction in order to successfully operate under solar power.

This is very important to discover before you hook up, spend money, or even purchase anything solar. It does not help to purchase solar power machinery if your going to be in snow all day.

Do It Yourself Solar Water Heater Installation


How much to install solar water heater? Want to solar heat your water but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to do it? Want to use solar energy for electricity but not sure how to do it? Well hopefully this can offer you some help on installation of a solar hot water heating system if your a do it yourself type.

Having thermal panels added in to the system of your solar water heating can greatly increase it’s production.

Your consumption of fossil fuel will be greatly diminished by using solar energy for electricity as well, and may even disappear altogether. Keep in mind that many energy providers and government agencies have rebate plans for people who install solar power as well. Photovoltaic panels have the potential to decrease your electric bill.

Here’s how you can install your own solar hot water system with thermal panels. After that we will look at installing photovoltaic panels for electricity.

Part 1



Part 2

Figure that you will need approximately a 30 pound capacity of water per person in the household.

1. Figure out how much thermal panel you will need for the roof or where you are putting the system. On the average, figure you will need approximately 20 square feet for two residents. For more people add around 8 square feet each, although you may want to make it up to 14 feet if you live in a particularly cold region.

2. Find out where you want to put the panel. On your roof is usually the best place as you can secure mountings to the rafters and may be convenient to run pipe to your hot water heater.

3. Measure out where the mountings will be. Make sure you line them up with the thermal panel to be sure they match.

4. Using a power drill, install the mounting with screws and brackets.

5. Use sealant, such as caulk, to seal up any holes.

6. Install rails onto mounts. Be sure they are fixed in place.

7. Install thermal panel on rails insuring they are secure enough to withstand rain or poor weather.

8. For the panel connection to the water pipe, you will have to install a roof boot. Do not place the boot over any rafters. The boot should be about 2 inches from the feed connection on your solar panel.

9. Use flashing, and caulk if needed, to make the boot’s connection to the hole surrounding it watertight.

10. Install roof boot number two about 2 inches from the absorber outlet of solar power.

11. Attach compression unions to roof boot and use copper tubing to connect compression unions to feeds on the solar panel. Be sure to check that all connections will not leak.

12. Run copper tubing from both feeds to the water heater.

13. Turn off gas and drain all water from the water heater, then install coaxial fitting onto water heater.

14. Making sure the connections are correct, which should be the feed line taking cool water out to the water panel and the return line being hot water in, connect the copper tubes to the fitting.

15. Even if sealant or Teflon tape is needed, you need to make sure that there are no leaky connections.

16. Refill heater with water and flip the gas back on.

There you go. That’s how you can install thermal panels and your solar water heater. Hope this can help with some of your questions about how to install panels for your solar water heating. Photovoltaic panels are important if you want to save on electricity . This should not be forgotten if you want to build your own solar energy system. To install photovoltaic panels follow these steps.

1. Pick out your photovoltaic panels and appropriate panel mounts and tools for installation.
2. Use a stud finder to find the rafters and align mounts. Pre-drill with pilot bit to avoid splitting and make sure to keep mounts in a straight line using laser sight or chalk line.
3. Use stainless steel lag bolts to attach mounts to the roof.
4. Place metal flashings over the mounts and use 3/8′ stainless steel bolts to secure metal rails to the posts.
5. Install solar panels and connect them into an array.
6. Run the conduit to connect the panels to the inverter.

Now your photovoltaic panels are installed and your solar electric system is ready to go. Keep in mind that if you are interested in using this type of energy and are considering getting your roof redone, that would be the best time to have the system installed.

Having them “flashed-in” during the roofing process is a good way to assure there are no leaks. Also, having structural attachment points “flashed-in” is a good idea for installing solar panels as re-installation or future cost of removal will not be a worry for many years to come.

3 thoughts on “DIY: How to Build Your Own Solar Hot Water Heating System

  1. Pingback: How to install a solar water heater ?

  2. Pingback: Basic Steps to Plan Your Solar System

  3. Jack T.

    On the ranch we use plastic pvc pipes to get water from point A to point B. Please tell your readers to make sure that there is a “hose connection vacuum breaker” on the spigot. Otherwise putting a black hose out in the sun like your article suggests will create pressure that might break the pvc pipes who knows where underground.

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