All your solar water heating questions answered

Compiled by Daniella Favis for Fix Shack. Source: Eskom, Solahart and Green Plumbing Advisory Centre.

In a time where non-renewable resources are fast depleting, we should be seriously considering alternative sources of energy to provide our homes with electricity. Solar water heating is the process of harnessing energy from the sun in order to heat water, rather than using a conventional electric geyser. Water is circulated into solar panels; solar energy is absorbed by a solar collector, heating the water; the hot water is then stored in a tank, ready to use.


If you don’t yet feel like you know enough, below are all of your frequently asked solar water heating questions, answered.

What are the benefits of solar water heating?

• Your electric geyser most likely accounts for the largest portion of your electricity bill. As a result, solar water heaters save you a substantial amount on your electricity costs.
• When sunlight is used to heat water instead of fossil fuels, fewer pollutants are introduced into the atmosphere.
• Solar energy is unaffected by electricity cuts.

32How long do solar water heating systems last?

Each brand of solar water heaters has a different life expectancy. Your solar water heater should, however, last you in excess of 20 years.

What happens in winter or on rainy days, when there isn’t enough sunlight to heat the water?

Solar water tanks are very well insulated and therefore, they keep water hot for extended periods of time. Homeowners should make sure that their solar water heater suppliers or installers insulate the system pipes that are exposed to the elements too. This will further prevent heat loss.

Why should solar systems be SABS approved?

Testing solar water systems verifies whether or not they are good quality systems and will last long, whether or not they perform well, and whether or not they satisfy the safety criteria. If all of these requirements are met and the manufacturing quality audit indicates that the manufacturer produces consistent high quality products, the manufacturer will be allowed to use the SABS mark.

How much will a solar water heater save you on your typical electricity bill?

Electrical geysers account for about 30 – 50 % of your home building’s monthly electricity bill. Replacing your conventional geyser with a solar powered system will reduce that percentage by up to 70 %.

33What questions should every consumer ask before investing in a solar water heater, to make sure their system is reliable?

• Was the system designed specifically for my climate’s weather conditions?
• Were the tank and panels manufactured in the same factory to enhance functionality?
• Does the system come with a warranty?
• What are the warranty conditions?
• Is the solar water heater subsidised by Eskom?
• Has the whole system been SABS approved?
• Do the installers of the system have training or accreditation?
• Is the system properly insulated to ensure maximum heat retention?
• Is the system protected against overheating, freezing and excessive pressure?
• How often does the system require servicing?
• What is the system’s life expectancy?

For more information on solar water heaters and how they work, see Solar alternative water heating method.