Solar Hot Water Heater DB    HG
If you’re like most people, 38% of the natural gas used in your home goes to heat up water.  A solar hot water heater can cut your water heating bills by three-fourths.  There’s a 30% federal tax credit for solar water heaters installed by 2016 and, in California, you can get a cash rebate up to $1875 for solar hot water heaters installed after July 15, 2009.  Another option is a tankless (aka “on demand”) water heater that heats water on an as-needed basis rather than keeping a tank full of water heated all the time.  A tankless water heater can be used alone or in conjunction with a solar hot water heater for maximum efficiency.

If you’ve ever left a bottle of water in a hot car, then you pretty much understand how solar thermal works. It’s pretty simple–sure, manufacturers have refined the process for maximum efficiency, but basically all that’s happening is that the sun pre-heats the water so that your gas or electric water heater has to do much less work.  That’s it–an elegantly simple technology that has the potential to spare the planet millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

The world is in the midst of a solar water heating revolution though, as usual, the United States is limping along far behind the pack.  China is in the lead, with 27 million rooftop solar water heaters, enough to take the place of 49 coal-fired power plants.  In Spain, Portugal and Israel, new buildings are required to install solar water heaters. Europe, Japan, India and Brazil are also hot to trot for solar thermal and have set ambitious goals for widespread adoption by 2020.

Here in the U.S., we have only about a tenth the solar thermal of China, but demand is rapidly growing and, if the 2016 tax credit is extended, some experts see us as rivaling China by 2020. To learn more about solar water heaters and which kind is most suitable for your climate, visit the Energy Savers webiste.  This website also has links to other sites that can help you find solar water heater dealers.  And don’t forget to find out if your state offers any rebates.  On my roof, I’ve got a Heliodyne Helio-Pak closed loop solar water heater hooked up to a Rinnai tankless water heater that seems to be working just fine–that’s two tons less CO2a year my home is generating.  How about yours?  Are you ready the join the revolution?
–Erica Etelson

Posted by Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy co-founded Sungevity and now serves as strategic advisor. He is an internationally recognized opinion leader on climate and energy issues. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy - and Planet - from Dirty Energy (2012), a book that has been described as the clean energy manifesto for the next greatest generation.


  1. […] your way toward fuel efficiency nirvana.  With the money you save on gas, you can get yourself a solar water heater or some LED lights.  And with the money you save from those items, maybe there’s a Tesla […]

  2. Hi Erica,
    I work with solar water heaters in Spain, yes it is a great way to save energy costs!!!!

    I think solar and other alternative energy has a great future , and will soon become accepted as a viable alternative to fossil fuels

    Tony csssolar Spain

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