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Solar Water Heaters | Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service

Because of a number of factors, particularly safety, water heater repair or water heater replacement is best left to the professionals, like your Roto-Rooter plumber. But homeowners should take it upon themselves to learn about the different kinds of water heaters available so they can make an informed decision when it’s time to replace their home’s water heater.  

When selecting a new unit for your home, consider one that will not only provide enough hot water for your family, but one that will be energy efficient. One of the most energy efficient water heating systems is a solar water heater.

Heating water is expensive because it requires a significant amount of energy. In most homes, that energy is generated from fossil fuels – gas and oil or electricity. A solar water heating system is super efficient and it can cheaply generate hot water for your home - once you’ve absorbed the cost of installing it. 

A solar system includes roof-mounted solar thermal panels. The sun’s energy is used to heat water, which is then stored in a hot water tank and drawn on when needed. The best solar units deliver stellar savings in summer, making them especially attractive for warm, sunny regions. Savings can suffer on cold and cloudy days, but solar models employ a conventionally powered backup system that will heat the water to the temperature required during the winter or when the sun isn’t shining.

There are two types of solar water heating systems: active and passive. Active solar units have circulating pumps and controls. Passive units don’t.

Active solar water heating systems include direct circulation, in which pumps circulate your home’s water through the solar collectors and back into the home. These work well in climates where it is usually sunny and rarely freezes. Indirect circulation systems have pumps that circulate a non-freezing, heat-transfer fluid through the solar collectors and a heat exchanger. The sun heats the fluid and the heat exchanger heats the water that flows into the home. These units are more common in climates susceptible to freezing temperatures.

Passive solar water heating systems are less expensive than active systems, but they're typically not as efficient. However, passive systems can be more reliable and may last longer. The two basic types of passive systems include integral collector-storage, which work best in areas where temperatures rarely fall below freezing. They also work well in homes with significant hot-water needs. In thermosyphon units, water flows through the system when warm water rises as cooler water descends. These systems are reliable, but contractors must pay attention to the roof design and weight limit because of the heavy storage tank.

As with any system, there are advantages and disadvantages.


  • Solar energy is free and plentiful.
  • Solar thermal panels are efficient. Approximately 80% radiation is turned into heat energy.
  • You will save money on fuel bills.
  • You are lowering your hot water carbon footprint.
  • There are often financial incentives. For solar hot water, those can include state and federal tax credits, and state, regional, and utility rebates.


  • Solar thermal panels can only heat water. Solar PV panels, however, generate electricity and some of this electricity can be used to heat water. So there is more flexibility with solar PV panels.
  • Annual maintenance is suggested because there are several parts to the system, that should be inspected to ensure they are performing correctly.

It is best to have a professional installer inspect your house to make sure your roof is able to withstand the weight of thermal panels, and to check to see how efficient your panels would be.

A Roto-Rooter water heater expert will help you determine which type of solar water heater is  right for your home and budget, taking into consideration your family’s water heating needs and energy usage expectations. Solar water heater installation and maintenance services are specialized and are available through select Roto-Rooter locations but not available at every Roto-Rooter branch.

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