How Much Does It Cost to Install a Solar Water Heater?

by Team HomeServe
Solar water heating panel and water collector on a house roof.

Solar Water Heater Costs at a Glance

  • Price range: $4,000-$13,000
  • Average price: $9,000

When it's time to replace your water heater, it's worth considering installing a solar model. These units use energy from the sun to heat water, and installing one could be an eco-friendly, cost-effective solution for your home.

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Solar water heaters do have a relatively high upfront cost and won't necessarily be the right choice for every household. Below, we'll explain how much a solar water heater costs and whether the potential savings on your utility and maintenance costs will make it a worthwhile investment.

How Much Does a Solar Water Heater Cost?

Solar water heaters cost between $4,000 and $13,000 installed, and the price depends on the type and tank size. According to data from Fixr, you should expect to pay around $9,000 for a standard 100-gallon solar water heater.

The main factor influencing cost is whether you choose a passive or active unit. Passive solar water heaters are cheaper because they don't have pumps to push water through the collectors or a backup heating system. Although passive solar water heaters are relatively affordable, they will struggle to provide enough hot water in overcast weather and are less efficient than active units.

Active solar water heaters are more expensive but have the advantage of an internal storage tank. Many models also have a backup system to provide hot water if you experience a long spell of cloudy weather.

Are Solar Water Heaters Worth It?

Solar water heaters cost more than standard units. Because a solar water heater requires a significant outlay at the start, it's worth considering whether it's the right choice for your home.

The main advantage of solar water heaters is that they let you save money on your gas or electric bills by harnessing natural solar energy to produce hot water. Therefore, they're also an excellent choice for homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint. How long it takes to recoup your investment in utility savings depends on various factors, including your current energy usage, unit type and local weather conditions.

Another area where solar water heaters can help you save money is in maintenance and repair costs. In fact, solar water heaters are virtually maintenance-free and don't require flushing like a regular water heater. All you'll need to do is replace the antifreeze now and then and hire a plumber to inspect the system every few years.

However, you'll reap the greatest advantages from a solar water heater if you live in a climate that's sunny for most of the year. Properties in areas with frequent cloudy weather will need a system with a backup heater to avoid running out of hot water on overcast days. The more you need to use your backup system due to overcast weather, the less money you'll save on your utilities.

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How Long Do Solar Water Heaters Last?

Energy Star says you can expect a certified solar water heater to last 20 years or more before you need to replace it. In contrast, a regular unit with a tank will only have a lifespan of between eight and 12 years, according to Bob Vila. Therefore, the long lifespan of a solar water heater is another factor that could make the relatively high upfront costs worth it.

Is a Solar Water Heater Cheaper to Run Than Gas?

Generally, you can expect an Energy Star-certified water heater to reduce your water heating costs by as much as 50%. If you're switching from a gas water heater to a solar water heater with a gas backup system, you could slash around $140 from your gas bill each year.

However, the savings are even more significant if you switch from an electric water heater to a solar system with an electric backup heater. According to Energy Star, doing so could reduce your electricity bills by $240 per year.

However, exactly how much money you save depends on how often you need to use the backup system due to cloudy weather and how high your hot water needs are. Generally, the more hot water your family typically uses, the greater the potential savings. You can maximize your savings on water heating costs by bathing or washing dishes in the evening when the heater has had the entire day to generate hot water.