Solar thermal systems simply take the energy from the sun to heat water or provide radiant floor heading.  A hot water system is fairly straightforward, you have a solar collection panel that connects to a solar hot water heater.  The solar hot water heaters are a combination of solar and a traditional water tank.  The water heater still has gas or electric heating components that come into use whenever solar is not optional, for example at night.  Here is a picture of the main components, this solar tank has been setup for demonstrations so you can see the solar coils inside but typically, your solar hot water tank looks just like the one you have today.

Sunlight (or UV rays) will strike the collection panel which heats up a non-toxic formula that keeps the liquid from freezing.  Once the liquid in the collection panel is warmer than the water temperature at the bottom of the solar water tank, a pump kicks on to push the warm fluid from the collection panel into the coils within the water tank.  The heat naturally moves from the solar coils into the water that sets inside the water tank, heating the water. As long as the solar collection panel can heat the water to the temperature you set on the hot water tank, your gas or electric element never kick in.  We have found with our own solar thermal system that in the summer we have to use hot water to keep the system from overheating.  With delay starting dishwashers and washing machines, its easy to prep a load and set the delay start to run mid afternoon while you are at work. It saves you money and you come home to clean dishes or a load of laundry done.

But don’t just take our word on saving money with solar thermal, the US Department of Energy also says you can save 50-80% on your energy bill by using solar thermal.  And while it saves you the most money, solar thermal is more affordable solar solution than a PV system. We encourage our clients to consider reducing their bill through solar thermal solutions, determine their new energy usage over several months and then look at investing in a PV solution.  We can discuss these options with you, but it really does save you money in the long run.