What’s Cheaper: Solar Hot Water Systems Or Solar PV?

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If you were asked whether solar hot water systems or solar PV systems were more economical at heating water, what would you say?

Your first guess would probably be that solar hot water systems were more economical, right?

Well, it turns out that maybe they aren’t (most of the time, anyways), according to a recent study. The study is coming to us via the Queensland PV company Ecoelectric, though, so it’s worth taking this with a grain of salt and perhaps digging in more to the assumptions used. Nonetheless, if you’ve previously written off the potential of heating your water with solar PV, it seems this is worth reconsidering.

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The analysis suggests that solar PV systems are more economical than solar hot water systems or heat pump and gas systems — in addition to being cheaper with regard to initial costs.

“The analysis also finds that hot water green schemes, including solar hot water system rebates and water pumping rebates, could have little effect on closing the gap between the total cost of traditional renewable water heating methods and the much lower cost of using Solar PV,” RenewEconomy writes.

“According to Ecoelectric – which bills itself as a leading specialist in solar power and hybrid battery systems – a solar PV water heating system would require no additional installation other than a timer, which tells the hot water system to run during day light hours. The hot water is then powered by the sun.”

The company’s blog post on the subject (found here), provides a fairly detailed explanation of the methodology used. The blog notes the conclusions of the analysis thusly: “As you can see, the combination of a trusty old storage system with solar PV is EXTREMELY cost effective. In fact if you already have storage you would be crazy to change to anything else. If you’re looking at a new build you may be slightly better off with solar hot water, but it’s so close as to be almost negligible.”

Goes to show how quickly the solar PV sector is changing. The rapid fall in solar PV prices has hurt fossil fuels (while benefiting the solar installation industry and the public at large), but it has also cost several cleantech companies their lives.

Image Credit: Ecoelectric


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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