What is the best solar water heating system?

Geri Rhodes July 6, 2018, 3:35 p.m.

I live in NM where the temperature gets below freezing in winter and around 100 degrees in summer.  In my small mechanical room I have a propane boiler and an indirect-fired WH which I use for my radiant floor and hot water.  I also have a heat pump minisplit, and I have PV electricity.  Which would be better (more sustainable) for me for heating water--a system such as the Vitosol that works with my boiler but kicks in first; a Vitosol with electric backup; or an hybrid electric heat pump HWH powered by my PV?  I notice you also write about the outdoor compressor that goes with the heat pump, the SANCO2, which I'm also considering.  Thank you for any adviceyou can give me.

Geri Rhodes

Responses (1)

Ecohome July 26, 2018, 9:18 a.m.

Hi Geri

We specialize in cold climate building practices in Canada, so it really depends on the pricing, and we’re not familiar with the prices of various systems in New Mexico unfortunately, so we can only offer limited advice. With the amount of sun you would get there, direct solar thermal collectors make a lot sense, though in your case there is also an argument that can be made for powering a standard water heater (or heat pump water heater for that matter) with your PV panels. That way when there is no requirement for water heating, your system will still produce, as any power collected can either charge batteries or be fed back into the grid for credit. Since you already have a PV system and the infrastructure in place, I think that is certainly worth looking into.  

If you do go that route, you could also consider getting a water heater that runs off DC, that way there would be no loss from the inverter. 

If you do decide on a thermal solar collector in the end, we do like that Vitosol panel from Viessmann. Overheating is the main cause of system failures, and they have developed an excellent solution to that problem.  

As for the SANCO2, that is a fantastic piece of equipment, we looked into it a while ago but the price was still a bit prohibitive in our opinion, however, that may just have been Canadian pricing, and it was over a year ago so maybe it has come down. I've contacted the company to see if they offer it with DC, nothing back yet but I will update this when I find out. 

Here are both those articles: