These are the steps you’ll want to follow before installing solar hot water in your home:

  1. Learn how much this project will cost and find out what incentives are available.
  2. Contact installers. MassCEC recommends contacting at least three installers to learn more about installing solar hot water in your home. Visit our installers page for a list of installers. Another great way to find an installer is to ask for referrals from family, friends, or neighbors.
  3. Talk to your installer about how long installation will take. Solar hot water installations typically take 3 days to 1 week, depending on the number of collectors installed, system complexity, and installer and plumber scheduling.

How should I prepare for a solar hot water installation?

Think about where you will place your solar hot water collectors.

Collectors should receive at least five hours of unobstructed sunlight per day, so look for a location that faces as close to south as possible (up to 90 degrees east or west of true south may still be viable) and think about trees or other buildings that might shade the collector. An installer can measure the site and accurately predict a system’s production.

Most residential solar hot water systems use two or three collectors. This takes up 50-100 square feet of roof space, depending on the collectors used.

For ground-mounted systems, consider the space where the collectors will be mounted. Trenching, property line set back, sewage lines, and distance to your house should all be considered when planning a ground-mounted system.

If you’re planning to install the collectors on your roof, talk to your installer about the suitability of your roof.

If you’re planning to install the solar hot water collectors on your roof, evaluate the condition of your roof before installing a solar hot water system. If your roof is over 10 years old, talk to a solar hot water installer about whether they would recommend roof replacement prior to installation to avoid additional costs of removing and re-installing a solar hot water system at a later date.

The additional weight load that solar hot water panels will put on your roof is generally not a barrier to a residential solar hot water project. However, the roof structure must comply with current building code standards. The added load for solar hot water collectors is less than 5 pounds per square foot (similar to solar photovoltaic panels). If necessary, reinforcements can be added to the roof to support the collectors.

Solar hot water collectors installed on a roof

Think about where you will locate the solar hot water tank.

Depending on your current hot water system, you will need to replace your existing hot water tank with a solar compatible tank or add a new solar tank that connects to your existing hot water tank. Solar tanks are usually about 24 inches in diameter and 6 feet high. A foot or two of space should be reserved in front of the tank for equipment that will protrude from the tank, so allow for about 3 feet by 3 feet for solar hot water components or 5 feet by 5 feet if connecting to an existing system.

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