Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

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In areas where the temperature drops to below 4° or where there is frost, an indirect solar water heating system must be installed. In an indirect system, a solution of glycol, anti-freeze and corrosion inhibitors flows through the collector. This prevents freezing and cracking of the collector. A heat exchanger heats the water in the solar storage tank.
A solar water heating system is made up of a solar geyser (tank) and collector (panel). The combination of these two main components (solar system) is designed to use solar energy to heat water thereby replacing traditional electric and gas geysers.
Split system installations can be installed to conceal the solar geyser from view leaving only the collector/s visible. Split systems can be installed in either thermosiphon or pumped (forced circulation) configurations. Installations are generally more complicated to install, therefore more costly.

Direct flat plate collector systems require little to no maintenance for 20 -30 years. Evacuated tube systems which were originally designed for the cold European climate in Switzerland, may require you to replace tubes from time to time, depending on climatic conditions and quality of product and installation. Indirect systems may require you to top up the anti-freeze levels from time to time. The supplier/manufacturer guidelines should be read and obeyed. Water quality may also play a part, but essentially a solar water heating system should require minimal maintenance.

All solar water heating systems come standard with an electrical back-up element which ensures that you have hot water even during overcast and rainy days.

The thermostat is set at the desired temperature, usually 55°. Remember one cannot bath or shower in water hotter than 41-43°. Even on an overcast day, you will be saving money as the sun, no matter how weak, will heat the water to a certain extent, reducing the amount of electricity required to heat the water if it has fallen below the pre-set temperature.

In most urban areas a sacrificial anode will be sufficient to protect the solar geyser from corrosion. However this does not protect against hard water deposits. Where borehole or untreated water is used, a water treatment system can be fitted. Such systems safeguard hot water systems against increased carbonate, sulphate and chloride concentration.

If the recommended timer switch is installed and all hot water is used up at night, the electric element will automatically switch on at the pre-set time of the morning to heat up the water. If an unusual amount of hot water usage takes place, the timer switch can always be turned to override to ensure the electric element functions thermostatically as per a standard electrical geyser.
The solar heat geyser is VERY well insulated with environmentally friendly high density CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) free polyurethane (PU) foam. This ensures minimum heat losses overnight. Unlike most conventional electric geysers, the PU is up to double the thickness and is pressure injected to achieve a greater density which equates to greater heat retention.
Solar heat systems are designed to heat water to between 50 & 60°C in good weather conditions. This is usually the same temperature setting as a conventional electric geyser. Higher temperatures may be achieved in summer during periods of low usage. Remember that most people wash at temperatures between 42 – 45°C. Water temperatures exceeding 50°C will scald the skin.
In general a solar water heater can save up to 85% of your annual hot water bill. This equates to up to 40-50% of your entire electricity bill. However monthly savings will depend entirely on the amount of hot water you use, the type and size of solar system and your personal usage pattern.
The most common type of solar water heating system operates using a natural convection process known as the thermosiphon principle. Black surfaces absorb heat and hot water rises. For a thermosiphon system to work, the solar geyser must be situated above the solar collector. Imagine a solar collector is filled with cold water. When the sun heats the collector, the hot water in the collector moves upwards into the solar geyser mounted above. This movement displaces the colder water, which drops to the bottom of the collector. The sun again heats the water, and the cycle continues. The hotter the sun, the faster the flow of hot water to the solar geyser and when the sun’s heat is no longer present, the thermosiphon circulation stops.
Solar water heating systems are designed to heat water to between 50° & 60° C. Thermostats are generally set at 55°. This is usually the same setting as for a conventional electric geyser. Higher temperatures may be achieved in summer and during periods of low usage. A well designed system should not get too hot. Remember that most people bath or shower in water between 41° – 43° C. Excessive water temperatures are a waste of energy (as you have to add cold in order to use it), and a safety hazard because if the collector were to break, the scalding water could burn people, animals and plants.
As circumstances vary considerably amongst households, it is suggested that a qualified solar water heating specialist (sales person or installer), carries out a site visit to determine your unique needs. Remember that the solar geyser has to be big enough to hold the entire hot water requirement of the household for a period of 24 hours or more. An undersized system defeats the objective of installing a solar water heating system, as you will need to use the electrical backup too often to heat the contents of a smaller storage vessel.

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