10 Comments to “Solar Hot Water … Don’t Make a Bomb!”

  1. Gavan

    Jun 24th, 2012

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve been reading your blog with great interest, particularly this latest article.. I’m currently planning an Earthship style build in Ireland and thinking through many of the same issues.

    I came across this “solar accumulator” during my research.. maybe it might be of use to you too.. http://www.akvaterm.fi/eng/Accumulators/AKVA_SOLAR.41.html

    Thank you for the blog, it’s an inspiration.

  2. Chris

    Jun 24th, 2012

    That is the kind of storage tank I have been looking at … this one is definitely the most elegant that I have seen so far in that it plans for multiple pre-heating options as opposed to just one (solar, wood, whatever … as opposed to just solar or just wood).
    Unfortunately, from what I have been seeing these tanks are costly compared to a standard hot water tank and an external heat exchange loop … I am assuming more efficient though … so not the end of the world.
    Thanks for the link!
    Some of the ones I tracked down:

  3. Alex

    Jul 1st, 2012

    Hi, I wanted to start off by saying I loved your video tour of the earthship you folks are building. All of the little touches really stand out, and while some of the things aren’t visible in the images (like the sun shining through the bottle walls), your descriptions of them makes them sound lovely.

    I stumbled across your videos while looking into information on earthships. I knew about the basic premise from way back when I saw coverage of earlier eartship projects, but I was helping a student with a “sustainable housing” project type thing and came to your youtube videos.

    Anyhoo! I saw the blog post about the solar hot water and figured I might as well put some of the information I’d collected to better use. Here are a couple of videos that might come in handy, assuming you haven’t seen them already.

    Collector out of cpvc and flashing http://youtu.be/WP8H5IOTwYU

    His storage tank system

    I don’t know about the building code, but it looks like that would conform, with the addition of a pressure gauge, but I could be wrong.

    I don’t know if you could do something similar to what he has with your cistern (I’m thinking you’d have to use the steel pipes for that) or if you’d be better off having a separate box. I’d think the cistern would take forever to heat up to a high temperature, but if it was already insulated you’d be pretty well off. Instead of using a second loop for underfloor heating, maybe you might run it to pipes on the roof for melting snow?

    And perhaps you could have it on a loop to an on demand heater for the bathrooms?

    I hope it helps, and thanks again for the wonderful video tour of your place. It looks like it’s going to be really lovely, and I look forward to visiting your site in the future to see the updates as you go along.

    Have a great one.

    ps: I’m sorry if my suggestions are way off. I’m from the tropics about 11 degrees north of the equator. KEEPING extra heat in is typically not something that we spend a lot of time thinking about.

  4. Bill

    Jul 15th, 2012

    Hi, I have been following your earthship project when i get a chance. I read about the solar hot water system. We have here in southern alberta a three panel solar hot water system which is a drainback system. The heat exchanger is a tank within a tank. It is an open loop system, a pump circulates water through the solar collectors when the collecters are warmer then the water in the tank. When it reaches the set temperature the pump shuts off and the water drains back into the tank. You don’t need to worry about getting rid of extra heat and dealing with antifreeze. water is a better heat transfer fluid and does not break down over time like antifreeze. Also if you have a pump or power failure the collectors drain and will not freeze. we bought the system used and have been running it for eight years with no problems. I use a tankless water heater in conjunction with it that is designed to work with solar hot water systems and only will heat water if necessary. the only thing you will have to do is adding water once in a while because it is an open loop system. I installed a valve and it took only minutes every three months or so. If you use solar collectors for radiant floor heating; the system will be more efficientbecause of the lower temperature required compared to domestic hot water system. My system is only for domestic hot water and I have been very happy with it. I hope this information helps.

  5. Brad

    Oct 28th, 2012

    Is it just me, or have the images disappeared?

  6. Chris

    Oct 28th, 2012

    It was not just you, but I think I have fixed it. Let me know if you still cannot see images in posts.

  7. Brad

    Oct 28th, 2012

    Looks good now :)

  8. Tobin

    Nov 26th, 2013


    I’m not sure if you have already gone the gasifier route yet, curious to hear some feedback on the system you chose to install.

    Thanks for posting

  9. Chris

    Nov 27th, 2013

    Sad to say the gasifier remains half-assembled in the shop … I hope to make some more progress on it this winter (this seems to be the time to work on it). Our rocket mass heater wood stove has been doing an amazing job keeping us warm when there is not enough solar gain.

  10. Justin

    Jun 28th, 2014

    Hey Chris,

    I just found out about earthships recently and was very intrigued by them and stumbled across your blog. Was wondering if solar heated water is a viable option for the climate in Calgary, Alberta? I was also curious if you had found a solution for your water heating yet because you probably experience similar climate maybe a tad bit warmer than here?


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