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Solar Hot Water Heater Options

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Ben Franklin Plumbing Van
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Phoenix plumbers offer different types of solar hot water heater options.  If you ‘re looking for more information on Solar Hot Water Heater systems basics then review my past article Solar Hot Water Made Simple.   Today I  want to offer a simple way to understand the 2 common types of systems available.  It is important to know what systems are available, not just what a big box store or sales person offers.  It really is easy,  and I promise to keep the explanation simple.

Our  company has been a licensed plumbing contractor for over 25 years and we’ve worked on many systems and various manufacturers.  Some systems are higher quality than others.  Through our extensive experience, certifications and training classes we are able to provide better service to our customers and the community.   We believe that quality and reliability are #1 and have installed them where we can monitor the reliability daily – on our own plumbers’ homes and Mom’s house.

Here are the pros and cons of a few different types of solar hot water systems to help you decide what makes sense for you home and your family.

The two most common types of systems being sold in the Phoenix area are Passive and Active systems.  Some popular model names include The Sungrabber, Radco, and CopperSun.

Active systems simply have circulating pumps and controls where  Passive systems do not.


-We highly recommend the Passive System- it truly is Solar Made Simple.

Pros: (Not in any order)

  • Gives a larger amount of hot water heated by the sun, not just what  the tank gallons include
  • No special hot water heater needed
  • Can be installed with current water heater in home
  • Can be installed with gas or electric water heater
  • Can be installed on Tankless or tank style water heater
  • Does not require extra water tanks,  just one
  • Has back-up heater by utility, we have found even on a 60 degree day we get plenty of hot water heated by the sun for a small family
  • Great for part time residents, no draining of system
  • No Glycol use in system
  • It can produce all your water heating needs for well over 300 days a year
  • Works on 90% of all homes in the Phoenix area
  • It qualifies for city permits easily
  • This type of system has been around for more then 100 years
  • Units over 30 years are still working well in AZ
  • No moving parts, motors or pumps to wear out or repair
  • No electricity needed for pumps
  • If the power goes out you still have hot water
  • No exposed hardware or plumbing to mar your roof
  • Homeowners findthis system easy to understand
  • Little or no maintenance
  • Some units have been tested to stand 20 degree tempature for 18 hours straight without freezing, (in case you live in Flagstaff or the White Mountains
  • Pays for itself in 3-6 years depending on your hot water usage
  • Qualifies for Utility Rebate from APS and SRP (subject to change with no notice)
  • Qualifies for Federal Tax Credit
  • Qualifies for State Tax Credit

The passive model we have chosen to install looks great on homes, it sets into the roof and looks like a sunlight.  Zero  maintenance investment needed as our system comes with a 10 year full warranty on labor,  the hot water solar system, water heater and water lines. That’s what I call hassle-free.

Not all solar hot water sales people offer this unit as a choice

  • Not all plumbers are trained on this unit

ACTIVE SOLAR WATER HEATER SYSTEMS: (with circulating pumps and controls)


  • It heats up hot water with sun
  • Low cost up front
  • Works with gas, if additional tank or electric water heater is added
  • Freeze protection with a drainback tank
  • Light Weight
  • Qualifies for Utility Rebate – APS and SRP ( subject to change with no notice)
  • Qualifies for Federal Tax Credit
  • Qualifies for State Tax Credit


  • Many moving parts, possible repairs later
  • Pumps needed possible repairs later
  • Need two water heater tanks if on gas utility
  • Has a drain back tank to protect against freezing
  • This unit will require more space than a standard water heater tank
  • Some cities have more concerns – not offering permits on particular units
  • Not all plumbers know how to repair or install these units
  • The homeowner should budget for future repairs
  • It may not increase the amount of hot water

A solar hot water heating system is a great way to heat hot water  in Phoenix.  With our utility rates continuing to increase, why not use the sun’s power and reduce your carbon footprint?  You need to know what you don’t know.  Know if the company you buy from uses subcontractors and if they do,  check who they are and what their experience is.  I actually know a solar company that has told me they pick up workers on the street when they have a solar install to complete as they don’t keep employees on their payroll.  Every owner runs their business differently.

Know who your dealing with, as the reported by The Phoenix Business Journal “Complaints Related to Solar Systems Installations” on April 19, 2010…  occurances of bad installations are increasing.

Feel free to contact us for a professional plumber to come out and review your options with a guaranteed price for your water heating needs.  Local valley wide service 877-236-1776.  Mention this blog and get a free service call for a quote.

Have  you read my past  or want to read a future article? 

Arizona cash for appliance-Tankless

Future  Blogs:

The Apprentice and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing?

Facts About AZ Utility Solar Rebates! 

How To Maintain Your Water Heater!