How Much Does it Cost to Install a Solar Water Heater?

Typical Range:

$1,688 - $5,428

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 153 HomeAdvisor members. Embed this data

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Updated December 20, 2021

Reviewed by Jeff Botelho, Licensed Journeyman Plumber.

Written by HomeAdvisor.

Solar Water Heater Cost

The average homeowner spends $3,546 to install a solar water heater. There are installation and equipment considerations which put costs between $1,688 and $5,428. Higher-end models and components could cost up to $13,000.

The overall price is greatly influenced by the type of collector chosen. Bulk collectors are $500 while evacuated tubes and flat plates can be up to $2,500. The tank and parts will add between $500 and $1,500 to the equipment total, for a combined $1,000-$4,000 before labor and permits. Labor for this kind of work tends to run $70 to $200 per hour, depending on region. Add up to and over $1,000 if a backup heater is necessary.

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National Average $3,546
Typical Range $1,688 - $5,428
Low End - High End $500 - $11,695

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 153 HomeAdvisor members.

the average cost to install a solar water heater is $3,360 or $500 to $10,000

For anyone looking to save some money on their heating bills each month, it may be a good idea to install a new solar water heater. Installing a solar energy system in a home with a solar water heater will harness the power of the sun for all of the hot water needs of the home. All in, these units start out far more expensive than the average price to install a water heater, which run only about $1,000. However, they tend to recoup that expense in their lifetime through energy savings and those savings can eventually surpass the price of installation. Tax deductions and incentives may also apply.

It is important to hire a solar professional to perform this job. In fact, some localities require professional installation for it. A local contractor will have the skill set necessary to manage permits and codes and select the best equipment for your expected consumption and sun exposure.

Solar Water Heater Costs & Factors

The total for all the necessary components averages $1,000 to $4,000. These parts include the tank, plumbing, and collector(s). Added equipment like a backup heater, plumbing, and switches to connect the solar components to an existing tank or a second set of evacuated tubes could bring the price up by $1,000 to $2,500. Whether a system is passive or active can also determine cost.

Solar Water Heater Passive System Cost

When it comes to solar energy, a passive or active version can be used for a cost average between $1,000 and $3,000. Each collect and store water heated by the sun for use. Passive are the less expensive, less efficient and more restrictive of the two options. Therefore, most homeowners will benefit from the active style.

This type is very easy to create and use but it comes with several drawbacks. A passive system will quickly run out of heated water after a few cloudy days. This essentially means that a home will need to keep their existing water heater as a backup. Another disadvantage is the weight of a passive unit. They can both be extremely heavy, which will limit where they can be safely installed on the roof. The two types of passive solar heating are integral collector-storage and thermosyphon.

  • Integral Collector-Storage (ICS): Often less expensive. Many homeowners have successfully built their own from scratch. It warms the water up for the conventional home tank. The tank will draw from the stored “batch” when hot water is demanded in the plumbing. ICS units won't work in climates which drop below freezing and can be extremely heavy.

  • Thermosyphon: More expensive. Hot water rises to the top of the collector and moves into a storage tank. This tank must be at a level higher than the collector itself to receive. It then moves to a second tank within the home. These are even heavier than ICS units and may not meet the weight-bearing capacity limitations of some roofs. They also have more components.

Active Solar Heater Systems

Active solar water heaters cost $2,000 to $4,000. They require solar collectors and a heat storage area. Since the storage area can hold much more heat and is equipped with an internal electric or gas backup, the possibility of running out of hot water after several cloudy days is nonexistent. The equipment is slightly more expensive to install but it eliminates the need for a traditional backup unit. Since it completely replaces the conventional one, only the costs associated with an active system need be considered.

There are two versions of active systems available to meet the needs of different climates:

  • Direct move the water itself through the collector to heat it. This kind functions best in warm environments.

  • Indirect ones move antifreeze through the collector, then it returns to the tank and warms the water via a heat exchanger. These types are more reliable in colder climates where temperatures drop below freezing.

"Indirect units require some periodic maintenance to ensure that there are no cross connections between the antifreeze and the potable water system, as these units often require toxic antifreeze to function properly,” says Jeff Botelho, professional plumber and Expert Board Review member. “Consider the cost of annual or semiannual maintenance when choosing a solar water heater."

Tank and Collector Sizes

The size of equipment needed will play a big part in overall expense. Households which demand more usage will also demand larger storage capacity and greater energy. The more energy needed, the larger the collector system must be.

  • Calculating Collector Area - The rule of thumb is 40 square feet for a couple and 8 to 14 square feet for each extra household consumer. This means that, for four residents, 56 to 68 square feet must be designated for installation on the roof.

  • Calculating Tank Size - The average home will operate best on an 80-gallon system, which is considered average. This size is great for three to four people. One to two people would do well with a 50-gallon tank. While five to six people calls for 120 gallons.

Solar Heating System Prices by Users & Size

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Average Square Foot Collector

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Solar Water Heater Installation Costs

Solar water heater installation averages $70 per hour by a trained professional. The installation of these systems can be much more involved than that of other water heaters. A conventional style typically won't take more than one day to install, whereas solar units may take several days. So, a significant amount of your overall bill will be labor charges.

Other factors that will play into your price include whether the equipment is being used for a pool or spa, where it will go in and around the home, how much sun you can expect and the available tax credits.

Heating a Spa or Pool

Expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 when installing solar heaters for a pool or span. The components involved in installation include a solar collector, a filter, a flow control valve, and a pump. The unit pumps water up from the pool or spa, through the filter and into the collectors to heat. The price of installing other pool heating systems isn’t much different, yet the solar version won't have an operating cost. The only downside is that a significant number of collectors will be necessary--taking up a roof area that is 50% to 100% the surface area of the pool.

Location in the House

The difficulty of installation and hours needed can fluctuate greatly depending on where the collectors are going. They can be fixed to the roof, the wall, or the ground. Roof work will be more dangerous and will take more time and precautions. The proximity of the collectors to their storage tank is also important. The shorter the distance between them, the less plumbing and labor is needed. Your contractor may recommend an area that is farther away simply to orient the collectors for optimal sun exposure.

Sun Exposure

This factor can significantly influence the effectiveness and size of the collectors. For homes that only get four hours of absorbable sunlight per day, a larger area needs to be covered to gather enough hot water for the home. Those that get incredible sunlight won't need to cover as much area to get the same amount.

Tax Credits

The tax credit offered for this equipment is 30%, which can have a great impact on your final cost. With this amount in consideration, the average $4,000 system would be $2,800. On top of that, states and counties have their own local incentives. There are state incentives which pay homeowners up to $6,000 for energy saved. More commonly, homeowners see $1,000-$3,000 in rebates and incentives. and are great resources for up-to-date details regarding this tax credit. You can also ask your installing contractor or your utility provider for literature on state and local rebates.

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Advantages of Solar Water Heater/Geyser

The biggest benefit is the monthly savings. Energy Star has conducted studies to determine that energy bills will drop at least 50% each month with these systems. The savings can even be as much as 80%. While the money saved each month will ultimately depend on a wide variety of factors, it is guaranteed that the home's energy consumption will be drastically reduced.

In addition to the monthly savings, there is the 30% federal tax credit for solar-powered home installations. This large rebate can go a long way to making this an affordable expense. While everyone is still going to have to pay the full price of the job upfront, it is possible to get 30% of the expenditures back when the yearly tax returns are completed.

The collectors for these systems will also take up less roof space than a PV system. On top of tangible benefits like these, homeowners will also reduce their carbon footprint with a solar heater.


Since everyone is essentially guaranteed to see drastic savings each month, one of the only disadvantages is the high upfront cost. The average family will most likely have a hard time coming up with the funds for professional installation. The expense may require months of saving but, in the long run, it may be worth the sacrifice. These systems are projected to last for decades and their payback period is typically only 3 to 6 years. After that, any money saved on energy is a profit to the homeowner.

Compared to PV systems, there are other disadvantages to consider. Some homeowners would prefer panels which generate electricity for the entire home. This way, they can power multiple appliances while heating water. The solar collectors for a heater will only work towards the water heater and will not provide the electricity that a PV system does. PV systems are more expensive, running an average of almost $27,000 to install.

DIY or Hire a Pro?

There are plenty of homeowners who have been able to design their own batch heaters from which water can be pulled into a conventional tank. If you want to make the switch, however, and get an active style that will last you all year round, installation is not a DIY project.

This work takes several days and multiple areas of expertise. Plus, most states require this work to be performed by a trained and licensed professional. The only way to make the most of your investment is to call a professional who can design and implement a perfect (and safe) system design for your house. If the work is performed without the proper skills or knowledge, the unit will not be as efficient, and it may not be up to code. Consider where you put the collectors affects efficiency and that your consumption determines your tank size. These are details that need to be optimized to achieve the maximum return.


How does a solar water heater work?

Essentially, it uses the warmth and solar energy from the sun to heat water for the home. This water is either circulated through a collector to warm up or is warmed by way of a non-freezing liquid which has been heated in the collectors. It is then stored in a tank for use when demanded by the home.

How long do solar hot water systems last?

On average, they have a lifespan of 20 years. They are designed to last 15-30 years.

How hot do solar hot water heaters get?

The water in flat plate collectors can reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In evacuated tube collectors, it can get to around 370 degrees F. This will raise the temperature in a typical tank to a maximum of about 175 degrees F.

Do solar water heaters work on cloudy days?

Whether solar water heaters work on cloudy days depends on the situation. Passive units will not be able to supply hot water after several cloudy days and will need to rely on a backup heater. Active systems can operate much longer without sun due to their greater thermal capacity and their electric or gas backups.

Do solar hot water heaters save money?

The upfront costs may be quite expensive, but the tax rebate makes the project much more affordable. Assuming that most families will save approximately $50 a month in energy costs, it will only take between four and 10 years to break even on the project. Any savings that occur after this time are profit. There are not many home improvement projects that can actually put money in someone's pocket in the long run, but this is one of them.

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