One-Stop Solar

Solar water heaters from Caleffi North America can solve complex jobsite management issues by arriving in a single package as one SKU. Installers need not scramble to find pieces that fit together to meet homeowner demands for efficient and eco-friendly water heating.

“We do all the presizing and pre-engineering upfront so they only need to find out how many people will be using it. It comes in one box ready for installation. There is no need to use a torch to solder fittings because all the fittings are screwed together,” says Rex Gillespie, director of marketing for the Milwaukee-based company.

A solar collector — which is a rectangular box with copper tubes — is placed on the roof. “This collector is maybe 3 in. tall so it looks like a skylight and is visually appealing. A storage tank is placed inside the home, typically in the basement. Inside the tank is another set of coils. A fluid runs through the copper passageway, is heated and returned to the tank. The fluid is typically food-grade glycol, not potable water because that can freeze and corrode,” Gillespie says.

Once the solar fluid heats the tank, it is then returned to the roof to start the process again. “It is constant during daylight hours. And the system comes with an electrical element that can kick on during cloudy days [to boost water temperature],” Gillespie adds.

The unit can be used as the main water heater in a house and can save money compared to traditional water heaters. “For retrofit applications, you can use the solar water heater to preheat the water before it goes into the traditional water heater. You are lowering the amount of energy you’re using that way,” Gillespie says. “In new construction, you can use just one tank. It depends on how big the home is and how much the usage will be. You can save 50 to 60 percent over a year.”

A major design consideration is roof pitch. Caleffi will suggest a proper roof pitch to guarantee the unit will work to the best of its ability. “We recommend collectors be tilted at the same latitude [in which] you are located. If you’re at the 44th parallel, then you would have it tilted to 45 degrees,” Gillespie says. “I can provide guidelines for building solar-friendly roofs.”

Another consideration is where the collectors will be placed. “Are they going to use a southern-facing roof of the garage or family room, or on the top of the second story? [This affects how you] plan for the piping that needs to be connected to the storage tank and mechanical room,” Gillespie says.

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