Ashburn, VA

How much does a solar water heater cost?

$1,500 – $6,600 After tax credits and rebates
$3,000 – $9,000 Before tax credit and rebates

A solar water heater costs $3,000 to $9,000 installed, depending on the system and tank size, type, and location. After tax credits and rebates, a solar hot water system costs $1,500 to $6,600 or 26% to 50% less. Solar-powered water heaters save 50% to 80% on energy costs and last 20 years.

Get free estimates from water heater installers near you or view our cost guide below.

Reviewed and approved on June 15, 2021, by Tom Grupa and 4 expert water heater installers on HomeGuide.

Solar water heater cost

Solar water heaters for homes cost $3,000 to $9,000 with installation. Active solar water heating costs $2,300 to $6,000, and passive thermal water heaters cost $1,000 to $3,700 for the system alone. Solar hot water collector panels cost $800 to $1,500 each. Solar storage tank prices are $1,000 to $2,800.

Solar water heater cost - chart
Solar water heater cost - chart

Solar water heater cost
National average cost $6,000
Minimum cost $1,000
Maximum cost $13,000
Average range $3,000 to $9,000

*Before applying tax credits and rebates. Based on 38 project costs reported by HomeGuide members.

In comparison, a conventional water heater installation costs $600 to $1,800, and a tankless water heater costs $800 to $3,500.

All prices in this guide exclude the federal tax credit and rebates that save 26% to 50% on total costs, unless otherwise stated.

Solar hot water heater system prices by type

The two types of solar water heaters are active (direct and indirect) and passive (integral collector-storage and thermosyphon). Active systems cost $2,300 to $6,000 and are more effective in colder climates. Passive systems cost $1,000 to $3,700, have no moving parts, and are easier to maintain.

Solar hot water heater system prices by type - chart
Solar hot water heater system prices by type - chart

Active vs. passive solar water heater cost
Type Average cost
Active system $2,300 – $6,000
Passive system $1,000 – $3,700

*Not including installation or tax rebates.

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Active vs. passive solar water heater features
Feature Active direct Active indirect Drain back ICS (Batch) Thermosyphon
Lightweight collector    
Low-profile collector    
Withstands freezing      
No extra storage tank needed      
Requires a controller    
Requires a pump    
No moving parts      

Active solar hot water system prices

Active solar hot water system prices are $2,300 to $6,000 for the system alone. Active systems use a pump to circulate liquid from the solar collectors to a storage tank inside the home. Most active systems have a backup heating element to provide hot water on cloudy days.

Active solar hot water heating system on rooftop
Active solar hot water heating system on rooftop

  • Active direct systems, also called open-loop systems, pump the household water supply directly through the collector on the roof, where it is heated and circulated back into the home. Direct systems are susceptible to freeze damage.
  • Active indirect systems, also called closed-loop systems, pump an anti-freeze heat-transfer fluid through the collector and a heat exchanger, which transfers the heat to water in a storage tank. Indirect systems are ideal for homes in regions that experience freezing temperatures.
  • Active drain-back systems pump distilled water through the collector and use a heat exchanger to transfer heat to the home's potable water supply. Drain-back systems prevent freezing by draining the water from the collector into a separate storage vessel when the pump is inactive.

Passive solar water heating system cost

Passive solar water heating systems cost $1,000 to $3,700 for the system alone. Passive systems don't use pumps and rely on convection to circulate the water as heated water rises and cold water sinks. Passive systems are less efficient than active systems and are susceptible to freeze damage.

  • Integral collector-storage (ICS) passive systems, also called batch solar heaters, feature large, black storage tanks built into a collector box. Water in the tanks is heated directly by the sun before flowing into the home's plumbing system.
  • Passive thermosyphon systems feature a rooftop tank mounted above a collector panel to store hot water as it rises from the collector. Thermosyphon systems work best in moderate to warm climates and require a roof strong enough to support the weight of a full water tank.

Rooftop solar water heater installed on residential home
Rooftop solar water heater installed on residential home

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Solar water heater installation costs

Solar water heater installation costs depend on the system type, thermal collector and storage tank size, location, site conditions, and tax credits and rebates.

Installation costs more for homes with complicated plumbing, roofs above two stories, or collectors located far from the storage tank.

Solar water heater installation costs - chart
Solar water heater installation costs - chart

Solar water heater installation costs
Factor Average cost
Solar heating system $1,000 – $6,000
Thermal collector $1,600 – $2,600
Tank $1,000 – $2,800
Parts (active systems) $800 – $2,200
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Solar thermal collector prices

Solar thermal collectors cost $800 to $1,500 per panel depending on size, or $1,600 to $2,600 for enough collectors to supply hot water to a family of four. Solar water heater collectors are typically roof-mounted and come in flat-plate and evacuated tube models:

  • Flat-plate collectors feature dark absorber panels and pipes enclosed in an insulated box and protected by a sheet of tempered glass or plastic glazing.
  • Evacuated vacuum tube collectors feature pipes surrounded by glass tubes to create a vacuum for better insulation. Evacuated tubes provide more efficient heating and perform better in cold or cloudy conditions.
Solar thermal collector prices and sizes
Flat-plate collector size Evacuated tube collector size Average price
4' x 6' 15 tubes $800 – $1,050
4' x 8' 20 tubes $900 – $1,300
4' x 10' 25 – 30 tubes $1,000 – $1,500

*Shipping fees of $50 to $275 per collector may apply.

Solar thermal collector - evacuated vacuum tube
Solar thermal collector - evacuated vacuum tube

Follow these general guidelines to determine the ideal total collector size:

Total solar thermal collector size needed per home
Location People in household Collector size
(square feet)
Average price
Northern half of U.S. – 20 square feet per person for the first two people plus 14 square feet for each additional person. 2  40 $1,000 – $1,500
3 to 4  54 – 68 $2,350 – $2,600
5 to 6  82 – 96 $2,000 – $3,900
Southern half of U.S. – 20 square feet per person for the first two people plus 8 square feet for each additional person. 2  40 $1,000 – $1,500
3 to 4  48 – 56 $1,600 – $2,350
5 to 6  64 – 72 $1,800 – $2,800
Professional installers conduct a solar site analysis to evaluate sun exposure and determine the number of collectors needed and the best position and orientation for each collector.

Solar water heater tank prices and sizes

Solar water heater tank prices are $1,000 to $1,700 for basic storage tanks and $1,200 to $2,800 for tanks with built-in heat exchangers. Solar hot water tanks are larger and more heavily insulated than standard water heater tanks.

Solar hot water storage tank prices
People in household Gallon capacity Average price
(tank only)
Average price
(tank with heat exchanger)
2  60 – 80 $800 – $1,500 $1,200 – $2,300
3 to 4  80 – 100 $1,000 – $1,600 $1,400 – $2,700
5 to 6  100 – 120+ $1,200 – $2,100 $1,750 – $2,800

*Price for unit only.

Correct sizing also depends on the collector size and the home's location:

  • In the northern U.S., select a tank that holds 1 to 1.5 gallons per square foot of collector area.
  • In the southern U.S., select a tank that holds 5 to 2 gallons per square foot of collector area.
An existing water heater tank cannot be reused as the primary solar storage tank but may be used to store water preheated by the solar system or act as a backup heater for cloudy days.

Solar water heater parts and prices

Active solar water heaters also require additional components:

Solar water heater parts and prices
Part Average cost Purpose
Controller $130 – $475 Monitors the temperature and state of the system and activates the pump to move water or a heat-transfer fluid from the collector to the storage tank.
Pump $130 – $600 Controls water flow or a heat-transfer fluid through the collector and storage tank.
Mounting bracket $50 – $250 Secures the collector panel to the roof in a flat or tilted position for maximum sun exposure.
Pump Station $500 – $900 An optional pump with an integrated controller.

Tax credits, rebates, and incentives

Solar water heaters purchased before 2023 are eligible for a 26% Renewable Energy Tax Credit. Systems installed in 2023 are eligible for a 22% tax credit. Many states and utility companies offer additional tax credits and rebates of $1,000 to $5,000.

To be eligible, the solar water heater must be:

Visit Energystar.gov or search the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) by state to find tax incentives and rebates.

Electric boosted / electricity backup

Most solar water heaters have an electric boosted storage tank or an electric backup heater to provide hot water on cloudy days. One alternative to an electric backup system is to install a tankless unit. Tankless water heater installation costs $800 to $3,500 on average.

Solar pool heater cost

Solar pool heaters cost $2,500 to $6,500 with installation, depending on the size and number of collectors. A solar pool heating system uses the pool's existing pump to move water through roof-mounted collectors, where the sun's energy warms the water before returning it to the pool.

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Best solar hot water heater brands and prices

The best solar water heater brands like Rheem, Duda Diesel, and SunEarth cost $1,400 to $6,700, depending on the system size and whether it's active or passive.

Best solar water heater brands and prices
Brand Price range
Rheem $2,400 – $6,700
Duda Diesel $1,400 – $6,700
SunEarth $2,300 – $6,500
Apricus $3,000 – $5,800
Sunbank Solar* $2,500 – $4,000
Northern Lights Group $2,500 – $6,800

*Passive systems only.

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Are solar water heaters worth the cost?

Solar water heaters cost more than conventional systems but save 50% to 80% in water heating bills, last 5 to 12 years longer, increase home resale value by 2% to 6%, and are more environmentally friendly. Solar water heaters have a 2 to 6 year payback period on average.

Solar hot water heater savings

Solar water heaters save 50% to 80% in energy costs compared to gas and electric tank water heaters, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Total energy savings depend on the water usage, the home's solar potential, and the cost of a backup heating element.

Annual operating cost of solar water heater vs. traditional - chart
Annual operating cost of solar water heater vs. traditional - chart

Operating cost of solar water heater vs. traditional
Water heater type Annual energy cost
Solar $90 – $175
Gas tank $225 – $350
Gas tankless $150 – $260
Electric tank $440 – $580
Electric tankless $300 – $535
Hybrid heat pump $145 – $250

Advantages and disadvantages of solar water heater and geyser

Solar water heater pros and cons
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Reduces utility bills and saves 50% to 80% on water heating costs compared to gas and electric hot water heaters
  • Increases home resale value by 2% to 6%
  • Better for the environment than natural gas, oil, or electric water heaters.
  • Uses renewable energy and reduces the use of fossil fuels
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.2 tons per year
  • May be eligible for tax credits and rebates
  • Avoids increasing gas and electricity rates
  • Some solar water heaters don't require electricity to operate
  • High upfront cost for system and installation
  • Requires direct sunlight to function
  • Efficiency drops with lower outdoor temperatures or cloudy days
  • Requires roof space to mount thermal collectors
  • Typically requires a supplemental water heater

Solar hot water collector efficiency

Solar hot water collector efficiency is 70% to 90% on sunny days and 10% to 30% on cloudy days. Energy efficiency depends on the type of collector, sun exposure, and outdoor air temperature.

  • Solar thermal collector panels must receive a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight per day to maintain hot water in the storage tank for 24 hours.
  • The ideal solar collector position is south-facing and tilted at an angle equal in degrees to the home's latitude. The hot water output of collectors facing southeast or southwest can be 10% to 20% lower than south-facing panels.
  • Choose a collector with a selective surface coating to maximize its ability to capture and retain heat.

Solar thermal water heater vs. home solar panel system

Solar thermal water heaters require less roof space and are 70% to 90% efficient, while photovoltaic solar panels are only 15% to 20% efficient at converting the sun's energy to heating water. Photovoltaic panels can generate solar electricity to power a hybrid heat pump water heater instead.

Solar panel installation costs $10,600 to $26,400 (after the tax credit) for a 6 to 12 kW system to power an average house.

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What is a solar hot water heater?

How does a solar panel water heater work?

Solar water heaters use the sun's energy to heat water or a non-freezing heat-transfer fluid in collector panels, usually mounted on the roof. The heated liquid circulates through the system and new cold liquid flows to the collector to be heated. Hot water is stored in an insulated tank for use on demand.

Solar hot water heating systems reduce emissions, minimize air and water pollution, and provide hot water for a whole home or swimming pool.

Do solar water heaters work on cloudy days, at night, or in winter?

Solar water heaters typically require a backup system for cold or cloudy days. Most systems are supplemented with a backup gas or electric heater. Solar heaters generate enough hot water during sunny days and store it in a heavily insulated storage tank for use at night.

Solar water heater heating time and temperature range

Solar water heaters take 60 and 80 minutes to heat a full tank to 150° to 200° F. A mixing station adds cold water to reduce the temperature to 120° to 125° F recommended for domestic hot water use to avoid burns or scalding.

How long do solar water heaters last?

Solar water heaters last 20 years on average. Annual maintenance may extend the system’s lifespan to 30 years. In comparison, gas or electric tank water heaters last 8 to 15 years, and tankless systems last 10 to 20 years.

Do solar hot water systems need servicing?

Solar water heaters require routine maintenance to ensure efficient operation. Many installation companies provide yearly maintenance. Inspect the system annually for the following problems:

  • Collector is not shaded – Vegetation growth and new construction may create shading that wasn't present during installation.
  • Dirty collector panels
  • Cracks in the collector glazing or seals
  • Damaged collector mounting or roof penetration
  • Leaks at pipe and duct connections or seals
  • Damaged or degraded insulation, ducts, or wiring
  • Pressure relief valve stuck open or closed
  • Pump not operating
  • Cracks, rust, or corrosion in the storage tank

For indirect systems, hire a solar contractor to flush the collector or hot water loop with a vinegar solution and replace the heat transfer fluid every 3 to 5 years.

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Getting solar water heater quotes

Hire an experienced solar installer to ensure your system is eligible for tax credits and rebates. Before signing a contract, be sure to:

  • Get at least three in-person estimates to compare.
  • Select companies with experience installing and maintaining solar water heaters.
  • Look for installers certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
  • Select installers who are members of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
  • Look at their reviews on HomeGuide, Google, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Choose a company that is licensed, insured, and bonded.
  • Select a solar water heating system certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) to ensure it meets minimum tax credit standards.
  • Get a detailed estimate, contract, and warranty in writing before the work begins.
  • Avoid companies with the cheapest quotes as quality may suffer.
  • Never pay in full before the project starts. Follow a payment plan instead.

Questions to ask

  • Are you a member of the SEIA or any other solar industry associations?
  • Do you recommend an active or passive system for my home, and why?
  • What size collector and storage tank do I need?
  • Where will you position the collector for maximum sun exposure?
  • Is the system certified by the SRCC?
  • Is the system eligible for tax credits and rebates?
  • How long will the installation take?
  • Are permits required? Will you pull them?
  • What additional costs can I expect that aren't in the estimate?
  • How long is the warranty, and what does it cover?
  • What kind of regular maintenance will the system require?
  • Who is responsible for repairing or replacing each component—the supplier, manufacturer, or installer?
  • What do I do if one of the manufacturers of my components goes out of business?

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