Solar water panel on roof

Solar hot water: Showering with the sun

Why are we paying to heat our water electrically when it’s 80 degrees outside? This is a question we should be asking ourselves in Bermuda. In countries like Israel and Greece, houses are required by law to have solar hot water, so why not here?

Solar water units are a simple and responsible means of heating household water. Solar thermal hot-water systems collect the sun’s energy directly in the form of heat, rather than converting it to electricity first. This method of producing hot water can reduce your electricity bill by up to 30 per cent, making it a solid investment.

Every day the sun shines, you save money … a lot more dependable than Wall Street! If it’s February and pouring with rain, you might have to use electricity to heat the water to a desirable temperature. However, in Bermuda it’s realistic to estimate that a solar heater will work for an average of nine months a year.

Solar water panel in and outThe principle is simple for the most basic of solar water systems. Before it enters your hot-water tank, water passes through a solar collector mounted on the roof or in another sunny location. As it is already hot from the sun when it enters the normal hot-water tank from the collector, no electricity is needed to heat it. This type of solution is easy to install: one in, one out and no moving parts. These units typically have a 20-year warranty and lifetime.

Other solar hot-water systems are slightly more expensive and involve more moving parts, but they have slimmer profiles and are more efficient. For example, some solar water panels have a small pump to circulate water from the hot-water tank through the panel and back again. There are also panels available with a hot-water tank mounted on the roof.

A solar hot-water panel costs about $1,500 dollars if purchased off the island. Be aware that Customs tariffs may apply to the import of these panels because they are not strictly ‘photovoltaic’ panels, which have duty-free status. The dimensions of such a heater might be 8 feet by 4 feet. In Bermuda, you can mount up to 80 square feet of solar panels on your roof with a minor works permit (see the Planning Department’s “Guide for Renewable Energy” at

If you decide to have a system professionally installed rather than taking the DIY approach, you could be looking in the region of $6,000 or more for an installed system. Try local solar companies like AES (505-0804) or Purenergy (505-0804) for quotes. There are also many people who make solar water units themselves by building black boxes with glass.

Diagram of solar hot water installationYou might wonder why you should bother with solar hot water if you are planning to install solar electric panels anyway. The answer is simple. It costs around $15,000 to buy 3,000 watts worth of solar panels alone, not including the inverter and other components.


On the other hand, installing a solar hot-water system that replaces 3 kW of electricity use can cost between $3,000 and $6,000 installed, depending on whether you import and install it yourself. With the savings on your electricity bill, this investment should repay itself in within five to 10 years. In addition, you will be cutting down on carbon emissions from day one.


Bermuda is about a decade behind Europe in using this technology well. Even in the less-wealthy islands of the Caribbean, for example St Kitts and Jamaica, there are many more solar panels and wind turbines. In the US, 50 of the states allow you to resell power to the grid, something that has yet to be instated in Bermuda. Solar hot water avoids this pitfall neatly and repays your investment in a reasonable timeframe, then goes on saving you money.


For sources of solar hot-water systems, try the links below. Heliodyne, ProgressivTube and Chromagen are all well-regarded brands.



Next time we’ll look at wood-fired central heating, a way to heat your entire house using less than 100 W of electricity from one fireplace.

See also: How to Save electricity with water heater timers and How to Switch to Solar Panels.

About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more

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