We’ve finished installing the solar hot water system and after a month or so I thought I’d post the first lessons we’ve learned.

Installing a solar system will not in an of itself make a huge difference. You will also have to change your behavior to take advantage of the system strengths and weaknesses.

For us this has meant a few issues with how we handle water usage.

The solar system includes the panels and a storage tank. During the day the tank is filled with heat collected by the solar panels. This heat is used over the course of the night to heat water and the house. At this time of year a full day of sun will not only fill the tank to its maximum temperature but we start dumping heat out the overflow loop. So the key to making best use of the solar energy we can collect is to adjust our use of hot water.

What we’ve found is that we can’t really start using hot water until after a couple of hours of full heat collection. We also need to stop using hot water near the end of the day so the tank goes into night fully charged so to speak.

The biggest issue has been laundry. My normal mode was to start a load of laundry as required early in the morning. What works better from a solar standpoint is to start laundry after lunch to mid afternoon. That way we use the hot water from the solar panels but we still have enough time to finish collecting heat for the evening.

We’ve already made a difference in how much propane we use. We’ll see how well it does after we’ve had a full winter.