After blowing (what I consider) a lot of money on 2 residential solar water heaters, over the last 6 years, dealing with 3 set of rather expensive inner-tank replacements, evacuation pipe changes I am considering a DIY approach, using good quality materials to make one on my own. The water we use is underground water, and it is hard water.

Having never attempted something of this sort, I was wondering if anyone has tried to make a Solar water-heater, successfully that would work (almost) as well as the factory produced ones ?

My requirements are about 100 liters per day, of hot water. What I am thinking of doing is buying a good quality parts (casing, PUF insulation material, inner steel/copper tank etc.) of regular electric water heater, of about 100L capacity (which costs about a third or fourth of what a solar-heater costs), remove the electricals, and make my own heat-collector using copper pipes, painted black, within a suitable enclosure (perhaps wooden), with glass top and 3 inner sides painted black, to trap heat. The hard part, for me, would be the copper pipes, i.e. cutting and fitting the collector arrangement.

Could this be something that might work ? I expect this DIY to cost about half of a factory made Solar water heater.


Here's some material I found on the subject here. Looks like it is doable and other have done it before, though not necessarily using the regular electric water-heater parts.

  • 3
    Of course it's possible. Everything is. What caused your failures before? Could you draw a diagram of your current setup? (pumps, tanks, heater, softener, etc) - There's infinite possibilities to a design, is there a specific reason the website you linked to appeals to you?
    – kavisiegel
    May 15, 2013 at 13:26
  • You could braze the copper parts of the panels using fitting eg tees for the risers in the panels if its just a once off affair or you could use a branch former to form 1/2" branchs off the 1"manifold. Most of the collectors I use are just a 1"manifold top and bottom with between 6-12 1/2"risers running vertically between them. Braze on a couple of FI 1"fittings on the ends and hey presto... then you just need to make your casing and insulate it, also a backing on the copper manifold (eg. a copper of alloy sheet (thin) painted black) will increase heat collection.
    – UNECS
    May 16, 2013 at 9:07
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    A friend of mine made a collector by getting a regular radiator and painting it black, then putting that into a growing frame (the little greenhouse things, I forget what they're called) and sticking it on the roof. May 16, 2013 at 18:32
  • @JeremyMiles, that's as good as an answer. Lateral thinking, simple, effective and practical IMHO. For a man without the right set of tools required (self, that is) this is perhaps the easy way out.
    – bdutta74
    May 17, 2013 at 6:19
  • For what it's worth, evidence seems to be that solar hot water is a LOT more problematic -- at least here in the Northern US -- than solar electric, if your area supports net metering. Electric wires and solar panels don't care about freeze/thaw cycles, don't spring leaks, and continue to produce some useful energy even in midwinter.
    – keshlam
    Jun 3, 2014 at 2:35

5 Answers 5


Yes, of course. There are a huge number of well-tested DIY projects you can find here: http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/WaterHeating/water_heating.htm

I would heavily recommend browsing that site and learning from the experience of others who have already done what you're interested in doing so you don't burn even more money.


Check with others who have installed solar water heaters in your climate zone. In mine (Massachusetts) friends who have them have not been happy with them; they don't produce much heat during the times of year when it is most needed. Experience with solar electric and net metering has been much more positive.

(Anecdotal, small number of data points, don't take my word for it but do investigate before you make too large an investment.)

  • In the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades, solar heating water is pretty meh. You get plenty of hot water when you don't need it and little to none when a nice hot shower would be appreciated. 6-8 months of cloud and fog cover kind of produce negative ROI. Depending on where you're located, geothermal can have rather instant payoff (them Cascades is volcano remains). Jun 28, 2014 at 1:32

Yes, it's doable. There are lots of youtube How-To's on the subject, which you are already aware of. I would also suggest that, while driving or walking around residential neighborhoods to look for passive solar installations and approach the owner with any questions you might have. They'll probably have some good information for you (sizing, costs), as well as tips for things they would have done differently had they known then what they know now.


It's doable and there are a few approaches including those as listed above. One possible and not completely mad idea recycles drinks cans.



Yes, as blackappy and Johnny pointed out, its completely do-able. But, I would recommend you check and see what the electricity service provider in your area has to say. In Bangalore, India for example, you get a discount on your electricity bill when you install a certified solar water heater.

You may not get the same offer when you use a DIY kit.

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