How to Make Homemade Solar Water Heater: A Step-by-Step Guide

Overview of Solar Water Heater

To make a homemade solar water heater, you will need a black garden hose, a sunny location, and a water tank. Connect the hose to your water source and coil it in the sunny location, allowing the sun to heat the water as it flows through the hose. The heated water can then be stored in the water tank for use.

DIY Solar Water Heater Plans

From beginner’s builds to complex constructions, let me share some of my personal favorites DIY solar water heater plans that I’ve come across in my 20 years as a solar power expert.

See also: How to Install Solar Water Heater: A Step-by-Step DIY Guide

Beginner’s Solar Water Heater Plan

If you’re just starting out in the realm of solar energy, I’ve got the perfect plan for you: creating a basic solar water heater using upcycled plastic bottles. The sun heats the water in the bottles, forming a simple yet efficient heating system. This plan is eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and a perfect start in your solar energy journey.

See also: How to Build Solar Water Heating Panels: A Comprehensive Guide

Solar Water Heater for Public Bathroom

If you’re working on a larger project — say, a public bathroom — take a look at plans that utilize multiple solar panels or large solar water bags. These systems have greater heating capacity and are able to warm up water rapidly and keep a large volume of water ready for hot showers at all times.

See also: DIY Solar Hot Water Storage Tank: A Comprehensive Guide on Building Your Own

Plastic Bottles Water Heater

Got a pile of plastic bottles laying around your yard? Turn them into a remarkably resourceful solar water heater. This Eco-friendly solution requires a minimal investment and serves perfectly for a small household.

Batch Solar Water Heater Plan

Batch Solar Water Heaters, also known as Integrated Collector Storage (ICS) systems, are an excellent low-maintenance choice. They consist of a tank inside an insulated box covered with glass. During sunny days, water in the tank is heated and naturally circulates throughout your home.

Homemade Flat Panel Solar Water Heater

If you’re more of an engineer, make a flat panel solar water heater. It’s more advanced than the previous plans but not that complex to build. It involves a flat panel of tubes where water is heated directly by the sun, providing a more efficient heating mechanism.

Thermosyphon Water Heaters

Taking it up a notch, thermosyphon systems are passive solar water heating systems that cost a bit more but provide a significant amount of hot water. Here, water moves to the storage tanks through natural convection, making for a solid and long-lasting system.

Barrel Solar Water Heater Plan

Barrel Solar Water Heater Plan

Rain barrels can make outstanding solar water heaters. With this plan, the barrel is painted black to absorb maximum heat and the hose coiled around it. Simple, effective, and affordable.

Solar Water Heater Using an Old Fridge

This one is a masterstroke! An old fridge can easily be converted into a solar water heater. The insulation of the fridge keeps the heat inside, and the water gets heated rapidly.

Portable Solar Water Heater

And lastly, a plan for adventurers and camp guides – the portable solar water heater. It’s foldable and easy to carry around — a perfect companion for your voyages.

Building your DIY Solar Water Heater

Now, ready to get into the nuts and bolts of how to make a homemade solar water heater? Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the process.

Initial Requirements

First, gather all the materials needed. The list includes wood, solar tubing, screws, legs, an acrylic top, paint, and a drill among others. It’s best to have everything on hand before you begin to save interruption and confusion.

Cutting the Wood

To start off, we’ll be making the frame for our solar heater. Measure and cut the wood according to your planned heater size.

Building the Top Frame

To make the top frame, take four wood pieces and secure them together with screws. Ensure they are squared off properly.

Building the Bottom Frame

Next up is the bottom frame. Again, use four pieces of wood, screw them together. The top frame should fit snugly onto the bottom frame, forming the box body of your solar water heater.

Painting the Frame

Once our frame is ready, it’s time to beautify it! Paint the entire frame, including the inner sides, with a durable, water-resistant color.

Preparing the Frame for Tubing

Preparing the Frame for Tubing

This step involves drilling holes into the sides of the top and bottom frames. These should be evenly spaced out, with enough room for the solar tubing to enter and exit the frame.

Installing the Tubing

Now, let’s get the heat going! Feed your solar tubing through the holes created, in a back-and-forth pattern until the entire space of the frame is covered. This tubing will carry the water, getting heated by the sun’s energy.

Attaching the Legs

Affix the four legs to the underside corners of the bottom frame. This will raise the frame off the ground, making it easier to access the input and output holes.

Adding the Acrylic Top

Lastly, secure the acrylic top over the frame with screws. Make sure it is sealed tight, with no visible gaps or holes.

Alternative DIY Solar Water Heater Builds

Copper Panels Solar Water Heater

A far more efficient and quick method of heating water involves using copper tubes. Water gets heated faster in copper due to its excellent thermal conductivity and less chance of leakage due to its robust nature.

Recycled Water Heater

I’ve always championed microgeneration schemes as they’re great for the environment. If you’re an environmental enthusiast like me, you might appreciate a green initiative that converts an old gas tank into a functional solar water heater.

Installing the Solar Water Heater

Now your solar water heater is ready for installation. Set it up in a south-facing position for optimum solar exposure. Connect the input and output tubes to your water source and storage tank respectively. For a visual guide to make these connections, check out our “how-to” article on “connecting your DC pump to a solar panel” and “connecting your solar panel to your water pump.”

Positioning Your DIY Solar Water Heater

Positioning Your DIY Solar Water Heater

To max out your solar water heating system’s efficacy, it’s crucial to orient and position it rightly. The “sun facing” rule applies here; ensure your water heater is positioned so it can absorb maximum sunlight throughout the day. For this, south-facing seems to be the optimal direction.

Creating a Solar Water Heater From Scratch

Ready to get your hands dirty? Here’s “how to make a homemade solar water heater” from scratch.

Sizing, Modeling, and Designing

In the first stage, you have to reckon the size of the water heater you need. This most often will depend on your daily hot water usage.

Building the Collector Box

Next, create a collector box. This box will hold all the parts of the solar water heater.

Building the Captor

The captor will seize the sun’s energy and convert it into heat energy. You can make a captor out of copper pipes or even old radiator parts.

Installing the Captor Inside the Collector Box

After you’ve constructed the collector box and the captor, the next step is to install the captor inside the box.

Setting Up the Tank

The water tank is where the heated water will be stored. Ideally, this tank should be insulated for efficiency.

Making the Connections

Lastly, make sure all connections are secured tightly. Also, get a DC pump and a solar panel that can work together seamlessly. For a step-by-step guide to understand how these two components interact, read our detailed article on “What Is Solar Water Heating“.


Now you’re ready to venture into the world of solar energy, knowing exactly how to make a homemade solar water heater. As you embark upon your renewable energy journey, remember there are countless ways to harness the sun’s power. Heating water solely with solar energy is one of the most efficient and cost-effective strategies out there, not to mention one of the most accessible for beginners. So grab your tools, follow these steps, and start making the most out of solar power today!

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Elliot has 20+ years of experience in renewable technology, from conservation to efficient living. His passion is to help others achieve independent off-grid living.

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