How to Heat Make Up Water for a Boiler System Using Solar Energy

Five Parts:Getting startedPlanning the location for the solar energy systemFixing the solar panelsWiring and pipingInstalling other items

The transfer of heat to water is essential in any form of heating water. Whether done by using gas, propane, or electrical some type of heat transfer is needed in order to complete the process. Solar energy can most certainly be used for this purpose and is far less wasteful than gas, propane and electricity. Although much of the technology is aimed at large businesses and buildings, it is possible to descale this so that you can use it on a smaller scale.

Part 1
Getting started

  1. 1
    Obtain the necessary materials. These are listed below under "Things You'll Need" but a few of the items will be explained in more detail here.
  2. 2
    Purchase a solar pathfinder. A solar pathfinder is needed to measure the estimated amount of sun that will hit the point for the collectors. Directions to how to use this device is located in the instruction manual provided with the device. This device can be found online and is relatively low cost. It measures the amount of sunlight one will receive at that location for over a course of a year. This is necessary information to have to insure that the location chosen is valid and will provide enough sunlight over the year.
  3. 3
    Get a loop system. A loop system will be needed in order to maintain flow for the system.
  4. 4
    Use temperature sensors. Temperature sensors must be installed at multiple points on the system to ensure it does not freeze.
  5. 5
    Get a heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is needed to make sure the system does not overheat.
  6. 6
    Ensure that you have the right valves. Ball and check valves are needed in case maintenance is needed. The valves will allow for the water to stop and the fixes can be made.

Part 2
Planning the location for the solar energy system

  1. 1
    Choose the location of where you would want to put the system. Preferably somewhere with plenty of open space and limited tree shading.
  2. 2
    Using what is called a solar pathfinder, see how much sunlight your location will actually get over the course of a year.
  3. 3
    If the solar pathfinder produces unfavorable results, find a new location and repeat until a reliable choice is made.
  4. 4
    Create a plan for plumbing runs and piping runs. Depending on where you locate the collectors, the piping will need good though put into the runs.
    • If need be, call a plumber for their opinion on ease of access for runs.

Part 3
Fixing the solar panels

  1. 1
    Once the location has been chosen, it is now time to choose the type of panel you want to use. The two choices are: a flat plate collector and an evacuated tube collector.
    • Evacuated tubes collectors are recommended for this practice, due to the fact that they are more efficient at higher temperatures.
      Image titled Step 7 20
  2. 2
    Once the panel is chosen, buy the steel framing. Attach the steel framing to the panel to provide support to the building.
    • Welds will need to be placed at the connections of each 90 degree bend in frame.
      Image titled Step 10 4
    • Bolts can be used instead of welding but be sure to get a Unistrut one-hole 90 degree angle fitting with bolt stud to support between each piece of framing. A local hardware store should have these.
      Image titled Step 11 5

Part 4
Wiring and piping

  1. 1
    Once the frame is connected, run wiring from back of the collectors down to where the control box will be. Be very careful when dealing with wires; these should only be fitted if you know what you are doing (and are sufficiently qualified according to your local regulations) or by a professional. (Refer to Warnings below.)
  2. 2
    Verify that the piping that is going to be used is the right size and in good condition.
  3. 3
    Begin running the piping down to where the collector will attach to the water tank.
  4. Image titled Step 15 1
    Be sure to check seals. Add sealant as needed. Use sealant tape when screwing on the pipe connectors.
  5. Image titled Step 16 2
    Make sure a loop is run from the collector back to the tank. This ensures that the water will constantly flow in and out and will not cool.
  6. 6
    As the piping is being installed, make sure that ball and check valves are installed periodically for maintenance reasons. Consult a plumber and he or she can help with identifying the best locations.

Part 5
Installing other items

  1. Image titled Step 18
    Install the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger will need to be provided before the tank and after the water passes through the collectors.
  2. 2
    Install temperature sensors at all the inlet and outlets of the system. These will provide the necessary readings that enable you to take corrective actions when needed.
  3. Image titled Step 20
    Once the system is connected, hook up the electrical wiring to the sensors, valves, heat exchanger, and solar collector to the control unit box. This will provide electronic readings of the data.
    • Once again, only do wiring if you're qualified or do it through a professional.
  4. Image titled Step 21
    Once the system is up and running, install a wireless feed that will send the efficiency results every day to an email.


  • Solar thermal conductors are being used daily to heat large pools of water that feed boiler systems which transfer steam to heat buildings. In doing so, this not only heats the buildings but it is doing so in a way that is greener and cleaner.
  • For more information regarding this material, refer to the book, "Solar Water Heating: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water And Space Heating Systems" by Bob Ramlow and Benjamin Nusz.


  • Do not handle any electrical wiring unless proper training has been taken care of. Hire an electrician.

Things You'll Need

  • Solar pathfinder
  • Copper tubing and piping
  • Solar thermal collectors
  • Electrical wiring
  • Steel frames
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Welder,
  • Ball and check valves
  • Heat exchanger
  • Temperature sensors
  • Control unit box
  • Wireless efficiency meter
  • Sealant tape
  • Unistrut one-hole 90 degree angle fitting with bolt stud (about 10)

Article Info

Categories: Solar Energy