DIY solar hot water: not worth the risk!

DIY solar hot water

With so many different products readily available from all over the world, it’s possible to import or buy just about anything these days. But just because you’re able to get your hands on a particular product, it doesn’t necessarily make it safe, wise or even legal. In fact, the case is more often the exact opposite when you’re talking about anything related to home plumbing or electrics.

Recently, do-it-yourself solar hot water systems have been promoted in the local market. While the initial cost savings may be tempting (if you do your own installation), it’s important that you understand what kinds of corners you’re actually cutting with products like these – and the dangers involved.


5 reasons to avoid DIY hot water

1. It’s illegal to connect anything to the water or gas mains yourself. This work MUST be done by a licensed plumber, so you’re going to have to hire one regardless. It’s also the plumber’s responsibility to inspect the rest of the installation and vouch for its soundness. If your work isn’t up to scratch, you’ll end up paying the plumber to rectify or replace it anyway. Tank-based hot water systems can involve a lot of pressure, and if you install them wrongly they may even explode.

2. Solar hot water installation requires you to work with heavy equipment, on roofs. There are significant problems with this from a safety perspective. The first is related simply to the dangers involved with working at heights.

Most tradespeople understand the risks and won’t work at heights unless they’ve been properly trained to do so. In some cases, tradespeople will only work on a roof when the correct safety equipment (e.g. roof anchoring) is available. Doing heavy installation work at heights without the necessary safety training and equipment puts you at a serious risk of a fall, which could easily paralyse or kill you.

3. All roofs have specific load-bearing properties. Different styles of roofs and materials will vary vastly in how much weight they can hold, as will the different areas on top of the roof. If you don’t understand the structural capabilities of your roof, you risk damage or injury simply by walking on it - let alone installing a heavy fixture like a solar hot water collector system.

4. Products you buy from reputable dealers and installers have undergone rigorous testing, and conform to Australian Standards for safety and quality.

5. If the system fails and causes damage to your home or someone in it either as a result of your own workmanship or of the quality of the product, you almost certainly won’t be able to claim for insurance. You’re the only liable party.


What’s the right way to do it?

Just call a plumber. You won’t be risking your own wellbeing or that of your home, you’ll get long-term guarantees on the workmanship, you’ll be getting a better, more reliable product, and in all likelihood you'll be able to claim generous government rebates on your solar installation anyway.