We have installed many solar water heaters for those that were mainly interested in using solar to help them reduce their power bill.
Solar is the least expensive way to heat water and they break even in the 7th year. If you have a sunny south-facing roof facet roughly 9 feet square, the sun can meet about 90% of your hot water demand. Yes, there will be that other 10% for which you will need a backup. The only power involved is a tiny pump and an electronic control. All the heavy lifting is done by the sun that would otherwise simply be heating your roof.
Solar water heating is as reliable as the sun.
If it is cloudy for a few consecutive days, just wait. It will come back. You can’t say that about the utility company. No matter how reliable they have been. No matter how hard they try. They have a vulnerability they can’t fix and the sun doesn’t. That is why these things are often an integral part of a sustainability package.
Solar water heaters are subject to the same 30% federal tax credit as all other systems we install. You don’t need a permission slip from the utility company to own one nor can they charge you a fee.
If you are purchasing energy to heat your water, you are losing. If you are going to compare the cost of a solar water heater to an electric or gas appliance and don’t include the cost of the energy, I’ll give you another chance. Get it right next time.
The thermal collectors we install are made in Florida. They should last 40 years or so. We use the most reliable components. We know how to install them properly. And they work.