Jump to this Activity »
Solar Water Heater

Landon B. Gennetten, Lauren Cooper, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise W. Carlson, TeachEngineering from Integrated Teaching and Learning Program

Student teams design and build solar water heating devices that mimic those used in residences to capture energy in the form of solar radiation and convert it to thermal energy. In this activity, students gain a better understanding of the three different types of heat transfer, each of which plays a role in the solar water heater design. Once the model devices are constructed, students perform efficiency calculations and compare designs.

Activity takes six to eight 45-minute class periods. Additional materials necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Grade Level

Activity could be simplified to be used for grades 6-8.

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Energy Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Educator would ideally also draw connections to students' lives and personal energy use.
  • Educators may want to omit specific heat calculations particularly for non-physics students.
  • The metal storage tank would be more efficient if made of plastic; gluing to metal is more difficult.
  • The copper rods in Plan B need a more thorough explanation (Copper rods increase heating surface area).
  • Time needed for this activity might not be commensurate with the intended learning for this activity - educator might assign the construction as a term project.

About the Content

  • A really strong, well-organized activity, most suited for physics students (heat transfer concept and math level), but can be taught in other classes if supported adequately.
  • Good background information provided for educator.

About the Pedagogy

  • Offers both performance assessment (building and testing of solar heater) and good discussion questions.
  • Excellent illustrations help students through the building process.
  • Good activity for kinesthetic learners as it requires designing, building, and testing.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Sophisticated design requires purchase of a fairly significant amount of copper tubing to construct the water heater.
Entered the Collection: February 2012 Last Reviewed: October 2016

Jump to this Activity »