The solar panel was developed by Bell Labs and was used in the space program in 1958.

The technology, at first very expensive and inefficient has grown steadily more affordable.

Especially over the past decade with more installations funding more research.

Photovoltaic panels, better known as PV, is still limited by the fact that the panels can only use some of the frequency of light in the spectrum.  Researchers are working to overcome this and have recently achieved higher efficiencies.

Solar panels are a less mature product when compared to solar water heaters but are still much more popular.

Why this is so is less about the positive attributes of solar PV and more about the missteps of solar thermal.

With Jimmy Carter and the energy and political climate of the 70s the solar industries (PV and thermal) boomed.  Likewise, a reverse in these climates would bring the solar industry to the brink of total demise in the 80s.

Suddenly, energy was cheap again and a newly elected Ronald Reagan ordered that the solar panels be taken off of the White House.

Meanwhile, his administration gave subsidies to fossil fuel companies and in the process managed to kill 95% of the US manufacturing capacity in the industries.

However, out of the 60s and 70s was borne the environmental movement and this movement has proved to outlast the rise and fall of energy prices.

Buoyed by scientific evidence that our burning of fossil fuels is causing a global warming, this environmental movement has become mainstream.

Now, decisions by the oil cartel OPEC to keep fuel prices artificially low will not be able to kill alternative energy as it would have in the 80s.

Solar panels bounced back as a cohesive industry with lobbying power that could offer cookie cutter installations.

Whereas solar thermal, made up of disparate technologies, each proclaiming their superiority over one another (as we, ironically, continue to do) suffered from this lack of cohesion.

What else has held back solar thermal?

This fundamental truth: when your PV system breaks you hardly notice because you still have electricity.

When your solar thermal system breaks, however, you have a flooded basement and you very quickly notice.

This is somewhat of an inherent difference between electrical vs plumbing systems.  Plumbing systems experience more wear and eventually break.

Electrical systems not as much.

Because of this, solar thermal systems installed in the 1970s, while performing excellently for 30 years, began to fail and give the industry a black eye.

The Sunbank partly overcomes this by installing the solar storage tank outside with the collector.

As you can see, it’s complex.

However, with the recent Paris Agreement it is clearer than ever that the world is on a one way path toward solar energy and it won’t be alternative for long.

PV will continue to pave the way for these solar gains.

However, the Sunbank is here to compliment PV – to get rid of your fracked gas bill in addition to that electricity bill.

And while some parts of the world, like Europe, Israel, India, and China continue to lead in solar thermal, the US is starting to catch on.

Hawaii now has a law that all new homes must be built with solar thermal.

And the federal and state incentives make solar thermal a very good deal in states like California, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas to name a few.

16 reviews on
nic maier
nic maier
I don't write reviews but I have to tell others about James from Sunbank! We got an 80 gallon solar water heater and installed it ourselves. It works very well in Southern California. The installation was a little challenging for us, but James helped every step of the way and was even available to give us advice a full year after we had purchased the unit. He was always quick to respond with a thorough and helpful answer! I wish all businesses were run like Sunbank with people like James!
Bob Billings
Bob Billings
James, thanks for your continued support. Our 40 gallon Sunbank water heater is the best. Installed in October of 2021 and we would not trade it. Our life off-grid has worked out well. Bob Billings
Jonathan Bishop
Jonathan Bishop
My only regret is not getting the Sunbank sooner! I installed the 40 gallon system which has been perfect for 3 people. It has a 1500 watt element to heat the tank when the sun isn't shining and because of the low power demand, we are able to run it completely off-grid. James also took time to answer any questions I had and has been excellent to work with!
Robert Thorlin
Robert Thorlin
James and the team at Sunbank are exceptionally knowledgeable and willing to help. Pre-sale and post-sale support was wonderful, even to the point of shipping a bunch of extra T-bolts I needed for my unique installation, bolts and shipping all at their cost. I would bot hesitate to work with them again on anything... 10 stars if I could... Mike
Elsa Hennings
Elsa Hennings
Living in the Mojave desert, I've wanted to "go solar" for our home's energy needs for a long time (I like free stuff). We put in a solar electric system in 2004, which has long since paid for itself, and bought a plug-in hybrid car to use our "free gas" several years ago. I finally decided to heat our water with the sun, and after looking at a number of systems, I chose SunBank Solar based on it having no moving parts (I don't like to fix stuff). I mounted it on the ground since we have no shading on the other side of the wall from our old electric water heater, which made the plumbing pretty simple. For overheating protection in the desert, I painted half of each heating tube with reflective silver paint as James recommended (see photo on right), so when we leave on vacation I just rotate each tube to prevent heat absorption, turning the system off. The instructions provided, along with some how-to videos on youtube for using pex tubing, allowed me to get it all put together with no prior plumbing experience. James was an invaluable resource when I had questions, which was often! The system has now been running for over a month, quietly generating all the hot water we need! I highly recommend not only the system but the company for the high quality materials and excellent product support!
debra covey
debra covey
Installed the Sunbank 40 water heater 12/2019. We didn’t install the controller until 8/2020 in case we needed it in the coming winter, but still haven’t needed supplemental heat in south Florida as of 4/2021. Love this thing! Works great for the 2 of us in our small (1000 sq ft) home. So glad we installed it. Company was very responsive to all questions prior to ordering through install. Highly recommend!
Jim Feldhan
Jim Feldhan
I rarely write reviews; however, I am very happy and impressed with the Sunbank solar hot water heater. It appears to be made from top quality material. I was replacing a Solarhart which was not a stainless steel tank and the heat exchanger developed a leak. I started with a 40-gallon system and installed it myself. I’m very handy with DIY projects. The Instructions online were clear, and James was very helpful with any of the questions I had. Being in Phoenix I thought a 40-gallon system would be enough. Once Witter arrived, I realized that I use more hot water than I thought and wanted to have 100% solar hot water. Thus, I installed a second 40-gallon system to boost my capacity to 80. I also install a couple of radiators to heat the master bath and home office allowing me to heater those room in the fall, winter, and spring with excess hot water. In summary, I am very happy and give Sunbank 5 stars for quality and service.
Timothy Clayton
Timothy Clayton
I installed the Sunbank and the water temp went from 50F to 101F in 4 hours the 1st day. By the 3rd day I was up to 160F. It only loses approx 5 degrees overnight. It is awesome! James at Sunbank is one of the best support guys I've dealt with. Definitely recommend buying this for solar hot water.
Cuyler Smith
Cuyler Smith
Our family purchased a 40 Gallon Sunbank Solar Water Heater just over a year ago and we are VERY pleased with its performance, ease of installation, and energy savings! We have it installed on top of our spring house roof, located about 125 ft. away from our house. When combined with the Federal Tax Credit and the savings associated with the solar offset of electrical usage for heating water, this Sunbank system quickly pays for itself and is a great investment. I was able to install the system on my own and it has performed flawlessly during its first year of use. James at Sunbank Solar has been more than helpful in responding to any questions I have, even after the initial purchase, which says a lot! I would recommend the Sunbank Solar Water Heater to anyone wanting to save money and reduce our environmental impact!
tutti hacking
tutti hacking
I recently installed two 40 gallon Sunbank solar water heaters - one on my garage and one on my ADU. They have been awesome! Water is super hot and now I don't have any qualms washing my laundry with warm, solar heated water! I have wanted a Sunbank system for almost four years now, and James has patiently helped me through the process. I used my local solar panel installer to get the job done. Took 3 days to fully install (I did need some reinforcement for 2x4 rafters) and inspection was quick and easy. James steered me to a great structural engineer to get what I needed for City Planning. It feels great to have gotten rid of my natural (fracked) gas water heaters! And the 30% tax credit, along with the California Solar Initiative rebate, really makes it affordable.

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2020 5th St #1713
Davis, CA 95616

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Sunbank SB-80G

80 Gallon Solar Water Heater $3,999 ($2,799 after tax credit)