How can I tell if solar hot water would be good for my home?

Our hot water heater is on its last breath and my wife is interested in having some kind of green hot water heating system installed when our existing tank dies. Is solar hot water a viable option or should we stick with something like a tankless unit?
-John B., Richmond, VA

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Solar hot water is a great technology that is much more affordable and accessible to the typical homeowner that its more widely esteemed cousin, solar PV. One thing to be aware of is that solar hot water heaters will generally provide 50-80% of your hot water demand. The remaining demand will have to be supplied by a secondary system such as a tankless water heater. System costs can vary from $2500-6000 for an average home depending on the local market. A 3-8 year payback can generally be expected, especially when taking advantage of financial incentives. You can find more information on these incentives in the Tax Credits section of the Resources page of the GPD website. It's always a good idea to contact a solar panel professional in your area for specific recommendations.
-Bill W., Philadelphia, PA