Solar water heating (SWH) is a well-proven renewable energy technology and has been used in many countries of the world. The basic technology is straightforward, although there are a variety of various types of SWH systems. In the performance assessment of SWH systems, energy analysis (first law) method has been widely used, while the number of the studies on exergetic assessment is relatively low. The SWH system investigated consists of mainly three parts, namely a flat plate solar collector, a heat exchanger (storage tank) and a circulating pump. The main objectives of the present study are as follows, differing from the previously conducted ones: (i) to model and assess SWH systems using exergy analysis (second law) method as a whole, (ii) to investigate the effect of varying water inlet temperature to the collector on the exergy efficiencies of the SWH system components, (iii) to study some thermodynamic parameters (fuel depletion ratio, relative irreversibility, productivity lack and exergetic factor) and exergetic improvement potential, and (iv) to propose and present an exergy efficiency curve similar to the thermal efficiency curve for solar collectors. The system performance is evaluated based on the experimental data of the Izmir province, Turkey, which is given as an illustrative example. Exergy destructions (or irreversibilities) as well as exergy efficiency relations are determined for each of the SWH system components and the whole system. Exergy efficiency values on a product/fuel basis are found to range between from 2.02 to 3.37%, and 3.27 to 4.39% at a dead (reference) state temperature of 32.77 degrees C, which is an average of ambient temperatures at eight test runs from 1.10 to 3.35 p.m., for the solar collector and entire SWH system, respectively. An exergy efficiency correlation for the solar collector studied was also presented to determine its exergetic performance. It is expected that the model presented here would be beneficial to the researchers, government administration, and engineers working in the area of SWH systems for residential applications. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.