Solar Hot Water: Flat Plate Collectors in Depth

Solar thermal hot water systems convert the sun’s solar radiation directly into usable heat. Solar thermal heating is certainly not a brand new idea its been around as an alternative energy source for hundreds of years heating up our water or drying our clothes. Household solar thermal technology has come a long way in the final 25 to 30 years, even longer as solar water heaters started to become more common place due to the fact these devices are useful, inexpensive and simple to install. Therefore in case you are searching for a different organic source to lower the ever increasing cost of electrical power, you may want to think about a solar thermal water heating system.

A solar powered hot water system, also called a solar heating system, is really a very simple system that utilizes the heat from the sun’s rays to heat up water for home and domestic use. Compared with solar PV panels, the captured heat within the panel is not converted in to electricity. A big advantages of using solar thermal to heat your water, is that no matter where you live, you are able to still produce totally free hot water using the sun.

A solar hot water heating system is nothing more than a large heater which is constructed to assist your present heating boiler. Solar hot water collectors do not boil your water at high temperatures, but instead preheat the water using the sun, meaning that your existing oil, gas, and electrical heater are utilized much less whilst still delivering the same amount of warmth and comfort.

The immense heat generated by the sun is harnessed utilizing either an evacuated tube collector, an integral collector storage system or a solar flat plate collector (there are more designs but these three are the most common). These solar collectors, so referred to simply because they “collect” the sun’s energy, are generally located on a roof of the house or fixed to a wall oriented in the direction of the sun. A solar collector harnesses the thermal power of the sun and subsequently uses this thermal energy to heat the water within the collector.

Solar thermal collectors are generally made from glass fronted and fully insulated box having an absorber plate usually made from sheet aluminium or copper inside. Water is then pumped through a series of pipes in the collector and is heated. The hot water returns to a tank for storage, basically similar to a standard home heating system. Generally, a solar thermal collector can produce enough hot water for the average family, or could be used on its own to heat a swimming pool or used as space heating.

There are many countries, where a solar heating system provides a high percentage of the homes domestic hot water or space heating requirements. In several northern European countries, mixed hot water and space heating systems supply almost 20% to 25% of the homes annual heating needs saving thousands of dollars in heating bills throughout its life time.

Solar collectors are usually classified into 3 different classes or types which include integral collector storage systems, flat plate collector, along with evacuated tube solar collector. The preferred solar powered water heater uses evacuated tubes as they are more effective when compared to flat plate collectors. This is because of their design, which allows evacuated tubes to provide much greater efficiency’s and water temperatures while heating the water for long periods.

As its name indicates, the evacuated tube collector is composed of a number of clear, evacuated glass tubes positioned together side by side, with each one containing a copper absorber tube. Evacuated glass tubes tend to be coated with a light-reflective coating inside. The sunlight passes through the tubes glass body and heats up the copper absorber pipe within. This copper pipe has a heat transfer liquid, usually water, inside that absorbs the heat and transfers it to a storage tank via a heat exchanger.

An evacuated tubes effectiveness comes from the fact that along with there being a vacuum inside, giving it its name “evacuated tube”, these glass tubes are totally sealed therefore the copper pipe and the liquid inside it lose very little heat outside, even during a freezing cold day, thereby increasing their efficiency. As they are a totally closed and sealed system, the small amounts of maintenance required, such as cleaning is an easy matter, as it’s straightforward to remove damaged glass tubes if required.

Solar powered hot water heating systems are an excellent investment and smart way to greatly reduce your carbon footprint along with reducing your bills with a basic installation. Should you use natural gas or oil to heat your domestic hot water tank, possibly solar thermal heat is really a smart way to lower your bills. Whilst evacuated tube solar collectors tend to be more expensive compared to solar flat plate collectors, the enhanced performance, increased efficiency and reduced maintenance costs means a quicker payback period and higher return on investment.

Here is an example of a ready to go system with 80 gallons of storage:Drainback Solar Water Heater. Three 3x7 Collectors with 80 gal Storage Tank. AET Model DX-80-63
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An in depth look at solar “flat plate” collector technology in the generation of hot water

When building your solar hot water system, you might want to consider integrating a tankless water heater aka on demand water to make it even more efficient:
Water Heaters

Category: Solar Hot Water
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