Saturday, September 5, 2009

What are Solar Water Collectors?

Solar CollectorsFlat Plate CollectorEvacuated Tube Collector
AKA: Solar thermal panels

A solar collector consists of a network of pipes through which water (or in colder climates, antifreeze) is heated. Collectors come in various sizes, with 4 by 8 feet (1.2 x 2.4 m) the most common.

On a typical summer day (sunny and warm), the fluid in the collectors reaches 140°F to 180°F (60°C-80°C). On a clear winter day (sunny and cold), it can reach 120°F to 150°F (50°C-65°C). When it´s cloudy and warm, collectors can reach 70°F to 90°F (20°C-30°C), and when it´s cloudy and cold, 50°F to 60°F (10°C-15°C). As long as the temperature in the collector is greater than that of your incoming cold water (usually about 50°F; 10°C), your solar hot water system is saving you energy.

Several types of solar collectors are on the market. Flat-plate are thin (3-4 in.; 7-10 cm), black, and covered with glass to hold in the sun´s energy.Batch Collector/StorageThermosyphon Collector/Storage

In evacuated tube collectors, a glass tube surrounds each individual pipe in a vacuum. This nearly eliminates the influence of ambient air temperature. Evacuated tubes perform better than flat-plate collectors in cloudy weather, and can achieve higher temperatures compared to other collector types, but are typically more expensive. All active systems and some thermosyphon systems may use either flat plate collectors or evacuated tube collectors.

A third type, called integrated collector storage (ICS) or batch, combines the solar collector and storage tank into one unit. An ICS panel can resemble a flat-plate collector with greater depth (6 in.; 15 cm). A simple batch heater can be a tank within a glazed box.

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